Language assessment covers a variety of topics and skills. After all, it is often easier to read another language than be able to speak it fluently. Beyond that, there are a number of measures of fluency in terms of conversational and academic language, the ability to successfully negotiate a situation, and have both verbal and auditory comprehension.
Often, it is significantly easier to read another language than speak or understand it. The primary reason for this is the ability of the mind to detect patterns in words and recognize common cognates, or word stems, that cross multiple languages. Because many languages are inherently connected, reading is an easier mental process because it is a deductive elimination of unknown words and recognition of word similarities. True fluency comes when the speaker can actually and accurately speak and understand the language on a variety of levels.
One of the main things that someone who speaks a second language needs to do is to be able to think in that second language. When someone is speaking who is not conversant in the language, they have to take the time to translate al the words in their head, and that can cause unusual flows in the conversation. One aspect of fluency, then, is the ability to think in the second language as well as speaking and understanding.
Furthermore, language always has to operate on at least two different meanings. For any word, in any language, there is the denotative meaning that can be found in the dictionary and is often strictly literal. For many words, across many languages, however, sometimes a given word will have both a literal and a figurative meaning. Being able to navigate through words with multiple meanings, choosing between the correct homophones and homographs, is a mark of true fluency.
Finally, fluency can be marked on the speaker’s understanding of both conversational language and academic language. Common vocabulary for day to day items, such as the words needed to order a meal in a restaurant are considered conversational language. Mastery over these particular sets of words allows for a person to be able to speak and be understood in a second language, however, it also lacks many of the larger, more formal, or more nuanced pieces of vocabulary that bridge the gap between simple conversations and professional or educational speaking.
No matter what aspect of linguistic fluency that you are looking for, Language Testing International can provide the tests that you are looking for in order to measure spoken language and comprehension. In terms of providing language assessment, LTI is certified by the ACTFL – known as the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Language.