Language proficiency levels in ASL sign language

ASL Language Proficiency Interview (LPI) may be required by some schools, universities, agencies, employers and other programs to evaluate a candidate's language proficiency in a face-to-face interview.

ASLPI consists of a structured interview of about 20-60 minutes of conversation, which is carried out between a candidate and a trained interviewer. ASL interviews are conducted either through videophone or in-person and recorded for raters.

ASLPI certified interviewers and raters, who are native/fluent in ASL, have undergone training and years of ASLPI experience.

The rater evaluates a candidate's signed language over performance in communicative competency including fluency, vocabulary, grammar, comprehension, etc. Then, the candidate is given an overall score, ranging from 0 (the lowest) to 5 (the highest proficiency).

Signing skill levels

ASL Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI) is an assessment tool used to determine proficiency level, conducted by a qualified organization that is recognized by Deaf community.

According to the language proficiency levels of Gallaudet University in the U.S. as well as Sign Language Institute Canada, the following language proficiency levels in ASL are summarily described as: [source]:

Level 0: Unable to function in the language.

Level 1: Able to satisfy routine uncomplicated and minimal communicative needs.

Level 2: Able to satisfy social routines, limited work requirements, and basic conversations about family, work, and other familiar topics.

Level 3: Able to sign ASL with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations pertaining to practical, social, and professional needs.

Level 4: Able to use the language fluently and accurately on all levels pertaining to professional needs.

Level 5: Language proficiency equivalent to that of a sophisticated native signer.

The video samples below give you some idea of what level 5 is like.

Above, the video "Deaf Joke: Deaf King Kong" by Jay Harris demonstrates a general idea of what a level 5 (the native level) might be like.

Another example for the level 5 is the narrator in the video Vital Signs.

Who are native signers? Generally, one can find Deaf native signers who come from native-signing Deaf families (not always as few parents may be oral deaf), grow up in Deaf schools, and involve in Deaf community regularly.

Deaf signers of hearing parents, who grow up in Deaf schools and get involved in Deaf community from early age, may be native signers as well. However, a large number of deaf children are forbidden from using sign language and mainstreamed in public schools these days. Many of them acquire a signed language at later age.

Qualified and/or certified hearing English-ASL interpreters are often rated as somewhere between Level 3 and 4.

Now for the level 0 if you're wondering. Here it is below:

ASL proficiency level zero

Ha, ha! Sufficiently demonstrated.

Related posts

Resources: ASL proficiency programs.

Related posts: How long does it take to learn sign language?

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Expressing needs and wants

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Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

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