International exams on knowledge of a foreign language

Given the various social and economic factors, including globalization trends, there is a growing need to learn not only English, but also other foreign languages. The language proficiency examinations provide an opportunity to document your skills, which is especially important for those who want to get a higher education abroad, build a successful career or even move to another country.

Despite the fact that teaching English abroad dominates the market for the provision of educational services, one should not underestimate the importance of learning other foreign languages. As far back as 1997, the British Council in one of its reports, “The Future of English?”, Noted that over the next 50 years, significant changes are expected related to economic development and globalization. Therefore, who knows, maybe in the near future there will be completely different language trends?

Given the high level of competition, with the help of language exams, students can confirm their ability to speak a foreign language fluently, which is especially important when studying abroad, looking for work, or obtaining citizenship in another country. “How popular are language exams and preparatory courses?” You ask. Much more popular than you might think! Cyril Marshall from the Swiss branch of Marshall Language Studies notes: “Quite a lot of my students go to Germany for preparatory courses for the language exam (approximately 50%). I always recommend it to them if they know the language at a high enough level. ” However, Keren Ong, general manager at Language International, USA (the agency offers 5,000 different course options), claims that no more than 3% of students choose preparatory courses for the exam.


Spanish is one of the most common languages ​​in the world. As José Luis Merugan Santos from Instituto Cervantes, the organization that is authorized to conduct the exam on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports of Spain, notes, in 2012 over 66 thousand candidates expressed a desire to pass the Dele. This is the most famous test of the Spanish language, first introduced back in 1988. The number of people wishing to pass this exam is growing every year and, as a rule, these are students from Italy, Brazil, Germany, France and Greece. Basically, the test is necessary for admission to Spanish universities, because many people are interested in higher education abroad. In addition, according to Merugan, Dele has an unlimited duration and is recognized worldwide.

Compared to other European language exams, such as German TestDaF, in 2010 Dele was reorganized in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages ​​(CEFR), which implies 6 levels of knowledge, whereas the original version of Dele had only 3 levels. “This ensures the practical application of international standards for the objective assessment of the level of knowledge,” explains Merugan. Meanwhile, Sarah Griffiths from don Quijote. In 2012, don Quijote prepared 300 students for the Dele and this figure remains unchanged from previous years. “The exam needs to be advertised all over the world. – says Griffiths, – For example, the Cambridge English exams are recognized and hold high positions all over the world, and Dele still needs to go a long way before he meets this level. ” According to Merugan, to address this situation, Instituto Cervantes wants to occupy a new niche in the market through the establishment of partnerships with various institutions and companies in countries such as the USA, Brazil and China.

Griffiths also clarifies that after the recent restructuring of the exam, there were some difficulties in determining the level of knowledge of the language. “Students say the changes were not helpful,” she complains. However, in Lacunza IH San Sebastian, the number of students enrolled in preparatory courses increased by 24%. This is due to the fact that many want to pass the second highest level of the test (C2). As Ignacio Grende Ruiz, examining coordinator, notes, this level of knowledge of Spanish is essential for working in the public sector. Therefore, an increase in interest in taking the test may be due to the requirements of employers and educational institutions. In addition, British students are also aware of the professional benefits of fluency in English and Spanish.


German, a business language, is also often chosen by students who wish to study abroad. TestDaf was founded in 2000 and is a prerequisite for admission to German universities. According to Martin Poulie, a member of the examination committee, in 2012 this test was passed by 24,261 people, which is 13.5% more than in previous years. “The test assignments are fully focused on the various communicative situations in which the freshman finds himself. Says Poulee. “Students should understand lectures, read academic texts, communicate with fellow students and professors, and write scientific texts.” The good reputation of the German university, combined with the relatively low cost of studying abroad, inspires students to prepare for TestDaf. Most often, students from China, as well as immigrants from Southern Europe, enroll in German universities. “Higher education in Germany became especially popular due to the economic crisis in the Balkans,” adds Poulie.

Similar features notes and Alisha Fields of F + A Academy of Languages. “Due to the continuous economic crisis, significantly more students from Spain, Greece and Cyprus began to enroll in preparatory courses,” she says. In addition to TestDaf, language schools offer preparatory courses for other exams: DSH, OnDaF, TestAS and Telc. “The number of students has undoubtedly increased. – says Fields, – In 2012, more than 4 thousand students were studying abroad at preparatory courses, which accounted for approximately 80% of all students in school. ” Usually people from China, Japan, Tunisia, Russia, Israel and Cameroon prepare to take the test in school.

Fields also notes that TestDaf is in high demand, so you need to register in advance. Sabina Steinacher from the ADK Augsburger Deutschkurse also notes similar trends: “TestDaf is very popular at the moment, as it is recognized by all universities in Germany, and its validity is unlimited. For example, for comparison, the DSH exam results are valid only for 5 a, and in some cases, even 3 years. ” Kristina Schmidinger from GLS Sprachenzentrum Berlin says that students from Europe usually come to study abroad, however, preparatory courses are often chosen by citizens of Israel, Korea and Japan, who usually want to study medicine or art at universities. Although despite the high level of popularity of the test, many students still do not know the structure of TestDaf and are not familiar with the standard exam procedure. After all, as Schmidinger clarifies, the conversational part of the test has been significantly changed and is now focused on seven different communicative situations. Arguing about the future of TestDaf, Martin Pauley emphasizes that due to the intensive development of the German economy, soon there will be a lot more jobs, which will undoubtedly affect interest in passing the exam on knowledge of the German language.


Despite the fact that French is less used, the popularity of exams on the knowledge of French is higher compared to TestDaf and Dele. The number of students who received Delf (Diploma in French) and Dalf (Diploma in Advanced French) increased from 316,042 in 2009 to 403,741 in 2012. And according to data provided by the International Center for Educational Research, who is authorized to conduct examinations on behalf of the French Ministry of National Education, in 2012, twice as many students took the French Language Test (TCF) than in 2009. “High interest in taking the test can be explained by official demand France and abroad, to document the level of knowledge of French, ”explains Bruno Megre from CIEP. In addition, this may be due to the desire to obtain a higher education abroad, to apply for French citizenship, or simply to improve their knowledge of French.

Delf and Dalf also fully comply with the Common European Framework of Reference for Proficiency in a Foreign Language and are certification tests: Dalf is designed for students with an advanced level of language proficiency, while Delf is for students with a primary and secondary level. TCF is an evaluation test that determines the level of knowledge on the CEFR scale. In recent years, some changes have been made to this test, in particular, in 2006 TCF for Québec was presented. As noted by Megre, this will allow anyone to document their knowledge of French for immigration to Canada. After the Quebec Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communications approved a standardized test in 2011, the delivery of which is a prerequisite for obtaining a residence permit, the popularity of the TCF test for Québec increased significantly: from 2,590 candidates in 2011 to 24,988 in 2012. TCF students from Algeria, China, Morocco, Tunisia and Iran usually pass, while Delf and Dalf are chosen by citizens of Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain and India, where these exams are included in the school curriculum.

According to French law, French public universities offer study abroad only in French. But recently, the French National Assembly is considering a proposal to introduce English-language courses so that study abroad becomes more accessible for international students. It is not yet known how this will affect the popularity of Delf and Dalf in the near future. Nevertheless, Megre believes that the changes in the legislation will not practically be reflected in the passing of tests confirming the knowledge of the French language, since they are not exclusively academically-oriented.


China leads the pace of development of GDP and purchasing power. Therefore, it is quite possible that in the near future, Chinese will become one of the most popular languages ​​in the world. The HSK exam, an equivalent of TOEFL, for knowledge of Chinese is necessary for those who want to get a higher education abroad or find a job in China. “Learning a language abroad sometimes seems like an endless process, so documenting a certain level of knowledge is a real achievement for students,” explains Ben Winters from Mandarin House, the school that is the official center for passing HSK. “When preparing for the HSK, enough attention is paid to both listening and reading, and work on vocabulary. – thinks Winters, – Personally, I really like HSK and Hanban (the general term meaning teaching Chinese as a foreign language), especially in view of the recent changes. ”

Until 2010, the test had 10 levels, whereas now it is only 6. “The test was too academic-oriented, which frightened many students. – says Winter. – I must say that 90% of all students studying Chinese will confirm that in the new format the test is more accessible, which undoubtedly reflects positively on its popularity. On average, the school conducts a HSK test for approximately 100 students per month. The number of people who want to take the test may depend, to some extent, on the time of year, but there are more and more applications for passing each year, due to the great popularity of the test and the good location of our school. – Specifies Winters. – In 2013, we expect about 1,200 applications for the exam. This is a rather high figure compared to 646 applications in 2011. “

Winters says that most often at Mandarin House HSK are students from Japan, Germany, Korea and France. Kevin Hirsch of iMandarin also notes that, basically, a test preparation course is necessary for citizens of the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Germany, as these countries work closely with China. In addition, immigrants from India and South Africa are increasingly coming to study abroad. About 2,000 students registered for preparatory courses for the HSK in 2012, however, Hirsch expects that due to the intensive development of the economy in 2013, there will be twice as many applicants. “At the moment, the test is focused on an objective assessment of conversational skills, which, I think, are the most important,” Hirsch concludes.


In Japan, Japanese Professional Testing (JLPT) was developed in 1984 and envisaged quite a lot of advantages: from enrolling academic credits and final exams in Japanese to receiving various benefits for employment in Japanese companies. According to information provided by the Japanese Testing Center the organization responsible for conducting the test), the JLPT is usually taken by those who wish to immigrate to Japan. In 2010, an updated version of the test was presented, which focuses on the student’s communication skills. Hiroko Yamakoto from KAI Japanese Language School says that from now on there are 5 levels in the test and it is quite profitable, because you had to prepare twice as much before just to pass the second level. However, there are some drawbacks – the new test does not define a fixed number of training hours and words learned to pass the test, although in the old version such conditions were clearly defined.

In 2012, 572 thousand people passed the JLPT, and this is significantly less than in 2012 (608 thousand). Yamakoto suggests that this is due to the large-scale earthquake of 2011, so he hopes that the situation will change in the near future and there will be much more willing to enroll in exam preparation courses.

Despite the fact that quite often JLPT students from China and Korea pass, more than half of the test participants come from Europe (especially from Sweden). “I think this is connected with a stable economic situation, which especially attracts young people who want to get a higher education abroad or get a high-paying job,” Yamakoto says.

It is also interesting that, according to statistics, approximately 34% of test participants pass an exam just to test their knowledge of Japanese. This, according to Yamakoto, illustrates the love of Japan and Japanese culture, because for many people language learning is just an interesting hobby and not a desire to build a successful career. Nevertheless, the JLPT will definitely be useful when studying abroad comes to a close and you need to look for an interesting job. Moreover, according to Yamakoto, language learning abroad contributes to building a multicultural and tolerant society. Speaking about the future of language tests, Yamakoto believes that their popularity will be high only if they are customer-oriented and easy to use.

* The Common European Framework of Reference for Foreign Language (CE) FR was developed by the Council of Europe as the main part of the project “Learning Languages ​​for European Citizenship” in 1989-1996. CEFR is a guide to which language tests must comply in the territory of the European Union. Being a kind of standard for developing language tests, this level system is widely used both in Europe and abroad. For example, in the United Arab Emirates, the Test of knowledge of the Arabic language was developed by the Eton Institute, taking into account the features of CEFR.