Spanish Students Earn Top Marks on ACTFL Exam

Academics, Language and Literature, News

Five Lee University students recently scored highly on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) exam, an oral and written proficiency interview and test administered to graduating Spanish majors across the United States.

The graduating students include Abbey Allison, Dawson Davis, Ellie Earles, Emma Osko, and Megan Rogers.

“The Department of Language and Literature is proud of the dedication and high-quality work that our graduating seniors have demonstrated throughout their foreign language journey and of their stellar achievement on the ACTFL Proficiency Test,” said Dr. Donna Summerlin, chair of Lee’s Department of Language and Literature.

In a typical four-year foreign language program in the United States, students will graduate on average obtaining Intermediate-High in the ACTFL oral and written proficiency interview and test. In recent years, the Spanish program at Lee University has produced students who consistently score higher than this intermediate average.

On top of all the coursework and foreign experiences, the Spanish program provides graduating seniors with the opportunity to have weekly mentoring sessions from Dr. Carmen Guerrero, associate professor of Spanish. In these weekly sessions, students prepare for the ACTFL oral proficiency interview by debating, discussing current events, and receiving expert advice on how to perform well in the interview.

“We are extremely proud to announce that for the first time, we have had all graduating seniors place Advanced in Spanish for both speaking and writing,” said Dr. Alexander Steffanell, professor of Spanish. “The scores range from Advanced-Low to Advanced-High.”

These interviews and tests are administered by third-party ACTFL professionals off campus with no prior knowledge of the students. A placement in the Advanced category signifies that speakers of this level are able to engage in conversation in a clearly participatory manner in order to communicate information on autobiographical topics, as well as topics of community, national, or international interest.

The language of Advanced-Level speakers is abundant, the oral paragraph being the measure of advanced-level length and discourse. Advanced-level speakers have sufficient control of basic structures and generic vocabulary to be understood by native speakers of the language, including those unaccustomed to non-native speech.

“These students have worked very hard to get to the level of proficiency where they feel comfortable linguistically in Spanish,” said Steffanell. “Not only do they show high communicative abilities, but also intercultural competence. They have all traveled throughout Latin America and have witnessed Spanish-speaking countries’ conflicts and issues, and they have lived with Hispanic families. Their level of commitment to the Hispanic culture is admirable and uplifting.”

The Lee University Spanish program continuously pursues excellence and success in its students and is effective and stimulating in instilling the target language and culture in its students. The program is proficiency-oriented and specifically designed for the majors to use the target language in a real-world context and complicated situations.

Providing vision, leadership, and support for quality teaching and learning of languages, ACTFL is an individual membership organization of more than 13,000 language educators and administrators from elementary through graduate education, as well as government and industry. Since its founding in 1967, ACTFL has become synonymous with innovation, quality, and reliability in meeting the changing needs of language educators and their learners.

For more information about the ACTFL, visit

For more information about Lee’s Spanish program, visit lang-lit/spanish-licensure-option/.

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