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NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements

The 2017 NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements, the result of collaboration between the National Council of State Supervisors for Languages (NCSSFL) and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) guide:

  • Language learners to identify and set learning goals and chart their progress towards language and intercultural proficiency;
  • Educators to write communication learning targets for curriculum, unit and lesson plans;
  • Stakeholders to clarify how well learners at different stages can communicate.

The statements are organized according to the Interpretive, Interpersonal, and Presentational Modes of Communication as described in the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages:

  • Interpretive Communication:  Learners understand, interpret, and analyze what is heard, read, or viewed on a variety of topics.
  • Interpersonal Communication:  Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions.
  • Presentational Communication:  Learners present information, concepts, and ideas to inform, explain, persuade, and narrate on a variety of topics using appropriate media and adapting to various audiences of listeners, readers, or viewers.

Aligned with the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012 and the ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners the Can-Do Statements reflect the continuum of growth in communication skills through the Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior, and Distinguished levels.

The NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements for Intercultural Communication and the Reflection Tool for Learners provide a set of examples and scenarios that show how learners use the target language and knowledge of culture to demonstrate their Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC).

Just as the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements for language clarify the Communication standards in the World Readiness Standards, this tool is intended to clarify and support the Cultures standards (use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the practices or products and perspectives of cultures) and lead learners toward developing ICC. For the purpose of this document, ICC refers to the ability to interact effectively and appropriately with people from other language and cultural backgrounds. ICC develops as the result of a process of intentional goal-setting and self- reflection around language and culture and involves attitudinal changes toward one’s own and other cultures. Intercultural communicative competence is essential for establishing effective, positive relationships across cultural boundaries, required in a global society.

How the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements are organized

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How to Use the Can-Do Statements

How NOT to use the Can-Do Statements

Can-Do Statements describe what learners can do consistently over time

Learners demonstrate what they “can do” consistently in each mode and at each sub-level, in numerous situations throughout the learning process. Learners may be at different levels for different modes (Interpretive, Interpersonal, Presentational) or skills (reading, listening, writing, speaking, signing).

Can-Do Statements are NOT a checklist of tasks to be demonstrated once and checked off

It is not sufficient for learners to show evidence of performance in just one specific situation; the indicators and examples at each sublevel illustrate how learners might demonstrate skills in each mode of communication through a wide variety of evidence.

Can-Do Statements help learners set goals as they progress along the proficiency continuum

Can-Do Statements describe what learners can independently do at each sublevel and help pave the way to higher levels. Higher level skills and functions (e.g., using timeframes, understanding complex texts) need to be introduced at lower sublevels and built upon in order to have independent control of those skills and functions at higher sublevels. 

Can-Do Statements are NOT a limitation of what to learn or teach

Can-Do Statements do not show what to learn or teach at each sublevel; the descriptors show the skills and functions that can be done with full control at that sublevel.  Learners should work with authentic texts and real-life scenarios at all levels and sublevels and set goals for how to progress to the next higher level.

The sets of examples can be adapted to match school, district, or postsecondary curriculum as well as independent learning goals

The examples include topics that expand across the proficiency continuum, from familiar (daily life, personal experiences, classroom or researched topics) to concrete to abstract. Learners and educators are encouraged to customize the “I can . . .” examples in order to fit the content and context of the learning and the targeted proficiency level.

The sets of examples are NOT a prescribed curriculum

The Can-Do Statements include examples of communicative performance to adapt or modify for local curricula; they are not intended to provide ready-made lessons. The examples provided do not claim to be exhaustive or specific to a level of schooling.

Can-Do statements are a starting point for self-assessment, goal-setting, and the creation of rubrics for performance-based grading

Learners and educators use the statements for self-evaluation to become more aware of what they know and can do in the target language. By using statements aligned to the proficiency scale, educators can more easily create rubrics that enable learners to chart their progress.

The Can-Do statements are NOT used as an instrument for determining a letter or number grade

Growth in acquiring a language is measured over time when tasks are integrated into performance assessments and evaluated using rubrics based on the ACTFL proficiency descriptors.

Click on the orange buttons below to access each section.


Overview and Introduction (both)


Novice-Distinguished / Benchmarks + Indicators


Novice-Distinguished / Benchmarks + Indicators Print on 11X17 Paper








Superior + Distinguished


Intercultural Communication Novice-Distinguished


Intercultural Reflection Tool

Benchmarks, Indicators and Examples are color-coded for ease of use.


How Stakeholders Use the Can-Do Statements

Click to see full size. (PDF)


Too often learners are seen as subjects of assessment, not users of assessments. To become the primary users of assessment information, learners must make what they learn part of themselves. One important means for involving learners in their own learning process is by having them participate in a goal setting process to monitor their own progress to determine how well they are accomplishing their learning targets. Learning goals form the foundation for motivation in an instructional setting and for where working memory is being allocated. Motivation is critical to learning because, “without sufficient motivation even the brightest learners are unlikely to persist long enough to attain any really useful language” (Dörnyei, 2010, p. 74). It is vital to understand motivation in order to promote learner autonomy which is key to the continuation of language learning beyond the classroom.

Learning targets, expressed in terms of Can-Do Statements provide an important venue for setting learning goals to provide language learners the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning through the establishment of positive short-and long-term learning goals and to monitor their own learning experiences to ensure accomplishment of these goals. SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time bound) goals, such as the Can-Do Statements, provide a clear direction to focus learners’ language learning efforts that will help them meet these goals. Such a constructivist, or sociocultural worldview, regards learning as an ongoing process where learners are continually involved in self-assessment and self-reflection about their own learning ultimately aimed at developing self-regulation and self-efficacy.

The impact on learners and learner achievement of Can-Do Statements, as evidenced in LinguaFolio® (LF®) and its European predecessor, the European Language Portfolio (ELP), has been investigated through a growing body of research. LinguaFolio® was designed to help language educators develop autonomous learning and learner empowerment. Research at the classroom level has revealed that goal setting, which is at the heart of LF® and ELP, promotes self-regulated learning, increases language and academic achievement, enhances motivation and task value, and improves self-assessment when implemented regularly and frequently (Burton & Swain, 2014; Ciesielkiewicz & Coca, 2013; Little, 2009; Little, 2003; Little, Goullier, & Hughes, 2011; Moeller, Theiler, & Wu, 2012; Ziegler, 2014; Ziegler & Moeller, 2012; Clarke, 2013; Moeller & Yu, 2015). Learners who experienced LF® as an intervention in the world language classroom achieved higher academic outcomes as measured by cumulative GPA and ACT scores in math, science, reading, and English in comparison to students who were not exposed to LF® (Clarke, 2013).

These studies have shown that the major components of setting goals, documenting progress, and self-assessment of learning are critical in developing learner autonomy and self-regulation in language learners that contribute to increased motivation, higher language achievement, and academic success.


Burton, B., & Swain, M. (2014, August). Student Success with LinguaFolio®. Presentation at the Growing Success for ELLs conference in Greensboro, NC.

Ciesielkiewicz, M., & Coca, D. (2013). The electronic language portfolio as a tool for lifelong learning. In International Conference ICT for Language Learning: Conference Proceedings. Florence, Italy: Libreria Universitaria.

Clarke, O. (2013). LinguaFolio® goal setting intervention and academic achievement: Increasing student capacity for self-regulated learning. Retrieved from ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln:

Dörnyei, Z. (2010). Researching motivation: From integrativeness to the ideal L2 self. In Hunston, S., & Oakey, D. (Eds). Introducing applied linguistics: Concepts and skills, (pp. 74-83). London: Routledge.

Little, D. (2009). Language learner autonomy and the European Language Portfolio: Two L2 English examples. Language Teaching, 42(2), 222-233.

Little, D. (Ed.) (2003). The European language portfolio in use: Nine examples. Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe. Available from

Little, D., Goullier, F. & Hughes, G. (2011). The European Language Portfolio: the story so far (1991-2011). Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe. Available from

Moeller, A., Theiler, J., & Wu, C. (2012). Goal setting and student achievement: A longitudinal study. The Modern Language Journal, 96, 153-169.

Moeller, A., & Yu, F. (2015). NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do statements: An effective tool for improving language learning within and outside the classroom. In P. Swanson (Eds.), Dimension 2015 (pp. 50-69). Decatur, GA: SCOLT

Ziegler, N. (2014). Fostering self-regulated learning through the European Language Portfolio: An intervention mixed methods study. The Modern Language Journal, 98(4), 921-936.

Ziegler, N., & Moeller, A. (2012). Increasing self-regulated learning through the LinguaFolio®. Foreign Language Annals, 45(3), 330-348.