NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements

A collaboration between NCSSFL and ACTFL

Can Do pages

What Are the 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 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.

How the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements are organized

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
Image Resource: How the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements are organized

How to Use and NOT use the Can-Do Statements

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

Novice–BLUE | Intermediate–GREEN | Advanced–ORANGE | Superior–GOLD | Distinguished–GRAY

How Stakeholders Use the Can-Do Statements

How Stakeholders Use the Can-Do Statements


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 of involving learners in their learning process is having them participate in a goal-setting process to monitor their progress to determine how well they accomplish 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 the motivation to promote learner autonomy which is key to continuing language learning beyond the classroom.

Learning targets, expressed in 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 learning experiences to ensure the 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 to 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 compared 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.