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Nathan Mao

the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT)

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Nathan Mao

Oh, yeah, forgot one thing I wanted to say:

For the upper level test, the questions were heavily focused on someone giving a formal or informal speech/article on some aspect of education, politics, or social problem.  The question would then ask you what was implied by some section of the speech/article.  I don't know if that sounds difficult or not, but it means you have to understand everything they said/wrote, in order to follow their train of logic and catch the correct answer which was never said/written at all.

Getting a 3+ in listening is one of my greatest lifetime achievements.  I don't know how many 3+ non-native Chinese linguists there in the DoD, but there certainly aren't many.  A dozen? Less than you can count on one hand? 300?  Definitely not more than 2-3 million.

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DanWang

 I am in college currently and am thinking about taking either the HSK 6 or DLPT 5. Which one is harder? Is there a test that is harder than both? Anyway, I am just looking for something to "prove" that I know Chinese and which is relatively recognized among U.S. and Chinese employers and Universities. If both HSK and DLPT are fine, what is my "next step" in getting into translation and interpretation? get some related work experience? possible workshops? Thanks 同志!

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Nathan Mao

I think that for the most part, the DLPT V is harder.  But to take it you have to be an employee of the Dept of Defense.

The HSK 6 has some elements that are more difficult. For instance, you have to write some characters.  The DLPT is purely selecting one of 4 or 5 answers.

 

But the HSK 6 will certainly prove you know Chinese at an advanced level.

 

I have no career advice, however.  I haven't used my language in the military for more than 12 years.  There are jobs in the DoD for Chinese linguists, but for the most part they are either in DC or Hawaii. You also have to be able to obtain and maintain a security clearance. If you would be interested in pursuing a career in that, I can tell you where to start, but that's about it.

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DanWang

Ok I see. Have you taken the HSK 6 before? Also, are you sure that DLPT is only open for federal employees? cuz I checked online earlier today and I saw something about the government giving priority to federal employees the testing opportunity but not excluding non-employees from the opportunity nonetheless. 

 

I am a political science student in DC right now so I would be able to work as an intern for DoD. But just how competitive are DoD positions of mandarin related work? I mean I am an ethnically Chinese American with years of living experience in China and functionally native in mandarin proficiency, along with a knack for English as well, how advantageous is this among applicants? Cuz you see, I hate wasting time preparing for applications that might get me an instant rejection. I applied to the defense intelligence agency 2 months ago and I got rejected, so I've had some bad experiences applying to jobs that have a big candidate pool. Thanks! :D

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Nathan Mao

@Dan,

Nope, I'm not certain the DLPT is only for federal employees.

 

They just always emphasized to us that it was expensive to administer the test, so I figured they would restrict access.

 

I saw your conversation w/ Bruce on the other thread that said it wasn't, so it sounds like he has better knowledge.  Hopefully Bruce can tell us if the HSK 6 is harder or not.

I will say, the DLPT is purely passive (unless you manage to get them to also test your speaking in an oral DLPT...not sure if that is impossible, difficult, or easy).  To the best of my knowledge the HSK requires at least some demonstration of active skills (writing).

 

Working for the DoD depends on being able to get a clearance.  If you are an American citizen with a clean background, it shouldn't be any problem.  Start here:

http://www.clearancejobs.com/jobs/?RC=25&Ns=p_TimeStamp|1

 

Or you can directly contact CACI or other contracting agencies, set up an interview, and talk to a recruiter. They would be able to give you a good idea of what you want to know.

 

I wish I had better answers for you. I just don't have any personal idea about mandarin-related DoD positions.  I've never competed for one.

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brucehuang
I took them both on paper and on computer. But the DLPT isn't only a DoD thing, it's agency wide. For example, the DOJ still has paper version of the DLPT, while the DoD test completely on computer.

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Nathan Mao

I just looked over an HSK 6 sample test, and it is nowhere near as difficult as the DLPT V. 

It is all level 2 vocabulary.  Nothing that reaches level 3 at all, or even 2+

No classical, no slang, no jargon, no traditional characters. No needing to read between the lines or comprehend emotional states.

The hardest thing about the HSK 6 is you actually have to write some characters.  That's an active skill, and you can not know how to write even a single character for the DLPT.  But even the writing test portion has you write a summary of a longer article into a shorter one, so all the characters you need to write are there in the original article.

 

Here are the sample tests I looked at:

http://confucius.emory.edu/documents/hsk_sample6.pdf

http://www.chinaeducenter.com/en/hsk/hsklevel6.php

 

If it is typical of the HSK 6, then the DLPT V for Chinese Mandarin is clearly a more difficult test.

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brucehuang
In the actual HSK, you'll be expected to write an entire essay out by hand. And I believe that is pretty hard if you are not used to writing it. And the sample test is a bit easier.

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roddy

Meh, you rewrite a 1,000 character article into 400 characters. And I don't think you even have to do it by hand if you do the 网考. Compare with the Cambridge CPE where you have to write MORE words than you're given to read. 

 

Anyway, we're not comparing like with like. The DLPT is a test of passive skills - reading and listening. There's no point comparing it with the active sections of the HSK. 

 

Mr Brain Fertiliser (any chance you'd like to change your name to something sensible? ;-) ), are there also tests of active skills for those that need them, or does the DoD just not do that? And have you had any DoD language training? If so, what was that like and what materials were they using? 

 

Thanks for posting this, it's interesting stuff. 

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Nathan Mao

I used my twitter account to log in, so it uses my twitter handle.

But everyone can call me Nathan.

I did set up a regular log-in access, too, but for some reason it didn't seem to take.

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Nathan Mao

Like Bruce, I went to the Defense Language Institute.

But I attended back in 1994, 1995.  We got a bunch of books.  You could get some cassette tapes if you asked for them specifically and they had some in stock.

These days I hear they give you an iPod with Chinese lessons on it, and I'm assuming there are all sorts of computer-based training opportunities, too, so I really don't have much insight into what DoD training is like these days at all.

 

As far as active, they do allow you to take the DLPT speaking test.  I last took it by phone in 2009 and got a 2+.  I really think I should have deserved a 3, but I did have problems remembering the word for natural gas (we talked about the big news of the day being the natural gas pipeline explosion in California that morning).  Still, I think I've improved my speaking since then by quite a bit, so I should perhaps request another speaking test.

 

They do teach writing at DLI, but it just doesn't get used much in your work, if at all, so they don't see any reason to test what is them an unnecessary skill.

 

Regarding the HSK 6, it is possible that it demands a level of precision and distinguishing that the DLPT doesn't.  For instance, it might be quite difficult to detect which of 4 sentences has a grammatical error (one section of the HSK 6, no?).

But the DLPT tests up to language levels far higher than the HSK.

I'm using Yellow Bridge's HSK 6 vocabulary list for flashcard tests right now, and the characters and words are solidly in the DLPT's range of 2 with a touch of 2+.  Certainly no level 3 vocabulary.  Plus, the DLPT depends you comprehend subtleties and implications from the use of language, whereas the HSK 6 merely requires you to know the actual characters and definitions.  Much more concrete.

 

So for the HSK 6, you either know it or you don't.  But for the DLPT, even if you don't know it, you can sometimes guess correctly based on what you do understand. But to get a firm good score on the DLPT, you need a much larger vocabulary and a much better grasp of context and implication than the HSK 6.

 

That doesn't make the HSK 6 better or worse than the DLPT. Just different. And even "easier/harder" is so conditional as to not really be a useful judgment.  The HSK 6 seems to be better at determining your ability to correctly use Chinese, regardless of how well you understand what you are doing (there are many things that could be rote memorization).  The DLPT seems to better at determining your ability to comprehend Chinese and translate it into English, regardless of how well you can actually use Chinese.

 

So in my final analysis, if someone has the opportunity, it would be best to take both tests.  That way you have two different metrics certifying your skills across a broader range of demonstrated abilities.

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Nathan Mao

Back to DLI:

When I was attending, they were in the process of changing the Chinese Mandarin course from 47 weeks to 63 weeks.

I just went to the DLI website and it appears that Chinese Mandarin is 64 weeks now.

Your job is to learn Chinese, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 64 weeks. (to an extent: you also have military training, dorm inspections, uniform inspections, mandatory physical training, morale builders, retirement ceremonies, etc)

I also never experienced anything like this at all:

DLIFLC further enhances the learning environment with the implementation of overnight immersions from two to five days at a time off campus. The students are completely immersed in the target language and Asian culture as they carry out real-life situation scenarios which range from negotiations at a border crossing, haggling at an open market for goods, to making hotel reservations over the telephone. To enhance this experience the faculty and staff dress in traditional garb, prepare and cook Asian cuisine, and, most importantly, only speak in the target language.

This, too, is a shock:

A select number or randomly chosen students go abroad for approximately 30 days to study their language at a foreign university and tour the various sites of that country. Selection is made on the basis of student scores, and recommendation of the teaching team and unit.

Then again, these opportunities clearly do raise scores. We were expected to graduate with at least a 2/2/2 in listening/reading/speaking (I got a 2/3/2).

But now?

Students are expected to achieve higher proficiency scores since 9/11 and will be expected to reach a 2+ in Listening, a 2+ in Reading and a 2 in speaking

This is probably a good page for understanding DLPT scores:

http://vimeo.com/album/139578

This page describes the overall Chinese program very well. It's where I pulled the above quotes from:

http://www.dliflc.edu/asianschools.html

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brucehuang
Actually, I never went to the DLI, I just took the DLPT when I was an enlisted. I always get 3, 3 and 3 on the phone. The reason why I say HSK6 is harder than DLPT5 is that, HSK test your ability to USE the language. And DLPT5 tests your ability to translate the language. So a lot more guessing is involved in DLPT, even if you don't know exactly. But when I took the HSK, not 网考,I couldn't type anything, so if you couldn't pull out characters then you're kinda stuck.
But on other measures, the DLPT is kinda harder. I consider myself a semi-native speaker for both English and Chinese, meaning I am either perfect, nor flawed so bad, so I don't know exactly where to place myself.

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Nathan Mao

So where/when were you stationed?

Were you ever at Kunia?

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brucehuang

I did five in the Navy Reserve. Stationed at home, went to boots, went to drill and went to college...


Oh, and also went to ships and carriers from time to time, but never did any sea time....

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DanWang

I checked out some info on the hsk test. It seems that the test-issuing institution requires you to identify yourself ethnically, and with a special category for 华裔(American of Chinese descent). I am trying to use the test result to apply for a Confucius Institute scholarship and do any of you know if the institute will use this knowledge against me in favor of European Americans. I suspect that this is a possibility but again I might just be overreacting. After all, it is about exercising "soft power' on the American continent and caucasians are their foremost target. 

 

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Nathan Mao

The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that the HSK and DLPT are not really comparable.

 

The HSK measures your ability to work with Chinese. It measures passive and active skills, but it is all in Chinese.

The DLPT measures your ability to understand Chinese.  It measures passive skills only (disregarding the speaking test here), and is all about being able to translate Chinese into usable English.  In fact, native Chinese speakers often do score fairly low on the test (2 or 2+) because their English level isn't high enough.  For example, on one question, if you don't know the difference between ambivalent, ambiguous, and apathetic, you won't get the question scored correctly no matter how good your Chinese is.

That being said, the DLPT lower level returns a wider range of scores than the HSK.  For the HSK, you pass or fail at that level.  If you aren't ready, you fail and have no measure of your progress.  If you pass, there is no clear indication whether you could pass a higher version or not.  With the DLPT lower level, one test will return whether you are survival level (level 1), concrete level (level 2) or functionally fluent (level 3).  And if you pass the lower level, you can take the upper level test which is able to test up to native speaker levels of comprehension on advanced academic and literary references.

 

So if you can, and if you can afford it, I'd recommend taking both tests for a better idea of where you actually stand.

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brucehuang

@ Nathan

I don't think you can just take the DLPT whenever you can. You need to be an employee of something in order to take that test.

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imron

with a special category for 华裔(American of Chinese descent)

Small nitpick: 华裔 is not specifically American, and can be for other nationalities too.

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