- Starting with social situations drives students away from language, since the Foreign Service Institute has found that social conversation is the hardest skill, not the easiest.
- Starting with reading, and limited exposure to recorded or live native speakers, means that students are misunderstood even in social situations. (See recommended courses.)
There are several scales of language learning. Tests measure where students fall on these scales.
Sample tests are at
- Written Placement tests: Arabic, Catalan, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish
- ExamEnglish.com - written and oral sample questions for IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC, .PTE Academic+General, Michigan, Cambridge (CAE, FCE, KET and PET)
- Toetal.org - written and oral sample questions for TOEIC test of English
- Canada's written and oral test of English.
- CASAS written test of English.
- The Lessons tab has oral English tests for numbers, comparisons, and time.
- Europe's CEFR ratings require personal details and travel in the first levels (p.24), not business topics.
- ACTFL in the US requires beginners to learn "social situations... such as ordering food and making simple purchases."
- The ILR scale for US government staff does include business topics: "information about business hours, explain routine procedures in a limited way, and state in a simple manner what actions will be taken." But it requires even more casual social conversation.
- IELTS in Australia and Britain has little on business. It tests "social context, e.g. a conversation in an accommodation agency... a speech about local facilities... home, family, work, studies and interests" (p.7). Topics for extemporaneous speech are mostly social (p.3).
- TOEFL omits business. It covers "three aspects of academic speaking proficiency: academic course content, campus situations, familiar topics."
- TOEIC was intended to measure English language needed in large companies. It covers dining out, entertainment, finance, general business, health, buying, renting, manufacturing, personnel, computers, technical specifications, travel. Sample questions cover business reporting, correspondence, advertisements. Sample oral questions cover a vacation inn, fruit market, favorite TV program, conference schedule, an ATM which swallowed a card, salary, hours. Thus they cover much vocabulary used by businesses, at an advanced level. In 2012, "Most test takers (58%) had a [university] degree or were pursuing one... 81% had spent more than 6 years studying English, 47% of test takers who took the TOEIC test in 2012 had previously taken it on three or more earlier occasions" (p.3). 76% had taken it at least once before (p.26). Students whose studies emphasized speaking earned better scores, even on listening and reading, than students whose studies did not emphasize speaking (p.20).
- CASAS competencies are aimed at helping students in an English-speaking country get work, including Basic Communication, Community Resources (including telephone), Consumer Economics, Health, Employment, Government and Law, Math, Learning and Thinking Skills, Independent Living. They go beyond language. They list speaking skills without mentioning accents. The official sample questions cover timetables, work instructions and correspondence. Like TOEIC they omit buying, selling, making appointments, or spelling email addresses and websites.
I encourage you to start instead with recommended courses, so you learn a good accent from the start.