The Journal for Distinguished Language Studies (JDLS) was founded by the Coalition of Distinguished Language Centers under the direction of Dr. Betty Lou Leaver and Boris Shekhtman in 2002,

The JDLS is a refereed volume and the only journal to focus exclusively on the highest levels of language achievement, that is, native-like or near-native. This level is labeled Distinguished by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), Level 4/Advanced Professional Proficiency by the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR), and also Level 4 as part of the Standardized Agreement (STANAG) 6001 of NATO’s Bureau of International Language Co-ordination (BILC). Descriptions can be found at the ACTFL, ILR, and BILC websites.

The purpose of the JDLS is to create a robust international movement to promote and support language learning to the near-native level of proficiency. Contributions are sought in the areas of theory, research (quantitative, qualitative, case studies, action research), and applications. The journal typically has published a balance of articles in all three categories. Published papers develop theory, share applications that work (based on the experience of those who teach that level), and report on the research conducted and/or needed for proper evaluation and assessment of theory and application.

Articles are particularly welcomed in the following areas:

  • current status of Level 4 proficiency research in each of the four skill areas;
  • teaching methods to/at/above Level 4 proficiency in each of the four skill areas;
  • the role of culture in achieving Level 4 proficiency in each of the four skill areas; and
  • assessment to/at/above Level 4 proficiency in each of the four skill areas.


  • Editor, Yalun Zhou, Ph.D., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, USA
  • Assistant Editor, Donna Bain Butler, Ph.D., Delaware State University, Delaware, USA

Advisory Board

  • Rajai Al-Khanji, Ph.D., University of Jordan
  • Andrew Corin, Ph.D., Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (Emeritus)
  • Rebecca Oxford, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Karin Ryding, Ph.D., Georgetown University (Emerita)
  • Nelleke Van Deusen-Scholle, Ph. D., Yale University



Previous issues of the JDLS (2003-2011) are shelved at the Library of Congress. All back issues are available from the MSI Press webstore. Some back issues are also still in inventory at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.

The current issue of JDLS is Volume 7: 2011-2020. It is available at the MSI Press webstore as well as on Amazon.

  • Table of Contents
    • Editors’ Note
    • Personal Experience: How I Achieved Near-Native Fluency in Russian (Dr, William Hopkins, US Government Interpreter)
    • Feature Articles
      • Glancing Backward, Looking Forward: The History of the “Level 4 Movement” and the Journal for Distinguished Language Studies (Dr. Betty Lou Leaver)
      • Rethinking the Rating Process Solution to the Threshold Performance Dilemma (Dr. Mary Jo DiBiase-Lubrano & Jana Vasilj-Begovic) (see sample article below)
      • Re-Conceptualizing Language Programs to Achieve Level 4 (Dr. Christine Campbell)
      • To Superior and Beyond: Developing Professional-Level Proficiency in a Fourth-Year Russian Program (Dr. Tony Brown, Dr. Jennifer Bown, Dr. Katya Jordan, & Dr. Elizaveta Kurganova)
      • The Challenge of the Inverted Pyramid in Attaining Distinguished-Level Proficiency (Dr. Andrew Corin)
      • Feature Article Contributors
    • Abstracts
      • Arabic (online only – see below)
      • Chinese
      • French
      • Russian
      • Spanish
    • Book Review: Dictionary of Advanced Russian Usage by Michael Kayser (reviewed by Jack Franke)
    • General Information
      • Books about distinguished language proficiency published 2011-2020
      • Call for papers
  • Read abstracts in Arabic.
  • Read abstracts in English.
  • Sample article (Rethinking the Rating Process: Solution to the Threshold Performance Dilemma/DiBiase-Lubrano & Vasilj-Begovic)

The next issue is Volume 8: 2021-2022. This volume is in process of publication and is due out in December 2022. A partial list of contents incdlues:

  • Personal Experience: How I Achieved Near-Native Proficiency in Chinese (Dr. Neil Kubler, Stanfield Professor of Asian Studies, Williams College)
  • Helping Learners Achieve the Distinguished Level of Proficiency (Dr. James Bernhard, Foreign Service Institute)
  • Debating, Reloaded: High Level Programs at the French War College (Emilie Cleret, French War College)
  • Roadmaps to Distinguished Speaking Proficiency (Dr. Jack Franke, Defense Language Institute)
  • On the Cusp: A History of Identification of Diagnostic Information to Move Learners More Rapidly from the Lowest Levels to the Highest Levels of Proficiency (Betty Lou Leaver, MSI Press)
  • Protocol-Based Formative Assessment: Evolution and Revolution at the Defense Language Institute (Andrew Corin, Defense Language Institute, and Sergey Entis, Defense Language Institute)

Friends of Distinguished Language Proficiency

In conjunction with the JDLS, the Coalition of Distinguished Language Centers awarded a Friend of Distinguished Language Proficiency plaque to an individual or individuals who had contributed significantly to the advancement of learning and teaching to near-native levels of language proficiency.

Awardees 2003-2010

  • 2003. Ambassador Ruth Davis
  • 2004. Dr. Dan Davidson & Dr. Maria Lekic
  • 2005. HRH Prince Firas bin Ra’ed of Jordan & Renee Meyer
  • 2006. Dr. Richard Brecht
  • 2007. Ambassador James Collins
  • 2008. Kevin Gormley
  • 2009. Dina Kupchanka
  • 2010. Boris Shekhtman & Dr. Betty Lou Leaver

Nominations 2011-2020. Closed.

Nominations 2021-2022. Open. Please submit the name of the nominee along with a short justification to no later than November 15, 2022.


To submit an article to the next issue, Volume 9, 2023-2024 (no, it is not too soon for a submission), download the current call for papers: Call for Papers.

To submit a review of a book about near-native levels of language learning, please follow the JDLS Book Review Guidelines_2021, which reflect the Linguist List guidelines, and submit to the associate editor of the JDLS, Dr. Donna Butler, with a cc to the editor, Dr. Yalun Zhou, or to If you have written or published a book on a topic related to the JDLS and would like to have it reviewed, please contact for guidance.

Submissions should represent original work. They should not have been previously published elsewhere nor be currently submitted to another journal or collected volume