To make it easier for educational institutions and employers to evaluate the language qualifications of students and/or candidates for their admission and/or employment, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR or CEF) was developed by the Council of Europe. This guideline is used to gauge levels of language ability, no matter what foreign language is being learned. There are six reference levels of language fluency to aid in teaching and assessment.
These levels of language proficiency are not particular to one foreign language but can be applied to any language being learned, thus considered to be a global scale, or one that can be used across the board. Having a means to measure language fluency levels is helpful. To further investigate what is meant by the different Reference Levels and where you might fall in these levels of language fluency, the following table drawn from CEFR describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing at each level:
Level A1: Beginner or Breakthrough
- Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type.
- Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has.
- Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
Level A2: Elementary or Waystage
- Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment).
- Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.
- Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
Level B1: Intermediate or Threshold
- Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
- Can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
- Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
- Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
Level B2: Upper Intermediate or Vantage
- Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization.
- Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party.
- Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
Level C1: Advanced or Effective Operational Proficiency
- Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning.
- Can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.
- Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.
- Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
Level C2: Proficiency or Mastery
- Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read.
- Can summarize information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation.
- Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.
BENEFITS TO KNOWING YOUR LEVEL
One of the benefits to knowing your level, is that you will have an idea of how far along you are in gaining your proficiency, and how much farther you have to go.
- At the Elementary, you’re busy developing basic skills to be familiar with everyday expressions and simple phrases.
- As a Pre-Intermediate, you will increase your aptitude at conversation in routine matters.
- As you progress to Intermediate, you will gain more understanding with matters dealing with work place, school and leisure. As a traveler, you should have better ability to deal with situations that may arise. You will learn to describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
- At the Upper-Intermediate level, more complex ideas will be learned, including concrete and abstract topics, more details surround areas of expertise, and your ability to interact with native speakers becomes more natural and less awkward. You will be able to produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain your viewpoint on many different topics.
- Finally, the Advanced and Proficiency levels afford you an understanding of a wide range of demanding, longer texts. You should at this level be able to express yourself and spontaneously. You will be able to use your language skills effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.
Keep in mind that the CEFR is only a recommendation, a framework for mutual reference. Even within the definition, there can be different interpretations of what a “detailed text” or “complex situation” might be. This reference tool is very helpful as a way of giving you an idea of the natural progression of an acquired language and where you are in that process.
Take a few minutes to reflect: At what language fluency level do you see yourself? How are you progressing? What is your goal? And how will you get there? — Do you wonder which are the best Language Courses?
I encourage you to use the comment section below to share your questions, experiences, and ideas. I do read and respond to all of them. ~ Dana