What is the CEFR?

The CEFR is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.   This is an important guideline that is used across Europe and increasingly throughout the world, to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages.

Why is this necessary?

There are widely varying degrees of proficiency (or ability) when learning to speak a language.  Whilst someone may be able to say “Hello” and order a drink, someone else might achieve a level of fluency even in complex situations, that means they could work as a translator!  There are clearly many levels of proficiency in between.

When you play an instrument you are graded for proficiency to show how capable you are, the CEFR levels help to identify an individual’s language ability.

How did CEFR levels develop?

They were put together by the Council of Europe as the main part of the project “Language Learning for European Citizenship” between 1989 and 1996.

It provides a standard for methods of learning, teaching and assessing which applies to all languages in Europe.

In November 2001, a European Union Council Resolution recommended using the CEFR to set up systems of validation of language ability.  Someone who claims they can speak a language would have to show which level they could genuinely operate at.

What are the 6 reference levels?

For reference, here is what the levels represent:

Level A contains 2 levels for a Basic User.  These are:

  • A1 Breakthrough or Beginner
  • A2 Way stage or Elementary

Level B contains 2 levels for an Independent User.  These are:

  • B1 Threshold or Intermediate
  • B2 Vantage or Upper Intermediate

Level C contains 2 levels for a Proficient User.  These are:

  • C1 Effective Operational Proficiency or Advanced
  • C2 Mastery or Proficiency

Student benefits of CEFR

At ETC we give you, our students, an exclusive learner portfolio where you can use the CEFR levels as a checklist.  This helps you to track your own learning.  Each of the 6 levels has a set of criteria explaining what you are able to do e.g. how you express yourself, at each level.

An example would be that a Basic User at level A1 would understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases.  Conversely, Proficient Users on level C2 would express themselves spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in complex situations.

As these levels are recognised within a framework throughout the world, they give you a clear assessment point on which to base your progress and current level of proficiency.  This can be very useful when applying for other courses, applying for jobs or showing how much progress you have made with your language skills whilst at ETC International School.