If you’re learning a new language, you’ve probably heard of the CEFR levels. This article will explain what each level means and how to improve your skills.

What is CEFR?

CEFR, or the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, is like a guidebook for understanding how well someone can speak a language. Imagine it as a roadmap that divides language skills into six levels, from beginner to advanced.

What are the CEFR levels?

CEFR has six levels: A1 (beginner) to C2 (proficient).

cefr language levels

It’s like climbing a language mountain—you start at the bottom and aim for the top.

CEFR Levels Explained: A Breakdown

Each level is defined by specific competencies in reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

A1 – Beginner

  • Basic understanding of common expressions.
  • Can introduce themselves and others.
  • Simple, everyday phrases.

A2 – Elementary

  • Understanding of frequently used expressions.
  • Basic interactions about routine tasks.
  • Can describe their background and immediate environment.

B1 – Intermediate

  • Can handle most situations while traveling.
  • Express opinions and preferences.
  • Understands the main points of clear standard input.

B2 – Upper Intermediate

  • Comfortable participation in discussions and debates.
  • Can produce detailed text on various topics.
  • Understands complex texts and abstract ideas.

C1 – Advanced

  • Expresses ideas fluently and spontaneously.
  • Uses language effectively for social, academic, and professional purposes.
  • Can understand implicit meanings in complex texts.

C2 – Proficient

  • Near-native proficiency.
  • Can understand virtually everything.
  • Produces clear, well-structured, and detailed texts.

How to Determine Your Level?

Self-Assessment: Review the descriptors for each level and assess your abilities honestly.

Language Tests: Take a CEFR-aligned language test, such as the DELF/DALF for French or the Goethe-Zertifikat for German.

Language Schools: Many language schools align their courses with CEFR levels. Enroll in a course that matches your proficiency.

Some of the challenges of CEFR:

Influence of Dialects and Varieties: CEFR primarily focuses on standardized forms of languages. Learners dealing with dialects or regional variations might find it challenging to fit their language skills into the standardized framework.

Alignment with Real-Life Communication: CEFR primarily emphasizes academic and professional language use. It might not fully capture the intricacies of informal or everyday communication, creating a potential gap between tested proficiency and real-life language use.

Limited Resources for Some Languages: While CEFR is widely adopted, not all languages have an extensive range of resources or language tests aligned with its levels. This can pose a challenge for learners of less commonly taught languages.

Can I skip CEFR levels?

Yes, individuals with prior language experience or those who possess language skills beyond a specific CEFR level can potentially skip levels. CEFR is designed to be a flexible framework that accommodates learners at various starting points. The progression through CEFR levels is not rigid, and learners may enter at a level that aligns with their existing language proficiency.

Are CEFR levels recognised globally?

Yes, CEFR levels are widely recognized globally. 

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages has become a standard reference tool for describing language proficiency levels in a consistent and comparable way. Its widespread adoption has made it a valuable asset in the field of language education, assessment, and communication.

Key points regarding the global recognition of CEFR levels:

International Language Learning Standards: CEFR provides a standardized and widely accepted set of guidelines for assessing and describing language proficiency. Many language learning institutions, both within Europe and beyond, align their curricula and assessments with CEFR levels.

Language Certification Exams: Numerous language certification exams around the world, including popular ones like the DELF/DALF for French, Goethe-Zertifikat for German, and Cambridge English exams, are designed to correspond to CEFR levels. This alignment enhances the global recognition of language proficiency.

Employment and Professional Settings: CEFR levels are often referenced in international employment and professional contexts. Job seekers can showcase their language skills using CEFR levels on resumes, and employers may use these levels as a reference point for assessing language proficiency requirements.

Common Framework for Multilingualism: CEFR is not limited to specific languages or regions. It serves as a common framework that allows for the comparison of language proficiency across different languages. This universality contributes to its recognition on a global scale.

Standardized Communication: As a standardized framework, CEFR facilitates clear communication about language proficiency levels. This is particularly valuable in international academic settings, where students from diverse language backgrounds can easily convey their language skills using a common reference.

European and Non-European Language Integration: While initially developed within a European context, CEFR has been integrated into language learning and assessment systems worldwide. It serves as a bridge between European and non-European languages, fostering a standardized approach to language proficiency measurement.

Is it suitable for all languages?

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) was initially developed with a focus on European languages, but its principles and descriptors have been applied and adapted for languages globally. While it may not be a perfect fit for every language, CEFR’s universal framework provides a valuable structure for assessing language proficiency across diverse linguistic landscapes.

Key considerations regarding the suitability of CEFR for all languages:

Initially Eurocentric Approach: CEFR was developed with a primary focus on European languages, and its initial descriptors were designed with these languages in mind. However, the framework’s principles have been extended to accommodate a broader range of languages.

Adaptability Across Language Families: Despite its Eurocentric origins, CEFR has been adapted and applied to languages from various language families, including Asian, African, and indigenous languages. The adaptability lies in adjusting the descriptors to suit the linguistic characteristics of each language.

Universality in Describing Proficiency: CEFR’s strength lies in its ability to provide a universal and standardized way of describing language proficiency levels. This universality makes it applicable to languages globally, allowing for cross-language comparisons.

What resources are available for learning at each CEFR level?

A wide range of resources is available for learning at each CEFR level, catering to different language skills such as reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Here are some general categories of resources, along with examples:

Textbooks and Course Materials: Language textbooks designed for specific CEFR levels, such as “Cosmopolite for French” or “B2 German Coursebook.”

Language Learning Apps: Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone often organize their lessons based on CEFR levels.

Online Courses: You can check out our French-language courses. All our courses are tailored to the CEFR framework. Additionally, platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udemy offer language courses aligned with CEFR levels.

Language Exchange Platforms: Tandem, HelloTalk, or language exchange meetups where learners can practice with native speakers, improving their speaking and listening skills.

Reading Materials: Graded readers or simplified literature for language learners, with levels ranging from A1 to C2, allowing gradual progression in reading comprehension.

Listening Resources: Podcasts, audiobooks, and language learning platforms with audio content designed for specific CEFR levels to enhance listening skills.

Grammar Guides and Exercises: Online grammar guides, workbooks, and exercises tailored to each CEFR level.

Writing Practice: Writing prompts, online forums, and platforms encouraging written communication at different proficiency levels.

Vocabulary Builders: Flashcard apps, vocabulary lists, and word banks categorized by CEFR levels, aiding in vocabulary acquisition.

Official Language Exams and Practice Tests: Past papers, official practice exams, and study guides for language proficiency exams like DELF/DALF, DELE, or Cambridge English exams.

Cultural Resources: Films, documentaries, and literature in the target language, providing cultural insights and language exposure at various proficiency levels.

Language Learning Communities: online forums, language learning meetups, or social media groups where learners can connect, share resources, and seek advice.

Can I teach a language based on CEFR levels?

Yes, you can teach a language based on CEFR levels, and many language instructors and institutions use this framework as a guide for structuring language courses.