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All about CEFR language levels

“I have a B2 level in English and an A1 level in Spanish, what about you?” Has the person you are talking to just started a game of linguistic warfare? No, he is simply telling you his language level according to the CEFR scale. If you’ve never heard of this system for assessing language proficiency, then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s have a look at what the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is and what each of its levels entails.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: definition

The European Union has 24 official languages. In order to facilitate school, university and professional exchanges, it was essential that the Member States agree on a common framework to define the level of proficiency in a language.

C’est ce qui a été fait en 2001, avec la publication du Cadre Européen This was done in 2001 with the publication of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or CEFR. This defines the language teaching methods and the objectives to be achieved in order to reach each of the 6 levels defined.

Today, the CEFR is known and recognised by the entire European education system, and also by many companies. For example, you can use this scale to indicate your language level on your CV.

Language levels A1 and A2: the elementary user

A1: the beginner level

A person who has an A1 level is able to introduce himself and can ask simple questions to other people. He knows how to construct very simple sentences and knows  common everyday vocabulary, which allows him to get by in real-life situations (buying an article in a shop for example). He can communicate with speakers with a slow speaking rate and a clear pronunciation.

A2: the pre-intermediate level

A user with an A2 level is able to communicate in a context that is familiar to him and understands simple information about his daily life. He can make himself understood when talking about matters that concern him directly and can express his needs. He can, for example, ask for directions in the street, order food in a restaurant or talk about his work.

👉 You may also be interested in this article: Is an A2 level good enough for online language training?

CEFR levels B1 and B2: the independent user

B1: the threshold level

A B1 level is what European students should achieve in modern languages at the end of secondary school. Speakers at this level understand the main points of a discussion on a familiar topic (leisure, education, work, etc.). They can make themselves understood when travelling and can talk about their experiences and plans using simple terms.

B2: the independent level

This is the level required for the French Baccalauréat (equivalent to the A-level exams in the UK). It enables the speaker to express himself clearly on a familiar or unfamiliar subject. A B2 level speaker has no difficulty in understanding complex or technical discussions (on a subject in his field of specialization). He can communicate spontaneously, even if he sometimes searches for words. He is able to understand a native speaker with a normal speaking rate.

💡 Also read: How to get past the intermediate language plateau? 5 Golden Rules

Language levels C1 and C2: the experienced user

C1: the advanced level

The C1 level implies that the user has no difficulty in understanding long, abstract discussions or texts with many nuances. He can express himself without searching for words and on almost all subjects, including complex ones. He can structure his argument and have a clear, coherent and well-articulated thread of discussion.

C2: the mastery level

This is, in a way, the Holy Grail for all learners. C2 level speakers have a level of language proficiency that enables them to understand any type of spoken or written material without difficulty. They are able to argue in their target language, summarise events, report facts, etc. They have no particular difficulty in expressing themselves orally or in writing, even if the topics are complex, technical or abstract.

Summary: CEFR

Now that you know all about the CEFR scale, you may be wondering how to find out your level. The easiest way is to take a language audit. This is a test that allows you to determine your level of proficiency in a language in terms of:

  • oral expression;
  • written expression;
  • listening comprehension;
  • reading comprehension;
  • oral interaction (fluency).

Good to know: 1to1PROGRESS offers complete language audits that you can take remotely. You will receive your results within 24 hours.

Would you like to improve your foreign language skills and perhaps achieve a C1 level? Contact our advisors to register for a 1to1PROGRESS distance learning course. Our learners progress by an average of 1.3 points on the CEFR scale after only 20 hours of lessons!