CEFR is the abbreviation for The Common European Framework of reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. It is a guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages across Europe (and in some other countries). Its main aim is to provide a method of learning, teaching and assessing which applies to all languages in Europe.

There are 6 levels. The CEFR describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing at each level.

A1 - Breakthrough or Beginner

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.

A2 - Waystage or Elementary

According to the CEFR, if you are A2, you 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.

B1 - Threshold or Intermediate

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 whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

B2 - Vantage or Upper Intermediate

Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. 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.

C1 - Effective Operational Proficiency or Advanced

Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself 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 organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

C2 - Mastery or Proficiency

Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise 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.

Comparison to US and Canada

This table shows how the CEFR compares with some other standards from the United States and Canada:

ILR - Interagency Language Roundtable Scale (United States)

ACTFL - American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages Proficiency Guidelines

NB OPS - New Brunswick Oral Proficiency Scale

CLB - Canadian Language Benchmarks

PSC - Public Service Commission of Canada Second Official Language Proficiency Levels

A1 0/0+/1 Novice (Low/Mid/High) Unrated/0+/1 1/2 A
A2 1+ Intermediate (Low/Mid/High) 1+/2 3/4 B
B1 2 Advanced Low 2+ 5/6 C
B2 2+ Advanced Mid 3 7/8
C1 3/3+ Advanced High 3+ 9/10
C2 4 Superior 4 11/12

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