The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, more commonly known as the CEFR, is a standard that was developed by the Council of Europe in the 1990s to measure the language levels of learners of foreign languages. The CEFR, which has six levels ranging from A1 (beginner) to C2 (proficient), has spread to several countries outside Europe and is now widely used in about 40 different countries. While the guideline is available in dozens of languages, from French and German to Japanese and Korean, we’ll discuss here why the CEFR is important for English teachers and learners alike and how English teachers can use it to their advantage.
The CEFR, which is used by virtually all English language books and English language institutions, is important because it provides a standardized way to measure a learner’s progress, allowing teachers to avoid inconsistencies in the measurement of students’ levels. Without the CEFR, what one teacher would consider to be an intermediate-level student might appear to be an advanced learner to another teacher. The CEFR avoids this confusion by providing six reference English levels, which are detailed below:
An A1 (beginner) learner can:
- Use and understand basic phrases and expressions as long as the other speaker talks slowly and clearly.
- Talk about where he/she lives, people he/she knows, and his/her job.
- Introduce him/herself.
An A2 (elementary) learner can:
- Use and understand phrases and expressions related to shopping, employment, family, geography, etc.
- Describe in simple English aspects of areas that are of immediate relevance, such as the areas mentioned directly above.
A B1 (intermediate) learner can:
- Understand the gist of output he/she might come across at work, in school, during his/her leisure time, etc.
- Handle him/herself in most situations in English-speaking countries.
- Explain his/her emotions, dreams and ambitions, opinions, and his/her reasons behind those opinions.
A B2 (upper-intermediate) learner can:
- Deal with both concrete and abstract topics, as well as provide a clear and detailed explanation of his/her job and/or outside interests.
- Interact with native speakers with relative ease.
- Share opinions on different topics and list the pros and cons of various sides in an argument.
A C1 (advanced) learner can:
- Generate implicit meaning from texts.
- Engage with native speakers with fluency and spontaneity.
- Use English in a variety of ways in a variety of settings, from social settings to professional and academic settings.
- Deliver clear and detailed language on complex issues.
A C2 (proficient) learner can:
- Deal with virtually every situation in English-speaking countries.
- Produce language spontaneously, fluently, and precisely while also being able to differentiate the nuances of meaning of various expressions.
- Summarize in his/her own words both spoken and written language.
So, now that you know the six levels of the CEFR, how exactly can you use the guideline to your advantage as an English teacher? Well, besides testing your students regularly to gauge their progress and general language abilities, you can also use it to evaluate your own English abilities and, by doing so, improve your classroom instruction.
Unfortunately, many certified ESL teachers walk into classrooms with barely any knowledge about modal verbs, the subcategories of the past, present, and future tenses in English, and even subject-verb agreement. While this may sometimes be the case for highly experienced instructors, it’s certainly often the case for newly minted teachers.
You may be wondering at this point where you stand on the CEFR scale. We’ve made this easy for you by providing you the free EF Set test, which is the most trusted test for measuring people’s levels according to the CEFR guideline. While it’s mostly used for learners of the English language, it’s highly recommended that English teachers also use it to test their language abilities so that they can maximize their teacher-student time and ensure that their students achieve their utmost potential as language learners.
Well, have you taken it yet? If you haven’t already, go ahead and give it a try.
If you took the test and achieved a C2 level, congratulations! You’re likely a perfect fit for the English-teaching profession. If you didn’t reach that level, don’t worry. English is a highly learnable language, and maybe you just need to brush up on a few grammatical topics. And once you accomplish that, you’ll be well on your way to English-teaching stardom!