Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

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The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment,[1] abbreviated as CEFR or CEF, is a guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages across Europe and, increasingly, in other countries (for example, Colombia and the Philippines). It was put together by the Council of Europe as the main part of the project "Language Learning for European Citizenship" between 1989 and 1996. Its main aim is to provide a method 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. The six reference levels (see below) are becoming widely accepted as the European standard for grading an individual's language proficiency.

Development[edit]

In 1991 the Swiss Federal Authorities held an Intergovernmental Symposium in Rüschlikon, Switzerland, on "Transparency and Coherence in Language Learning in Europe: Objectives, Evaluation, Certification". This symposium found that a common European framework for languages was needed to improve the recognition of language qualifications and help teachers co-operate, eventually leading to improved communication and cooperation among language teachers in Europe.

As a result of the symposium, the Swiss National Science Foundation set up a project to develop levels of proficiency, to lead on to the creation of a "European Language Portfolio" - certification in language ability which can be used across Europe.

A preliminary version of the Manual for Relating Language Examinations to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) was published in 2003. This draft version was piloted in a number of projects, which included linking a single test to the CEFR, linking suites of exams at different levels, and national studies by exam boards and research institutes. Practitioners and academics shared their experiences at a colloquium in Cambridge in 2007 and the pilot case studies and findings were published in Studies in Language Testing (SiLT).[2] The findings from the pilot projects then informed the Manual revision project during 2008/09.

Theoretical background[edit]

The CEFR adopts an action-oriented approach that, according to Carlos César Jiménez of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, can be traced back to theoretical proposals made by philosophers of language such as Ludwig Wittgenstein in the 1950s and sociolinguists such as Dell Hymes.[3] The approach regards language users as social agents who develop general and particular communicative competences while trying to achieve their everyday goals.

The CEFR divides general competences in knowledge (descriptive knowledge), skills, and existential competence with particular communicative competences in linguistic competence, sociolinguistic competence, and pragmatic competence. This division does not exactly match previously well-known notions of communicative competence, but correspondences among them can be made.[4]

General and particular communicative competences are developed by producing or receiving texts in various contexts under various conditions and constraints. These contexts correspond to various sectors of social life that the CEFR calls domains. Four broad domains are distinguished: educational, occupational, public, and personal.

A language user can develop various degrees of competence in each of these domains and to help describe them the CEFR has provided a set of Common Reference Levels.

Common reference levels[edit]

The Common European Framework divides learners into three broad divisions that can be divided into six levels; for each level, it describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing. These levels are:

level group level group name level level name description
A Basic User 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 Way stage or elementary
  • 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.
B Independent User 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 while traveling in an area where the language is spoken.
  • Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
  • Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and 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 specialization.
  • 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.
C Proficient User C1 Effective Operational Proficiency or advanced
  • Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning.
  • Can express ideas 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 organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
C2 Mastery or proficiency
  • Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read.
  • Can summarize 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.

These descriptors can apply to any of the languages spoken in Europe, and there are translations in many languages.

Relationship with duration of learning process[edit]

Deutsche Welle suggests A1 is reached with about 75 hours of German tuition, A2.1 with about 150 hours, A2.2 with about 225 hours, B1.1 with about 300 hours, and B1.2 with about 400 hours.[5]

Cambridge ESOL said that each level is reached with the following guided learning hours: A2, 180–200; B1, 350–400; B2, 500–600; C1, 700–800, and C2, 1,000–1,200.[6]

Alliance Française has stated students can expect to reach CEFR levels after the following cumulative hours of instruction: A1 60–100, A2 160–200, B1 360–400, B2 560–650, C1 810–950, C2 1060–1200.[7]

Certification and teaching ecosystem enabled by the CEFR[edit]

Multiple organizations have been created to serve as umbrella for language schools and certifications businesses that claim compatibility with the CEFR. For example, the European Association for Language Testing and Assessment (EALTA) is an initiative funded by the European Community[8] to promote the CEFR and best practices in delivering professional language trainings. The Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE) is a consortium of academic organizations that aims at standardizing assessment methods.[9] EAQUALS (Evaluation and Accreditation of Quality in Language Services) is an international association of institutions and organisations involved in language education, active throughout Europe, and following the CEFR.[10]

In France, the Ministry for Education has created a government-mandated certificate called CLES, which formalizes the use of the CEFR in French teaching programs in higher education.[11]

In Germany, telc GmbH, a non-profit agency, is the federal government's exclusive partner for language tests taken at the end of the integration courses for migrants, following the CEFR standards.[12]

Comparison between CEFR levels and other common tests[edit]

Canada and the United States[edit]

Comparison of the CEFR, ACTFL and ILR[edit]

Studies have addressed correspondence with the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines and the United States ILR scale specifically.

For convenience, the following abbreviations will be used for the ACTFL levels:

  • NL/NM/NH — Novice Low/Mid/High
  • IL/IM/IH — Intermediate Low/Mid/High
  • AL/AM/AH — Advanced Low/Mid/High
  • S — Superior
  • D — "Distinguished" (a name sometimes used for levels 4 and 4+ of the ILR scale instead of including them within "Superior")

A 2008 statistical study by Alfonso Martínez Baztán of Universidad de Granada based on the performances of a group of subjects[13] determines the following ordering of the ACTFL and CEFR levels, in which higher levels are placed further right.[14]

NL___NM__A1___NH___A2/IL_____IM__B1____IH____B2 _AL____ AM__C1___AH___C2__S_

The following table summarizes the results of Martínez Baztán,[15] the equivalences between CEFR and ACTFL standards proposed in a 2005 paper by Erwin Tschirner of Universität Leipzig[16][17] (also quoted by Martínez Baztán[18]), and the equivalences of Buitrago (unpublished, 2006) as quoted in Martínez Baztán 2008.[19]

CEFR Martínez Tschirner Buitrago
<A1 NL, NM
A1 NH NH NL
A2 IL, IM IM NM
B1 IM, IH IH IL
B2 IH, AL AM IM, IH
C1 AM, AH AH AL, AM, AH
C2 AH, S S S

In a panel discussion at the Osaka University of Foreign Studies, one of the coauthors of the CEFR, Brian North, stated that a "sensible hypothesis" would be for C2 to correspond to "Distinguished," C1 to "Superior," B2 to "Advanced-mid," and B1 to "Intermediate-high" in the ACTFL system.[20]

This agrees with a table published by the American University Center of Provence giving the following correspondences:[21]

CEFR ILR ACTFL
A1 0/0+ NL, NM, NH
A2 1 IL, IM
B1 1+ IH
B2 2/2+ AL, AM, AH
C1 3/3+ S
C2 4/4+ D

A study by Buck, Papageorgiou and Platzek[22] addresses the correspondence between the difficulty of test items under the CEFR and ILR standards. The most common ILR levels for items of given CEFR difficulty were as follows:

  • Reading — A1: 1, A2: 1, B1: 1+, B2: 2+, C1: 3
  • Listening — A1: 0+/1, A2: 1, B1: 1+, B2: 2, C1: 2+ (at least)[23]

Effort for standardization in Canada[edit]

Canada increasingly uses the CEFRin a few domains. CEFR-compatible exams such as the DELF/DALF(French) and the DELE(Spanish) are administered. Larry Vandergrift of the University of Ottawa has proposed a Canadian equivalent to the CEFR in his report Proposal for a Common Framework of Reference for Languages for Canada published by Heritage Canada.[24][25] This report contains a comparison of the CEFR to other standards in use in Canada and proposes an equivalence table.

The standards compared are:

  1. The CEFR itself
  2. Interagency Language Roundtable Scale (ILR, United States)
  3. American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages Proficiency Guidelines (ACTFL)
  4. New Brunswick Oral Proficiency Scale (NB OPS, English and French only)[26]
  5. Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB, English and French only)
  6. Public Service Commission of Canada Second Official Language Proficiency Levels (PSC, English and French only)[27]

The comparison table is as follows:

CEFR ILR ACTFL NB OPS CLB PSC
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
4+/5

The resulting correspondence between the ILR and ACTFL scales disagrees with the generally accepted one.[28] The ACTFL standards were developed so that Novice, Intermediate, Advanced and Superior would correspond to 0/0+, 1/1+, 2/2+ and 3/3+, respectively on the ILR scale.[29] Also, the ILR and NB OPS scales do not correspond despite the fact that the latter was modelled on the former.[25]

A more recent document by Macdonald and Vandergrift[30] estimates the following correspondences (for oral ability) between the Public Service Commission levels and the CEFR levels:

PSC CEFR
A A2
B B1/B2
C B2/C1

Language school may also propose their own equivalence tables. For example the Vancouver English Centre provides a comprehensive equivalence table between the various forms of the TOEFL test, the Cambridge exam, the VEC level system and the CEFR.[31]

United Arab Emirates[edit]

In 2011, a joint Higher Colleges of Technology-Cambridge/ESOL conference was held in the United Arab Emirates, to raise awareness about the CEFR.[32]

Rest of the world[edit]

The table below summarizes the correspondences between CEFR levels and common language proficiency scales around the world.

Language
(ISO
639-3
)
Certificate A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2
mul UNIcert UNIcert I UNIcert II UNIcert III UNIcert IV
mul TELC A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2
cat Catalan Language Certificates Bàsic-A2 Elemental-B1 Intermedi-B2 Suficiència-C1 Superior-C2
cmn Chinese Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK)[33] HSK Level 1 HSK Level 2 HSK Level 3 HSK Level 4 HSK Level 5 HSK Level 6
cmn Test of Chinese As A Foreign Language (TOCFL) (Taiwan) TOCFL Level 1 TOCFL Level 2 TOCFL Level 3 TOCFL Level 4 TOCFL Level 5
cym WJEC Defnyddio'r Gymraeg[34] Mynediad (Entry) Sylfaen (Foundation) Canolradd (Intermediate) - Uwch (Advanced) Hyfedredd (Proficiency)
cze Czech Language Certificate Exam (CCE)[35] CCE-A1 CCE-A2 CCE-B1 CCE-B2 CCE-C1 -
dan Prøve i Dansk (Danish Language Exam)[36] Prøve i Dansk 1 Prøve i Dansk 2 Prøve i Dansk 3 Studieprøven
deu Goethe-Institut Start Deutsch 1 Start Deutsch 2 Zertifikat Deutsch Goethe-Zertifikat B2, ZDfB Goethe-Zertifikat C1 - Zentrale Mittelstufenprüfung (neu) Zentrale Oberstufenprüfung, Kleines Deutsches Sprachdiplom
deu TestDaF[37] TDN 3 — TDN 4[38] TDN 4 — TDN 5
ell Πιστοποίηση Ελληνομάθειας (Certificate of Attainment in Modern Greek)[39] Α1
(Στοιχειώδης Γνώση)
Α2
(Βασική Γνώση)
Β1
(Μέτρια Γνώση)
Β2
(Καλή Γνώση)
Γ1
(Πολύ Καλή Γνώση)
Γ2
(Άριστη Γνώση)
eng Anglia Examinations Preliminary Elementary Intermediate Advanced Proficiency Masters
eng TrackTest[40] A1 (Beginner) A2 (Elementary) B1 (Pre-Intermediate) B2 (Intermediate) C1 (Upper-Intermediate) C2 (Advanced)
eng iTEP 1-2 2.5-3 3.5 4-4.5 5-5.5 6
eng IELTS[41] [42] [43] 2.0 3.0 3.5-4.5 (3.5 is the margin) 5.0-6.0 (5.0 is the margin) 6.5-7.5 (6.5 is the margin) 8.0-9.0 (8.0 is the margin)
eng TOEIC[44] 60 - 105 (listening) 60 - 110 (reading) 110 - 270 (listening) 115 - 270 (reading) 275 - 395 (listening) 275 - 380 (reading) 400 - 485 (listening) 385 - 450 (reading) 490 - 495 (listening) 455 - 495 (reading)
eng Versant 26-35 36-46 47-57 58-68 69-78 79-80
eng Duolingo English Test[45]  ?  ? 2.6 to 5.5 5.6 to 8.5 8.6 to 10.0  ?
eng TOEFL (IBT)[46] 8-12 (speaking) 13-18 (speaking), 11-16 (writing) 57 to 86 87 to 109 110 to 120 29-30 (reading)
eng TOEFL ITP[47] 337 460 543 627
eng TOEFL Junior Standard[48] 225-245 (listening), 210-245 (language form), 210-240 (reading) 250-285 (listening), 250-275 (language form), 245-275 (reading) 290-300 (listening), 280-300 (language form), 280-300 (reading)
eng City and Guilds[49] Preliminary Access Achiever Communicator Expert Mastery
eng NQF (UK Only)[50] Entry Level Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Levels 4-6 Level 7-8
eng Cambridge exam[51][52] KET (45 to 59)[53] PET (45 to 59)[54] / KET Pass with Merit, Pass FCE (45 to 59)[55] / PET Pass with Merit, Pass / KET Pass with Distinction[56] CAE (45 to 59) / FCE grade B or C / PET Pass with Distinction[57] CPE (45 to 59)[58] / CAE grade B or C / FCE grade A[59] CPE grade A, B or C[60] / CAE grade A[61]
eng EXAMAGRAM[62] 143-245 246-428 429-579 572-714 715-858 859-1000
eng PTE Academic 30 43 59 76 85ƒ
eng PTE General (formerly LTE) Level A1 Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5
eng Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE) / Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE) / Spoken English for Work (SEW)[63][64][65] GESE 2 ISE 0
GESE 3, 4
ISE I
GESE 5, 6
SEW 1
ISE II
GESE 7, 8, 9
SEW 2, 3
ISE III
GESE 10, 11
SEW 4
ISE IV
GESE 12
eng British General Qualifications[66] Foundation Tier GCSE Higher Tier GCSE GCE AS level / lower grade A-level GCE A-Level (known as A2)
eus IVAP-HAEE HE 1 - IVAP-HAEE HE 2 - IVAP-HAEE HE 3 - IVAP-HAEE HE 4 - IVAP-HAEE
eus HABE Lehenengo maila - HABE Bigarren maila - HABE Hirugarren maila - HABE Laugarren maila - HABE
eus EGA Euskararen Gaitasun Agiria
fin YKI 1.taso 2.taso 3.taso 4.taso 5.taso 6.taso
fra CIEP / Alliance française diplomas TCF A1 / DELF A1 TCF A2 / DELF A2 / CEFP 1 TCF B1 / DELF B1 / CEFP 2 TCF B2 / DELF B2 / Diplôme de Langue TCF C1 / DALF C1 / DSLCF TCF C2 / DALF C2 / DHEF
glg Certificado de lingua galega (CELGA)[67] CELGA 1 CELGA 2 CELGA 3 CELGA 4 CELGA 5
ita CELI Impatto 1 2 3 4 5
ita CILS A1 A2 Uno Due Tre Quattro / DIT C2
ita PLIDA (Dante Alighieri Society diplomas) PLIDA A1 PLIDA A2 PLIDA B1 PLIDA B2 PLIDA C1 PLIDA C2
jpn Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N5 N4 N3 N2 N1 -
kor Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6
nld CNaVT - Certificaat Nederlands als Vreemde Taal (Certificate of Dutch as Foreign Language)[68] Profile tourist and informal language proficiency (PTIT) Profile societal language proficiency (PMT) Profile professional language proficiency (PPT), Profile language proficiency higher education (PTHO) Profile academic language proficiency (PAT)
nld Inburgeringsexamen (Integration examination for immigrants from outside the EU) Pre-examination at embassy of home country Examination in the Netherlands
nld Staatsexamen Nederlands als tweede taal NT2 (State Examination Dutch as second language NT2)[69] NT2 programma I NT2 programma II
nor Norskprøver Norskprøve 1 Norskprøve 2 Norskprøve 3
por CAPLE[70] QECR CIPLE DEPLE DIPLE DAPLE DUPLE
por CELPE-Bras[71] Intermediate Intermediate Superior Intermediate Superior Intermediate Advanced Superior Advanced
rus ТРКИ – Тест по русскому языку как иностранному (TORFL – Test of Russian as a Foreign Language)[72] ТЭУ Элементарный уровень ТБУ Базовый уровень ТРКИ-1 (I Cертификационный уровень) (1st Certificate level) ТРКИ-2 ТРКИ-3 ТРКИ-4
spa DELE[73] A1 A2 B1 (formerly "Inicial") B2 (formerly "Intermedio") C1 C2 (formerly "Superior")
swe TISUS - - - - TISUS -
swe Swedex - A2 B1 B2 - -
AMCAD EFL A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2
ALTE level Breakthrough level Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5
ukr [74] UMI/ULF - Ukrainian as foreign language UMI 1 UMI 2 UMI 3 UMI 4 UMI 5 UMI 6

Difficulty to align the CEFR with teaching programs[edit]

Language schools and certificate bodies evaluate their own equivalences against the framework. Differences of estimation have been found to exist, for example, with the same level on the PTE A, TOEFL, and IELTS, and is a cause of debate between test producers.[75]

Other applications[edit]

The CEFR methodology has been extended to describe and evaluate the proficiency of users of programming languages, when the programming activity is considered as a language activity.[76]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Studies in Language Testing Volume 33 book description. Retrieved 2013-10-23.
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  20. ^ Untitled Page
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