Language Levels, How Many are There and Which Level do I Have?
“You need to have at least a B2 level of English”. Possibly you’ve heard or read this statement before and have wondered what it means exactly. Another abbreviation you’re perhaps wondering about together with the language levels is CEFR . So let’s start with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which is a guideline and it describes learners’ achievements in a foreign language. It was put together by the Council of Europe. I don’t want to confuse you with too much detailed information, so I’ll break this down for you below. However, if you want to know more, then check out the Council of Europe website.
How many language levels are there?
There are six levels, divided into three groups.
- Basic users: levels A1 and A2
- Independent users: levels B1 and B2
- Proficient users: level C1 and C2
The CEFR describes for each level what the language learner is supposed to be able to do in each of four skills, which are reading, listening, speaking and writing. That means you can have different skill levels, e.g. you’re listening skills can be at B2 level, but your writing skills are at B1 level. This is possible and sometimes the case.
Let’s have a closer look at each level and the descriptions. You can find a global scale table with all levels and descriptions from the Council of Europe here.
Some people think this language level describes learners who have no knowledge of a foreign language. That is not true.
At A1 level the learner can …
… understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type.
… 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.
… interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and can help.
… write a short, simple postcard, e. g. sending holiday greetings.
… can fill in forms with personal details, e. g. entering name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
If you cannot do these things, you are at a pre-A1 level.
People at this language level are often called elementary learners.
They 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).
… communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.
… describe in simple terms aspects of their background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
… write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate needs and a very simple personal letter, e. g. thanking someone for something.
These learners are also referred to as being at an intermediate language level.
They can …
… understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc..
… deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where they need to speak the language.
… produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest.
… describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plan.
… write simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest and personal letters describing experiences and impressions.
Language learners at this stage are sometimes called upper-intermediate.
They can …
… understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their field of specialisation.
… interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity, which makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without stress.
… produce clear and detailed text on a wide range of subjects.
… explain a point of view on an issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
… write clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects related to their interests and an essay or report, passing on information or giving reasons in support of or against a particular point of view. They can write letters highlighting the personal significance of events and experiences.
Advanced is the adjective which is used to describe learners at this language level.
They can …
… understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning.
… express themselves fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.
… use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.
… produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
… express themselves in clear, well-structured text, expressing points of view at some length.
… write about complex subjects in a letter, an essay or a report.
… select style appropriate to the reader in mind.
This level is referred to as mastery level.
Learners at this language level can …
… understand with ease virtually everything heard or read.
… summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation.
… express themselves spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.
… write clear, smoothly-flowing text in an appropriate style.
… produce complex letters, reports or articles which present a case with an effective logical structure which helps the recipient to notice and remember significant points and write summaries and reviews of professional or literary works.
Just by reading through the “can do” statements you can find out for yourself which level of English you have. In case, you’re not sure, then get in touch with us here.
Why is it important to know which level I’m at?
That information will help you in many aspects, here are a few to consider, when …
… applying for a new job or position, your language level can make or break your chances of success
… choosing a language book or course
… you want to obtain a professional language qualification
… improving certain language skills is your priority
That just about wraps it up for today
One more thing though, Yvette and I have set up an early interest page for an upcoming programme about perfecting your presentation in English. Check out all the information about it here.
I hope you’ve found this information useful and you’ll join me again for more information, which has helped my students face their challenges in communicating successfully in English and getting their point across.
Have a wonderful time and take care
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