What is the CEFR?
The Common European Framework of Reference (usually abbreviated to the CEFR or CEF) describes what skills and ability language learners can do at different stages of their learning. The CEFR is actually language-neutral, which means that it can be applied to any language learning situation. It was originally designed as a comprehensive reference tool to promote educational transparency and to allow movement between countries for work or study within the European Union. The full text is quite long so we will just concentrate on the important points.
At EMR we utilise CEFR for Bahasa Indonesia and English lessons, classes and assessment.
The CEFR has been translated into over 37 languages and its use has spread outside Europe, from Asia to Latin America, as an aid to defining levels for learning, teaching and assessment. It is used for Accreditation of the skills and competency of users of language, teachers and students.
The CEFR describes six broad levels of ability, with A1 being the lowest and C2 the highest. Learners are classified in three distinct groups: The Basic User (levels A1 and A2), the Independent User (B1 and B2) and the Proficient User (C1 and C2). There is actually an undocumented level which is not knowing anything about a language or A0 as some call it. Each level is a significant change in what we are can do in that language, so getting to A1 or A2 is already important progress, and should be initial targets to give quick success to the learners
Basic User A1
- 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.
Basic User A2
- 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.
Independent User B1
- 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.
Independent User B2
- 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.
Proficient User C1
- 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.
Proficient User C2
- 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 more complex situations.
The next is a self-assessment grid to allow students, teachers and other users within the educational system to profile their main language skills, and to decide which level they are at. The self-assessment grid illustrates the levels of proficiency described in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
It presents 34 scales of listening, reading, spoken interaction, spoken production and writing activities.
The third table in the standard was designed to assess spoken performance. It focuses on different qualitative aspects of language use, such as range, accuracy, fluency, interaction and coherence at each of the 6 Global scales above.
Learners develop not just in terms of the actual language they have available, but also in terms of their strategies for communicating. For example, in moving from basic to independent, learners will gain compensation strategies, enabling them to make the most of the language they already know; proficient learners will be operating at a higher level, where they can be both fluent and spontaneous, and able to draw on exactly the language they need for a specific situation.
Level Study Hours for English (ALTE)
Of course students don’t just reach the different levels and flip and some students are faster than others, the scale is of course more gradual and continuous, however the banding is important for both assessing and appropriateness of the learning materials.
There is a particularly useful Scale of 54 different criteria called Structured Overview of all CEFR scales It allows you link up skills in each of these areas with the student’s overall level. You can see this is the CEFR 2018 Companion Volume.
Now you have a good idea of what is inside the CEFR let’s get to its uses:
How can the CEFR be useful for teachers and Students?
Understanding language levels better
The CEFR helps you to understand a standardised terminology for describing language levels.
Seeing more clearly what needs to worked on
The CEFR describes what learners need to be able to do to reach the next level. It is particularly useful in showing how different component skills are described at each level. If you have an assessment tool, like FluentIQ, which strongly correlates to CEFR, the results can be used to focus learning on the areas that require attention. Read more about Fluent IQ here!
The CEFR scales are also very useful for creating your own assessment grids. These use the descriptors in the scales and can help with assessing students during and at the end of a course. These are great to establish the competenency or individual skills of the learner.
If you are responsible for working out what is going to be taught in a class – just your own or for the whole school – it is very helpful to use the CEFR as a broad framework. Look carefully at the descriptors for the levels you need – not just the Global Scale, but component scales as well where relevant. Monash University has some excellent examples of using CEFR for their language program, linking the outcomes and assessment to their courses including German, Chinese and Indonesian, as well as others.
There are now often guides of the CFR level on text books now.
It is quite common to find the CEFR scale on the English text books, for Bahasa Indonesia this is still not the case, so you need to look at the assessment tools to estimate if this text is the right level for you.
How do I know whether a course-book is properly aligned to the CEFR?
It is not easy for those involved with teaching to judge whether a publication or an exam is properly aligned to the CEFR, and there is no independent authority.
Should I introduce my students to the CEFR?
Yes, it’s very useful for students to understand how mastery of a language builds up from beginner to mastery. Of course, this needs to be suitable for their level and age, and it is probably adults and teenagers that will find it useful. Scales – adapted to their language level – are really useful for self-assessment, which can be very helpful in developing language skills.
How does CEFR Compare to the English Exam Results
We have included some charts to show this and you can also see a more complete table at https://www.examenglish.com/examscomparison.php
Please feel free to comment below.
CEFR Assessment and Tests Available
Online exams include:
- FluentIQ for English (paid, and able to display on Social media)
- Exam English for English.
- Deutsche Welle for German.
- Cambridge English Language Assessment for English.
- Cambridge Institute for English, Spanish, German, and French.
- Language Level for English Spanish, French, and German.
- Macmillan Practice Online (paid) for English.
- European Center for Modern Languages for self-assessment in a variety of languages.
Regardless of the test or exam you sit, language exams demand intensive study and are a great way to push your ability in a language to that next level.