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Levels of English according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

Published 2021-01-17

In our daily interactions with new clients about their learning plans, we ask an increasingly important question: what is your current level of English? We often find that those who don’t know their level exactly tend to underestimate it, describing it as ‘I have no basics’, ‘I have never learned this language’, ‘I need to start from zero’. Clients are very surprised to learn that there are at least two levels of ‘poor’ language proficiency - many imagine that the language level is limited to ‘I don’t learn anything, so I need to learn’ and ‘I know everything, so I don’t need to learn anymore’. 

In fact, there are all six commonly accepted language levels. Since 2001, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages has defined the language competences that a learner must acquire in order to achieve a higher level of language proficiency. 

The levels within the framework are marked with the letters A, B, C and the additional numbers 1 and 2. Level A is the lowest (beginner user), B is medium (independent user) and C is the highest (proficient user). 

The six levels under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages are: 

A1 - Able to understand and use familiar minimum expressions and key phrases to meet specific needs. Ability to introduce and introduce others, ask personal questions (for example, where they live, what they know, what things they have) and answer the same questions. Able to communicate very simply if only the interlocutor speaks slowly, clearly and is willing to help. 

A2 - Is able to understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to the most important areas of life (eg personal, family, shopping, local geography, employment). Able to communicate in normal everyday situations about known things, when you just need to ask for information or provide it. Is able to tell about his / her education, immediate environment, basic needs with simple language means. 

B1 - Is able to understand the most important ideas of clear texts about familiar subjects encountered at work, school, leisure, etc. Able to deal with most travel situations in the target language. Able to communicate in many anticipated everyday situations and in some unexpected situations. Able to create simple cohesive text on common or interesting topics. Able to describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes, desires, briefly state reasons and explain opinions or plans. 

B2 - Ability to understand the main ideas of complex texts on both specific and abstract topics, as well as specialized discussions on professional topics. Able to communicate spontaneously and freely enough spontaneously and freely, so communication with native speakers without causing them tension and without feeling it themselves is completely possible. Able to produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of topics and explain his / her views on the issues under consideration, outlining the advantages and disadvantages of different options. 

C1 - Is able to understand various complex longer texts and comprehend implications. Able to spontaneously, freely, without searching for means of expression for a long time, to express his / her opinion, attitude, views. Able to use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Ability to create clear, well-composed, detailed text on complex topics in accordance with the requirements of style and form, using appropriate means of communication. 

C2 - Can easily understand basically everything he or she hears or reads. is able to summarize information from different reading or listening sources by consistently retelling discussions, stories or opinions. Able to express his / her opinion, attitude, views even spontaneously, completely freely and accurately, conveying the nuances of meaning even in more complex situations. 

Attendants of language courses in language schools will point out that many courses additionally offer A0 level as well as B1 +, which appeared a few years ago. They are not formally included in the language framework, but are used as auxiliary levels in the teaching process to facilitate the inclusion of those who do not speak a language at all (in the case of level A0) or to assist in mastering the course material at levels B (in the case of level B1 +). Textbooks assigned to these levels are divided as follows: A0 works with Beginner textbook, A1 - Elementary, A2 - Pre-Intermediate, B1 - Intermediate, B1 + - Intermediate Plus, B2 - Upper-Intermediate, C1 - Advanced, C2 - Proficiency. 

One of the troubles that both educators and students face when working at set language levels is that with each level, the coverage of the content increases very much, i.e. if learning two hundred words at the lowest level practically equals learning half of the course material, one will need to do much more at the higher levels to cover all the planned course content. Levels can be thought of as a funnel that narrows at the bottom and widens sharply as you go up: similarly, you start with a language from very little and the volume grows exponentially level by level. 

The introduction of level B1 + partially resolved this situation, as it was the transition from level B1 to B2 that had caused the most trouble for students which often forced them to repeat the course because they 'did not yet feel ready for level B2 courses'. The B1 + level, in particular, provides an additional semester to the acquisition of the B1 level, reinforces and systematizes existing knowledge, and allows the student to relax a little midway through the levels and focus not only on grammar but also on speaking, which will be an important component of B2. 

Another problem with levels is ‘getting stuck’ at the same level. The most common level of jamming is B1; there is even a category of clients who present themselves as ‘eternal B one’ and say ‘I am learning from the same textbook for the third time’. The reason is often that when students start learning a language from a lower level, they feel that they are making significant progress in a short period of time, and when they enter level B, this obvious progress seems to stop. 

Related to this, of course, is the already mentioned coverage of the course (more precisely, its scope, which sometimes seems disproportionately too large when moving from lower to higher levels) and customer expectations: a language learner sometimes feels that it's time to take a ‘small break’. If the break lasts longer than a year with no  language learning included, it is natural that when you return to lessons you have to start over: like any other skill, language tends to deteriorate if you do not use it. 

Try to keep your language level up by studying independently, reading or attending English courses. 

If you want to check your current language level, you can do it HERE.