Business English training and the CEFR

  • advancement target training

A global standard for defining language competency

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR) is a scale indicating your language competency. It supports the design, teaching and assessment of foreign language proficiency.

The CEFR is widely accepted in and beyond Europe, and defines competency in 6 reference levels:

Level Name Learning hours required*
A1 Breakthrough/Beginner 90-100
A2 Waystage/Elementary 180-200
B1 Threshold/Intermediate 350-400
B2 Vantage/Upper Intermediate 500-600
C1 Effective Operational Proficiency/Advanced 700-800
C2 Mastery/Proficiency 1000-1200

Based on the association of language testers in Europe*

Integrating the CEFR into your business English training

Although it was originally designed with general education in mind, the CEFR offers an excellent start for all business English programs. It provides a globally accepted platform from which trainers, learners and managers can describe a person’s language skills. In fact, as the CEFR is so well established, your company is probably already using it without realizing. However the CEFR does have 2 major drawbacks when it comes to business English:

  • The CEFR is not specifically focussed on business-related communication
  • The CEFR levels are broad, impacting their suitability for assessing the progress of professionals with limited training availability

Contact us

If you’d like further information about how the CEFR can be adapted to meet your business communication needs, why not contact us?  We’re happy to help.

Making the CEFR can-do statements business-skills based

Designed to support general education, the CEFR can-do statements focus on general and academic communication scenarios. In 2010 we responded to our client’s demand for a business-related focus, by developing a robust set of can-do statements focussing on business skills. There are 7 sets:

  • Business Correspondence
  • Meetings
  • Negotiating
  • Networking and Socializing
  • Presenting
  • Reading and Producing Business Documentation
  • Telephone Calls and Teleconferences

Business Englisch and the CEFR

Each set is available in three levels of detail, meeting the differing needs of managers, HRD, learners and trainers. The can-do statements have subsequently been vigorously tested by competitors and used extensively with our clients.

Integrating the CEFR when assessing business English training

The number of hours required to see a change in levels according to the CEFR is often unachievable for busy professionals within a year. Our experience is that using the CEFR levels to assess progress can be frustrating for learners, their managers and trainers.

Our solution is to relate specific can-do statements to your actual needs and focus on the skills you actually need for your job. The CEFR levels continue to play an important part in assessing learning and behaviours, but are additionally supported by work samples, learning portfolios and performance observations. This is then integrated into a more results-oriented approach to assessing business English training, by using the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model. This allows you to assess how the training is actually helping your business.