CEFR target training

CEFR Levels: A Beginner’s Guide

What is your CEFR level?

In Europe everyone talks about their language skills in terms of being somewhere between A1 and C2.

But what does this really mean? How do you really know what level you are? Does the next person have the same understanding of what that level really means? Do you even know what CEFR stands for?

In 273 pages the Council of Europe explain the whole concept and what each level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) mean.

The only problem is that I don’t actually know of anyone – language trainer, L&D professional, or client purchasing the training – who has read the whole thing. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t.

There are though a number of more succinct explanations available on the internet. And most training institutions, Target Training GmbH included, have their own documents which explain it in the way they think is most accessible to their clients.

What are the advantages of using the CEFR for business language training?

  • It is based on can-do statements which is far more useful than just having , for example, a grammatical syllabus
  • The can-do statements are largely practical
  • Provided levels are assessed correctly, and participants are not put up a level purely because they have finished a course and the training institution wants a happy client,  a certain level of standardization is offered

What are the disadvantages?

  • Put a group of experienced language trainers in the room to discuss a participant’s level. There will always be some discussion as to what the level is. One person focuses more on grammatical errors, another only listens for fluency, another for the use of interesting language, etc
  • The CEFR is of limited use when assessing corporate language training. The broad bands mean that the time needed to move up a level is too great to be assessed on anything less than a 12 month basis (100 hours to progress from an A1 to and A2, up to 400 hours to progress from a C1 to a C2)
  • Lack of relevance. The CEFR was not designed with the corporate environment in mind. The can-do statements are very general

Is what really counts being measured with CEFR?

At Target Training, we aim to improve participants’ performance at work in English in a short time.  Progress is generally shown in terms of being able to participate better in a meeting (and for someone else to notice), being able to write emails quicker and better than they could before the training, etc.   Such progress is difficult to assess using the CEFR levels.

If you don’t agree, have a look at the can-do statements in the document mentioned above and the suggested language points in the British Council /EAQUALs Core Inventory.

They are wonderful for the general English classroom, but need adapting to the world of business. And we really need to consider whether versions adapted for the business world are really the best way of assessing levels and progress. Most of us who carry out level placement tests notice that there is a clear difference in an individual’s general and business level. There isn’t a difference in the CEFR levels, and as the can-do statements are general, the level assigned will be general. This might not be accurate for the corporate environment. Let us know what you think in the comments area below. Also, check out our methods and tools that we use to ensure high quality training at the workplace.

1 reply
  1. Will
    Will says:

    Hi Kate,
    Thanks for your useful guide to the CEFR. I would like to stress the importance of using this tool to be aware of your progress with learning a language. Sometimes we forget that we are progressing with our skills, and it’s such a boost to moral, especially when you’re a beginner, to know that you have reached a new level.
    Also, for trainers it’s a great way of motivating their learners. When congratulating the learner, make a big thing of it and tell the other members of the group.

Comments are closed.