Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

DAAD/Thomas Ebert

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) was developed by the Council of Europe. The aim was to ensure that language acquisition, the application of language and the language competency of students in Europe were transparent and comparable. To do so, the CEFR examined the partial qualifications (reading comprehension, listening comprehension, writing and speaking) and formulated six levels of competency. This provides a basis for curricular guidelines, learning materials and qualifications in European language work.

The different levels of the CEFR

The basic levels are:

  • A: Basic user
  • B: Independent user
  • C: Proficient user

These are then broken down into six language levels.

A: Basic user

A1 – Breakthrough

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.

A2 – Waystage

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.

B: Independent user

B1 – Threshold

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 while travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

B2 – Vantage

Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization. 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.

C: Proficient user

C1 – Effective Operational Proficiency

Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning. Can express ideas 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.

C2 – Mastery

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 the most complex situations.

More information

More information on the CEFR is available on the Goethe-Institut's website.