Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment, abbreviated as CEFR, is a guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages across Europe and, increasingly, in other countries. It was put together by the Council of Europe as the main part of the project "Language Learning for European Citizenship" between 1989 and 1996. Its main aim is to provide a method of assessing and teaching which applies to all languages in Europe. In November 2001 a European Union Council Resolution recommended using the CEFR to set up systems of validation of language ability. The six reference levels (see below) are becoming widely accepted as the European standard for grading an individual's language proficiency. Nonetheless, existing examination boards have retained their own naming conventions, e.g. "Intermediate", which are, arguably, easier for them, and their students, to remember.
  • UNIcert (for different languages of both European and non-European countries), which is used in several European countries, is a university-language-education standard based on the CEFR.
In 1991 the Swiss Federal Authorities held an Intergovernmental Symposium in Rüschlikon, Switzerland, on "Transparency and Coherence in Language Learning in Europe: Objectives, Evaluation, Certification". This symposium found that a Common European Framework for languages was needed to improve the recognition of language qualifications and help teachers co-operate, eventually leading to improved communication and cooperation generally in Europe.
As a result of the symposium, the Swiss National Science Foundation set up a project to develop levels of proficiency, to lead on to the creation of a "European Language Portfolio" - certification in language ability which can be used across Europe.


The Common European Framework divides learners into three broad divisions which can be divided into six levels:

A Basic Speaker
A1 Breakthrough or beginner
A2 Waystage or elementary
B Independent Speaker
B1 Threshold or pre-intermediate
B2 Vantage or intermediate
C Proficient Speaker
C1 Effective Operational Proficiency or upper intermediate
C2 Mastery or advanced
The CEFR describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing at each level.


A1Can 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.
A2Can 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.
B1Can 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.
B2Can 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.
C1Can 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.
C2Can 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.

Deutsche Welle (sponsored by the German government) suggests A-1 is reached with about 75 hours of German study. A-2.1 about 150 hours. A-2.2 about 225 hours. B 1.1 about 300 hours. B 1.2 about 400 hours.
These descriptors can apply to any of the languages spoken in Europe, and there are translations in many languages.


CEFR Level B2 (Our 5th Year). Description.

The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) defines Level B2 as follows:
B2 level may be referred to as an intermediate stage of proficiency. Users at this level are expected to be able to handle the main structures of the language with some confidence, demonstrate knowledge of a wide range of vocabulary and use appropriate communicative strategies in a variety of social situations. Their understanding of spoken language and written texts should go beyond being able to pick out items of factual information, and they should be able to distinguish between main and subsidiary points and between the general topic of a text and specific detail. They should be able to produce written texts of various types, showing the ability to develop an argument as well as describe or recount events. This level of ability allows the user a certain degree of independence when called upon to use the language in a variety of contexts. At this level the user has developed a greater flexibility and an ability to deal with the unexpected and to rely less on fixed patterns of language and short utterances. There is also a developing awareness of register and the conventions of politeness and degrees of formality as they are expressed through language.

Examinations at Level B2 are frequently used as proof that the learner can do office work or take a non-academic course of study in the language being learned, e.g. in the country where the language is spoken. Learners at this level can be assumed to have sufficient expertise in the language for it to be of use in clerical, secretarial and managerial posts, and in some industries, in particular tourism.

For more information about the Common European Framework, visit the
ALTE website.

In social and travel contexts, users at this level can deal with most situations that may arise in shops, restaurants, and hotels; for example, they can ask for a refund or for faulty goods to be replaced, and express pleasure or displeasure at the service given. Similarly, routine situations at the doctor's, in a bank or post office or at an airport or station can all be handled. In social conversation they can talk about a range of topics and express opinions to a limited extent. As tourists they can ask for further explanations about information given on a guided tour. They themselves can show visitors around, describe a place and answer questions about it.

In the workplace, users at this level can give detailed information and state detailed requirements within a familiar topic area, and can take some limited part in a meeting. They can take and pass on messages, although there may be difficulties if these are complex, and can carry out simple negotiations, for example on prices and conditions of delivery.

If studying, users at this level can ask questions during a lecture or presentation on a familiar or predictable topic, although this may be done with some difficulty. They can also give a short, simple presentation on a familiar topic. They can take part in a seminar or tutorial, again with some difficulty.


In social and travel contexts, users at this level can write most kinds of letters connected with accommodation, and can also write personal letters on a limited range of predictable topics.

In the workplace, users can produce a range of written documents but may need to have these checked by a native speaker if accuracy and register are important. They can produce texts which describe and give detailed information, e.g. about a productor service, as long as it is within a familiar area of work and they can write requests, also within a predictable range. They can take and pass on messages, but may have difficulty if these are lengthy or complex. They can take dictation if the pace is fairly slow, and there are opportunities for checking.

If studying, users at this level can make notes in lectures and seminars which are of some limited use for revision purposes, but may find this difficult unless extra time is given. They can also make notes from written sources, although key points may be missed, and they may not be sufficiently selective. They can write an essay which shows some ability to communicate, or an account of an experiment which demonstrates basic understanding of the work done.

In social and travel contexts, users at this level can read texts which are longer than the very brief signs, notices, etc. which are characteristic of what can be handled at the two lower levels. They can go beyond routine letters and the most basic newspaper and magazine articles, and have developed reading skills related to factual topics in which they have a special interest or to their own tastes in fiction. In everyday, practical situations, such as eating out, shopping and using services such as banks, they can read competently enough to deal with anything which does not involve some kind of specialised language (such as legal terms in a tenancy agreement).

In the workplace, they can deal with routine letters and understand the general meaning of a fair range of non-routine correspondence, although complex situations and the use of non-standard language would cause problems. They can handle short reports or articles on predictable topics, and grasp the general meaning of a report or article on a less familiar topic, but misunderstanding is likely where information is not clearly expressed. Instructions and product descriptions within the learner's own area of work can be understood, but only the general meaning of more theoretical material (e.g. technical reports) can be understood without access to support such as dictionaries, even when it is within the learner's area of expertise.

At this level, users are likely to have enough language ability to cope with some non-academic training courses which are conducted in the language being learned. Users at this level can follow a lecture, presentation or demonstration on a familiar topic or where the context is well known, but are likely to have difficulty in following abstract argumentation. They can read simple textbooks and articles, but cannot read quickly enough to cope with an academic course.


In social and travel contexts, users at this level can cope with casual conversation on a fairly wide range of familiar, predictable topics, such as personal experiences, work and current events. They can understand routine medical advice. They can understand most of a TV programme because of the visual support provided, and grasp the main points of a radio programme. On a guided tour they have the understanding required in order to ask and answer questions.

In the workplace, they can follow presentations or demonstrations of a factual nature if they relate to a visible, physical object such as a product.

If studying, they can understand the general meaning of a lecture, as long as the topic is predictable. 

  • Common European Framework (Complete text), Website Council of Europe.

  • European Language Portfolio

  • EALTA, European Association for Language Testing and Assessment

  • ALTE, Association of Language Testers in Europe
  • The European Day of Languages