Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

What is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages?

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is a shared basis for developing curricula, guidelines, exams and teaching materials in Europe. It provides detailed information on the steps learners need to take to use a language and the knowledge and skills they need to acquire to communicate successfully. The cultural context of the language is also taken into account here.

The CEFR uses a traditional division of learning areas into elementary, intermediate and advanced levels, which is reflected in the three main reference levels, A, B and C. Each reference level is then further subdivided into a lower and higher level (e.g. B1 and B2). The CEFR has defined proficiency levels for this so that learning progress within each of the total of six levels can be measured as part of the learning process. The following descriptions provide an overview of the proficiency level.

A: Basic user

Level A1

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.

Level A2

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

Level B1

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 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.

Level B2

Can 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.

C: Proficient user

Level C1

Can 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.

Level C2

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 more complex situations.

The CEFR at the Goethe-Institut

German language courses and examinations at the Goethe-Institut are based on the CEFR and can be taken at the various different levels. This means that the Goethe-Institut’s examination certification system is internationally recognised. A modular system of courses which are tailored to each other and can be combined together is used for German language teaching.