In 2001 the Council of Europe published the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) or Cadre Européen Commun de Référence pour les langues (CECR).
It marked a departure from the traditional view of language education. Learning a language was ‘no longer seen as simply [achieving] ‘mastery’ of one or two, or even three languages, each taken in isolation, with the ‘ideal native speaker’ as the ultimate model. Instead, the aim [was] to develop a linguistic repertory, in which all linguistic abilities have a place.’ (CEFR 1.3 p.5)
Some key aspects of this framework are:
The CEFR: transparent, coherent and comprehensive
This is a framework designed to provide a transparent, coherent and comprehensive basis for the elaboration of language syllabuses and curriculum guidelines, the design of teaching and learning materials and the assessment of foreign language proficiency.
Six levels of foreign language proficiency
The CEFR describes foreign language proficiency at six levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2 and three ‘plus’ levels (A2+, B1+, B2+). Based on empirical research and widespread consultation this scheme makes it possible to compare tests and examinations across languages and national boundaries. It also provides a basis for recognising language qualifications and thus facilitating educational and occupational mobility.
To view all key aspects of this framework, click here.
The CEFR is much more than proficiency scales
The CEFR’s scales of foreign language proficiency are accompanied by a detailed analysis of communicative contexts, themes, tasks and purposes as well as scaled descriptions of the competences on which we draw when we communicate.
The focus is firmly on the learner’s competence, i.e. what he/she can do at a given time. This is reflected in the CEFR descriptors and requires teachers to take learners’ needs into account when designing their programs. In doing so they can help their students remain engaged and maximise their learning.