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A1 to C2: strength of international standards and new trends


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Assessment of proficiency in foreign (European) languages at levels from A1 to C2 appeared in the 90s of the XX century at the initiative of the Council of Europe. This is how the European CEFR system arose, which worked out the definition of the level of proficiency in a foreign language, using the notation A, B, C.

International certificates of foreign language proficiency have developed their own assessment systems based on this system, complementing and enriching it. The CEFR system has its drawbacks, but the indisputable advantage is that CEFR is a universal determinant that is not related to a specific test.

With the integration of European countries, the interest of Europeans in the study of foreign languages increases. Every few years, adjustments are made to the characterization of the levels in connection with the changing general picture of developing multilingualism.

CEFR International Levels - Not Assessment, But Steps Of Development

Proficiency in a foreign language was not divided into levels in order to put down marks in the diary. This is necessary for realizing the work done in learning the language and setting further goals: these are the necessary steps in striving for the Proficient level (the level of a native speaker).

CEFR foreign language levels:

  • A1 (Beginner) - initial
  • A2 (Elementary) - basic
  • B1 (Intermediate) - medium
  • B2 (Upper intermediate) - above average
  • C1 (Advanced) - advanced
  • C2 (Proficient) - close to the level of a native speaker.

Even A1 level cannot be reached in one sitting. A person starting to learn a foreign language is below level A1. Anyone who has this level can communicate with native speakers in the most elementary way: say his name, where he lives, what he does, say hello and say goodbye. An A1 person can understand simple phrases addressed to him if they are short and pronounced.

The A2 level will already allow you to travel around the country, where they use English in the household and hospitality sectors. A2 can also be the beginning of cooperation, allows a person to communicate on well-known professional topics. But for the further development of cooperation, it is necessary to rise to the next steps.

B1 includes standard correspondence, including business correspondence. At this level, it is possible to establish business interaction, but it is not enough to work in a foreign team. To understand certain nuances, you will need outside help and further work to improve your language skills. B1 is more free to communicate at home and while traveling.

The B2 level of English will already allow you to work in an English-speaking team, participate in conferences, express your point of view. The owner of B2 can communicate with native speakers, discuss various topics, including unfamiliar ones. But at this level many subtleties are inaccessible, including the originality of local humor.

C1 will no longer allow you to get confused in any company, it is marked by a good sense of language styles, the ability to communicate on the most complex topics without prior preparation. At this level, understanding of irony, jokes, hints is available. This level is sufficient for professional activities.

The C2 level is close to native speaker's. Any nuances of meaning are available at this level. Here we are no longer talking about a foreign language - in fact, it is a second language, which is used in the same way as the native one.

Tests, international certificates for knowledge of a foreign language: assessments and competencies

For study, work, obtaining a residence permit abroad, it is not enough to determine your level of knowledge of a foreign language using the common European system - you need a document that determines the level of proficiency using specially developed tests and assignments. This level is expressed in points. Foreign educational institutions, organizations, enterprises planning to hire and study foreigners indicate the certificates they accept and the range of points.

The most common tests of English are TOEFL and IELTS , German tests are TestDAF. The purpose of these tests is to check language competence, the ability to apply knowledge and skills in given conditions, limited by time frames. International tests check:

  1. The ability to understand, analyze the printed text, form your attitude to the topic, answer questions.
  2. Do the same with the information received by ear. The information is presented in 2-3 versions: scientific report, conversation, interview.
  3. A monologue on a given topic: attitude to the problem, available information, search for solutions.
  4. Written test - essay: comparison of information received from different sources, assessment of positions, justification of a personal point of view.

All types of assignments test the knowledge and skills necessary for living, studying and working abroad, developed by high-level specialists and have proven themselves to be excellent. A person who scored high on TOEFL tests does not have language problems in a foreign country.

However, with the emergence and development of new phenomena in society, such as the increasing importance of social networks and virtual communication, new requirements for linguistic competencies appear. Now it is important to check how a person was able to assimilate and process information from different types of sources: oral, written, video materials, how ready he is for communication. New competencies come to the fore:

  • perception - the ability to understand and evaluate information in context.
  • reproduction - presentation of information in a situation where there is time for preparation: blog posts, presentation, report
  • communication - participating in discussions, finding solutions to a problem, teamwork
  • linguistic mediation - the ability to explain the essence of the problem, the phenomenon at the level of the dialogue participants.

Requirements for understanding the context, for the ability to substantiate a personal position, for the ability to use social networks, and blogging in the target language are increasing. New tasks will appear in international tests: knowledge of the style of social networks, new standards of communication will be required.

Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Kuban State University, Russia (World Economics); Westminster University (Business & Management). Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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