Language learning Tips and Advice

Want to know how proficient you are in a language?

How proficient are you in a foreign language? The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) offers a handy measure.

The CEFR operates a scale of 1 to 6: proficiency levels A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2.

  • Level group A = basic user – divided into A1 (lower) and A2 (upper)
  • Level group B = independent user – divided into B1 (lower) and B2 (upper)
  • Level group C = proficient user – divided into C1 (lower) and C2 (upper)

Actually it’s not really that simple. There’s more to understanding language proficiency than that, as we explain below. But the six levels are a great starting point in assessing how good you are at a language.

CEFR proficiency levels in brief

A1 Basic

Beginner / False beginner

At this level you can:

  • Understand and use familiar everyday expressions.
  • Introduce yourself and others, and ask and answer questions about personal details.
  • Interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly.

A2 Basic

Elementary / Pre-intermediate

At this level you can:

  • Understand sentences and frequently used expressions describing basic personal information.
  • Communicate in simple and routine tasks, exchanging information on familiar and routine matters.
  • Describe in simple terms your immediate needs.

B1 Independent


At this level you can:

  • Understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar subjects – work, school, leisure, etc.
  • Deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
  • Produce simple connected text on familiar topics.
  • Describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions, and explain your opinions.

B2 Independent


At this level you can:

  • Understand the main ideas of complex text on concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in your specialist area.
  • Interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes interaction with native speakers possible without strain for either party.
  • Produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain in detail your viewpoint on a topical issue.

C1 Proficient


At this level you can:

  • Understand a wide range of demanding, longer clauses, and recognise implicit meaning.
  • Express ideas fluently and spontaneously without searching for words.
  • Use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.
  • Produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects.

C2 Proficient


At this level you can:

  • Understand with ease virtually everything you hear or read.
  • Summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation.
  • Express yourself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely.


CEFR proficiency levels in detail

To get a more meaningful idea of how good you are at a language you need to break it down into the linguistic areas – the so-called receptive skills of reading and listening, and productive skills of speaking and writing. It’s absolutely possible to be stronger in some of these linguistic areas and weaker in others. For example, you might be highly proficient at reading but not so strong at listening comprehension. Some people are better at speaking a language, others at writing. Also bear in mind that each CEFR level represents a range of ability, not an exact point. You might be just about at the beginning of C1, for example, or you might be nearly at C2. These levels are only an approximate guide. An assessment from an experienced language teacher can help you better understand what level you are at.

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Linguistic areas

The CEFR recognises five linguistic areas:

    • Listening (1)
    • Reading (2)
    • Spoken interaction (4)
    • Spoken production (5)
  • WRITING (5)

You can be at any of six levels in each of these five areas. You can use the CEFR self-asessment grid to assess your own level in some detail. And you can get a really detailed assessment and learning plan from an expert language teacher at the Marlow Language Centre.

CEFR – further information

CEFR European language levels

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, Wikipedia