The CEFR and How Homeschool Spanish Academy Uses It
Do you wonder how to gauge your Spanish level? Maybe you are working on your first résumé, applying to college, or looking for a job that incorporates your Spanish skills—but one thing’s for sure: the time has come to put those years of language study to good use. So, what level do you put next to Spanish? Common options for you to use include “beginner,” “intermediate,” or “advanced,” but what do those actually mean? The CEFR is one way we can answer these questions. As an international guideline that places language learners at specific levels through testing, it avoids the very confusion you’re feeling now.
Confusion with Language Levels
Many language classes and books are divided into the generic levels listed above, which are often too vague to be useful. Just because you are using an intermediate Spanish book does not mean you can speak at an intermediate level or that you are actually retaining all the information given.
For example, I have been “learning” German for years. My vocabulary level is high, but if you put me in a situation where I’d actually have to use German in a conversation, I would fail horribly. While I am progressing on language-learning apps, I still haven’t passed the beginner level after several years due to my lack of spoken practice.
Isn’t there a better, more specific way to describe our language level that actually takes into consideration the complexity of language? Thankfully, yes! This brings us to the Common European Framework of Reference, or CEFR.
What is the CEFR?
If you have already heard about the CEFR, that’s great! This placement test is not well-known in the United States, but it is extremely common throughout the rest of the world. Potential job candidates from Latin America, Africa, and Europe consistently express in their résumés their language proficiency level through the CEFR categories that you’ll see below. It is an internationally recognized way of communicating your language skills.
What I particularly like about the CEFR is how it considers each aspect of the language. For example, you can have a high reading level but a low speaking level—just like my German skills!
How Does It Work?
While knowing your overall language level is imperative for résumés, job applications, and language class placement, the CEFR placement exams test each aspect of language: reading, writing, listening, spoken interaction, and spoken production. You can take advantage of that to improve certain aspects of language, or you can look at the average score and put it on your résumé.
For each category, you can place in one of six levels. They are as follows: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2.
A1 and A2: Learners at these levels are considered basic users. They can recognize certain words, understand starter questions, or form simple sentences.
B1 and B2: These two levels are for independent users. In other words, if you wish to travel or work a non-specialized job (in a bar, cafe, or restaurant) abroad, your goal would be to reach at least these levels. There still may be many things that you don’t understand, but at a B1 or B2 level, you can interact fluidly with confidence, hold conversations, and ask questions to clarify any misunderstandings.
C1 and C2: At these levels, language learners are considered proficient users, or fluent. Being at a C1 level does not mean you know every single word in the language, but it means you can attend university classes in your target language and are confident to partake in conversations about a variety of topics. The C2 level is often not reached by even native speakers; it’s typically well-versed individuals, such as university professors, who have a C2 language level.
These levels can be broken down even further into sublevels such as A1.1 or B2.2. However, they are usually used for language books or classes and are not necessary when talking about your general language level. If you are using a Spanish book to study and are curious about what CEFR level you are at, check the back of the book. Most language books have the CEFR level listed near the bottom of the back cover.
What is Your CEFR Level?
The most direct way to know your CEFR level is to take a placement exam. The official Spanish test is called the DELE exam. There is a test for each CEFR level, so you should know which level you are at before taking the exam.
If you don’t want to pay for an exam, you can complete a practice DELE test. The tests are divided into different parts, such as listening and reading comprehension, so you know how well you are doing with each language aspect.
You can also do a self-evaluation by looking at the CEFR self-assessment grid, a visual tool for self-placement. By knowing what level you are currently at and where you aim to be, you can set goals for yourself and focus on your weak areas. You can also find a copy of this chart in Spanish if you would like to assess your skills in your target language.
Will Generic Spanish Classes Improve My Level?
Often, Spanish classes only emphasize reading and writing while ignoring speaking and listening skills. This means that in these generic classes, students stay at an A1 or A2 level in their speaking skills while advancing to a B1 or B2 level in reading and writing even after four or more years of study. While students may be able to converse with their peers and answer the teacher’s questions in Spanish, the real-life application of language is quite different.
In high school, I was in the Spanish club and I aced several levels of Spanish. As soon as I went to Peru my senior year, though, I could not understand a word or speak a complete sentence. After years of study, I could barely make a single sentence. I was at an A1 level.
Many Spanish learners are in the same situation as I was, and they are now turning to Homeschool Spanish Academy to help them improve their Spanish CEFR level. After observing classes and speaking with students who have studied with HSA for years, I can tell you that the students are advancing at a much quicker pace than in the normal Spanish classes you find in a high school setting.
How Does Homeschool Spanish Academy Use CEFR?
Homeschool Spanish Academy is in the process of assigning a CEFR level to each curriculum. Nevertheless, the curriculum was designed with a similar thought process. Most other Spanish classes focus on limited aspects of the language and provide little individual attention to each student’s progress. Homeschool Spanish Academy, on the other hand, provides individualized instruction focusing on every area of language learning.
Get Quick Results with HSA
Students who start studying with the Homeschool Spanish Academy at a preschool or elementary level can expect to be at an A2-B1 level as they enter high school.
For students who complete only high school courses, they can expect to be at a B1-B2 level at the end of the high school curriculum.
That is a vast improvement from the A1 level I achieved after 6 years of Spanish study! You can expect such a quick improvement in your Spanish skills because of the individualized attention from a native speaker. The curriculum itself is designed to quickly improve your reading and writing skills—and combined with a skilled native teacher, it’s the perfect toolset to become an independent language user in no time.
Feel free to take a look at some sample curriculum and try a trial class at no cost! Whether you want to pass the DELE, travel abroad, or become a proficient user, Homeschool Spanish Academy can get your CEFR level to where you want it. ¡Sigue adelante!