Welcome to this special series that will help you figure out a) what level of German you’re at and b) how that fits in with the European standards.
This is important to know for any language classes you take that are here with me, at a private institution, Speaking Seminars (Sprechseminare) and Book Club here, as well as for any German-learning materials you want to buy. Buying a book or a workbook at the right level for you means you’re taking a solid next step and should help you prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed.
Today’s post is the introduction, and in the next six posts (one for each level) I will break down each of the levels for you, give you text examples, and link to more resources.
First, what are the European standards?
The European standards are known as—get ready, it’s a long one—the Common European Reference Framework for Languages or the CEFR. It’s a very straight-forward way to understand the six levels of foreign language learning.
The CEFR was launched in 2001 and is now the accepted standard in many places around the globe. You can apply the CEFR to any language, as it’s a real can-do kind of system. It’s really focused on what you can do in any given language.
What are the six CEFR levels?
The six CEFR levels look like this, beginning at the left and moving to the right:
What’s vitally important to remember is that each level builds upon the previous levels, so if you do it right, your A1 and A2 level learning will provide you with a wonderful foundation for all the other levels!
(I’ve also written a “real-life” CEFR level description below. I think you’ll enjoy it.)
On your book you'll frequently see these letter-number combinations on a European flag like this:
If you see this on your book, that's an A1 level book. If it's A2, then that's an A2 level book. Books which adhere to the CEFR levels either have the level in the title, e.g. "studio d A1," and/or the level is clearly represented on the book. If you have to dig to find this information somewhere in the book, it probably wasn't written to this standard or it was written before the standards came to be.
Why does Nicole use the CEFR?
I’ve always used the CEFR, I’ve always taught with it, ever since I began teaching English as a Foreign Language in Germany back in the day. I’ve never known another system, but that’s actually secondary…
I use the CEFR because German is a European language and I firmly believe in the CEFR’s can-do framework.
The simplicity of the system also appeals to me. I find terms like “proficiency” and “fluency” to be misleading and to be honest, tossed around way too often. Sure, you might be proficient in German…but at what level? You might be fluent in German literature, but that’s passive/receptive information—if you can’t hold a conversation with a German to save your life, you’re not actually fluent!
I once was told by a woman that she was fluent in German. So I began speaking with her in German and she could only understand two-thirds of what I was saying. She might be highly functional in German, but is she actually fluent? Would she be ok if I dropped her off in any normal situation in every-day German life? No.
Are there CEFR tests I can take?
Yes! In each post I’ll link to the tests you can take at a couple of institutions here in the US and abroad to make your language learning officially official.
Key here is that taking the test is like testing out of that level, so you need to complete your A1 learning and then you take the A1 test. You complete the A2 level learning and then you take the A2 test, etc.
How long does it take to finish a level?
Ahhh, the ever-present question…if you google this, you’ll find a whole lot of websites claiming that you can get to a C2 level in about a year. Which you could do…if you've got that freakish thing for languages. Which most people don't have.
It takes a different amount of time to complete each level of German and it depends very much on the amount of time you put in to studying and exploring German on your own.
Often your textbook (from a German publisher and clearly marked with the CEFR level) will include the material that will help you get from where you are to completing that CEFR level. You’ll see this in the book title or on the front cover, for example “studio d A2” is the book that takes you from an A1 level through to completion of the A2 level. Once you’ve completed the A2 book, you can get ready for and take the A2 test.
Speaking of CEFR tests…
A student asked me last week why he would want to take a German test if he doesn’t currently work for a German company. There are several reasons why:
- Taking a test can give you a sense of accomplishment.
- Once you’ve been granted the certificate it’s yours forever.
- You can add another professional credential to your resume.
- You never know what the future may bring, and it might be a German company moving into your area. (Haribo, I’m looking at you. Here in SE Wisconsin. ♥)
- The other fantastic reason is: why not?
Can Nicole help me prepare for a German test?
I’m so glad you asked because the answer is yes! If you’re interested in preparing for a German test, I can help you do that. Simply email me with the subject line “CEFR test” and we’ll set it up.
What do the CEFR levels look like in real life?
In real life, this is what I tell my clients:
|I love you, you’re perfect for me.||You’re quirky but I’m still totally into you.||I love you, but dang do you get on my nerves.||OMG, what did I do?!||Yeah, we’re cool.||I'm in for the long haul.|
If you want to see the CEFR standards as explained by Wikipedia, visit this page here. And then come back here, because my posts are more fun. ;-)
And FYI, once all the blog posts are up, I’ll link to each of the articles in each post so you can easily navigate between them. You may also click on the tag “CEFR” to see them (the orange button, below).
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