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This is the special series on 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 has six levels which look like this (left to right):
And today you'll learn about the A1 or Beginner level.
What does "A1" mean?
A1 is the very first level of German. This is like "Basics of German" or "German 101" or "German for Beginners." There are very straight-forward expectations for this level and if you learn them at the beginning or while you're working with an A1 book, you'll be able to relax into what you're doing because there are clear-cut expectations.
Remember the "can-do" framework I described before? This is what the European Union says you should expect to be able to do when you have completed the A1 level (emphasis added) (source PDF):
- "I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know."
- "I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I'm trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics."
- "I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues."
- "I can understand familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly."
- "I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form."
Note that there is NO mention of literature, use of the words "simple" and "short," and phrases like "very basic" and "familiar XYZ." It is expected that for the duration of your A1 level learning, people need to speak slower than normal in order for you to understand them.
My book has "A1.1" on the cover, is that something different?
German publishers have done something unique with the lower levels of the CEFR and that's to split up the books into two halves. So for the A1 level publishers split the A1 book into two halves: A1.1 (the first half) and A1.2 (the second half). If you have a book with A1.1 on it, that means your book covers half the material for the A1 level.
This can be helpful for keeping costs down for learners, but it can be slightly confusing when you first read it. So remember: A1.1 is the first half, A1.2 is the second half, both belong to level A1.
Which topics should I expect in an A1 level book/class?
Here are a handful of topics that your A1 book/class would cover to help you achieve an A1 level in German. They will vary based on the book and the topics covered, but these are fairly common:
- Introductions, greetings, good-byes
- formal (Sie) vs. informal (du)
- Articles of various kinds: der/die/das/die, ein/eine/ein/-, kein/keine/kein/keine
- Nominativ, Akkusativ, ein bisschen Dativ
- present tense of verbs and how to conjugate them.
- present perfect (Perfekt), some basic simple past (Präteritum)
- telling time and making appointments, finding your way/asking for directions, transportation and travel
- going to the doctor, exercise, shopping (for food and for fun), work/career, house and home
What are some common text examples for an A1 level book?
If this is what you read in your book or what you're able to do in German, you can comfortably say you are an A1 level learner:
- Hallo, ich heiße Bond, James Bond. Und wie heißen Sie?
- Ich möchte gerne bezahlen./Die Rechnung, bitte.
- Ich gehe gerne ins Theater/wandern.
- Frau Kamler ist mit dem Fahrrad in die Stadt gefahren.
- Das Buch liegt vor dem Computer.
- Kauf den gelben Pulli. Der ist ja schön!
How long does it take to complete the A1 level?
OH, if I had a Euro for every time somebody asks me this question I could teach for free...
But I don't, so here's the answer: between 80 and 200 lessons (45 minutes each) PLUS study time. The more and more effectively you study, the more/faster you will learn.
Keep in mind, too, that the books used for lessons and classes are produced for thousands of people to use, and you can add your own requests. This is part of the beauty of the CEFR--it's how you build your German house, so to speak, and you can add on to it at any given time in a myriad of ways.
Where do I take an A1 test?
You can take the A1 test at a Goethe Institute testing location. There are different tests for youth and adults so I've listed them separately here:
- Fit in Deutsch 1 - for youth
- Start Deutsch 1 - for adults (This is the test required for the spousal visa and potential au pairs.)
You can take the A1 test at an ÖSD (Österreich Schweiz Deutsch) testing location.There are different tests for youth and adults so I've listed them separately here:
- ÖSD KID A1 (Kompetenz in Deutsch A1) - for youth from 10 to 14 years.
- ÖSD Zertifikat A1 (ÖSD ZA1) - for people 14 years and older.
Can Nicole help me prepare for the A1 test?
Yes! I am a test proctor for five of the Goethe Institute exams and would gladly help you prepare for the test. You can email me through the contact form to get started.
Next up: the A2 level! And a lovely surprise for all you A1 learners out there. ;-)
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