The existence of a set of reference norms and descriptors that clearly state that which must be taught, learned and assessed in the process of acquiring a new language is a helpful tool when creating an online language learning platform such as En-Abilities.
Issued by the Council of Europe after decades of research into teaching, learning and assessing foreign language proficiency, The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is available at https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages.
The site indicated specifies:
- the purpose and use of the CEFR, as well as the responsibilities of member states;
- the framework’s levels and their associated descriptors;
- the learning, teaching and assessment aspects related to language acquisition;
- a manual for tests/examinations organised in connection with CEFR.
Of special interest are the common reference levels (see: https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/table-1-cefr-3.3-common-reference-levels-global-scale) which allow to discern between:
- Basic user (A1 and A2)
- Independent user (B1 and B2)
- Proficient user (C1 and C2)
A1 and A2 attest to: the use of familiar or simple / frequently used expressions; the ability to interact or communicate provided the interlocutor offers help / there is simple exchange of information.
B1 and B2 indicate: understanding of spoken language on familiar matters / written language on concrete and abstract matters; production of simple texts on personal topics / detailed texts, specifying viewpoints and explaining options.
C1 and C2 show: understanding of complex texts and implicit meanings / almost everything that is said or written; ability to express ideas fluently and spontaneously / very fluently, spontaneously and precisely, noticing and inserting multiple meanings; production of clear, detailed, coherent texts on various subjects / complex texts which involve argumentation, persuasion, disambiguation, etc.
The description of the common reference levels mentioned above is translated into all the languages spoken in the countries which are members of the European Union and may be accessed at https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/official-translations-of-the-cefr-global-scale.
The self-assessment grids are structured like checklists of descriptors and provide further information on each level, with emphasis on the following skills:
- Understanding (Listening and Reading)
- Speaking (Spoken interaction and Spoken production)
They are useful for individual learners, who can see how proficient they are or need to become, before practising further or taking an exam. More importantly, they offer people with special educational needs the possibility to measure personal development in connection with language acquisition, thus supporting inclusive education.
The translations of the self-assessment grids into the official languages of the EU are offered via https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/table-2-cefr-3.3-common-reference-levels-self-assessment-grid.
The assessment grid for English (with descriptors for each level and skill) may be consulted at https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=090000168045bb52.