Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) explained

By Go! Go! Italia staff
06 May 2024
Reading Time: 4 minutes
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Today, Go! Go! Italia is excited to unveil the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and guide you through all you need to know about it. Through this article, we’ll help you assess your current Italian language skills, understand what it takes to progress to the next level, and provide insights on achieving an official certificate. 

Knowing your language proficiency level is not just about assessing your current abilities; it’s an important step towards advancing to the next level of fluency.

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) explained

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is a tool used worldwide to measure language skills. It rates abilities from A1 (beginner) to C2 (advanced). This helps teachers, students, and others understand language proficiency. Plus, it makes it easy for employers and schools to compare qualifications.

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CEFR levels of proficiency

A1 (Beginner) 

 At the A1 level, individuals possess basic communication skills necessary for everyday situations. Learners can understand and use familiar expressions, introduce themselves, ask and answer simple questions about personal details, and interact in a straightforward manner.

A2 (Elementary)

 A2 level represents an elementary proficiency where learners can handle routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information. They can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of immediate relevance, such as basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, and employment.

B1 (Intermediate)

B1 level signifies an intermediate stage where individuals can comprehend the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters. They can produce simple connected text on topics of personal interest and describe experiences, events, dreams, hopes, and ambitions, as well as briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

B2 (Upper-Intermediate)

 B2 level indicates an upper-intermediate proficiency characterized by the ability to understand the main ideas of complex texts on both concrete and abstract topics. Learners can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity, produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects, and express viewpoints on topical issues.

C1 (Advanced) 

 C1 level represents an advanced stage where individuals can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning. They can express themselves fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions, use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic, and professional purposes, and produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects.

C2 (Proficient)

 C2 level indicates proficiency at the highest level where individuals can effortlessly understand virtually everything they read or hear. They can summarize information from different spoken and written sources, reconstruct arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation, and express themselves spontaneously, fluently, and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.

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Estimated study hours and weeks to achieve CEFR levels

For learning Italian, the estimated hours of instruction needed to achieve each level of proficiency, based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), and the corresponding number of weeks if one were to follow a structured learning path with consistent study, can be approximated as follows:

  • A1: 60-100 hours. If studying intensively (e.g., 10 hours/week), this could take 6-10 weeks.
  • A2: 100-200 hours. Studying at 10 hours/week, this level might require an additional 10-20 weeks.
  • B1: 200-300 hours. At a consistent pace of 10 hours/week, achieving B1 could take another 20-30 weeks.
  • B2: 300-400 hours. With 10 hours of study each week, reaching B2 could be expected after 30-40 weeks of study.
  • C1: 400-600 hours. At this advanced level, dedicating 10 hours/week could mean 40-60 additional weeks of study.
  • C2: 600+ hours. For the highest level of proficiency, studying beyond 600 hours is typical, which would extend the study period accordingly, depending on the intensity and consistency of study sessions.

These estimates are based on a general guideline provided by language learning institutions and the Foreign Service Institute (FSI)’s categorization of Italian as a Category I language, indicating that it is among the languages more closely related to English and thus, comparatively easier for English speakers to learn. The FSI suggests that Category I languages like Italian require about 575-600 hours of study to reach General Professional Proficiency in Speaking and Reading.

Keep in mind that these are broad estimates and actual time to proficiency can vary greatly depending on the learner’s native language, prior language learning experience, access to immersive experiences, and personal learning pace.

Proving your language proficiency with official tests

Proving your proficiency in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) can be achieved through official tests such as CELI (Certificato di Conoscenza della Lingua Italiana) offered by Università per Stranieri di Perugia, and CILS (Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera) provided by Università per Stranieri di Siena. These tests assess language proficiency across various levels, from A1 to C2, through comprehensive examinations covering listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills. 

Successfully obtaining a CELI or CILS certificate provides credible validation of your Italian language skills, recognized by educational institutions, employers, and immigration authorities worldwide. For more information about these exams, please refer to our dedicated article.

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How Go! Go! Italia can help you

At Go! Go! Italia, along with our partner schools, are committed to assisting learners in achieving their Italian language learning goals within the CEFR framework. 

Go! Go! Italia’s partnered schools offer comprehensive language courses designed for different proficiency levels, personalized instruction and interactive learning materials with experienced teachers. In addition to structured classroom instruction, they offer various cultural activities and online platforms to maximize learning and provide opportunities for practice and interaction outside the classroom.

Contact us if you need guidance or support on your path to mastering the Italian language in Italy and achieving your goals by learning the language in Italy.

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