What Are the Different Levels of Language Proficiency? (2023)

What Are the Different Levels of Language Proficiency? (1)

January 10, 2021 by Michelle Margaret Fajkus HSA News and Reviews, Learning Strategies 0 comments

Do you know your level of fluency according to official levels of language proficiency?

The challenge of determining your language proficiency is due to a lack of universal standards of measurement. In fact, several similar frameworks are currently in use.

According to Education.com, “Language proficiency is a measurement of how well an individual has mastered a language. Proficiency is measured in terms of receptive and expressive language skills, syntax, vocabulary, semantics, and other areas that demonstrate language abilities.”

Read this blog post to understand the different levels of language proficiency, find out how to determine your own level, and learn how to continue moving toward fluency!

Common Language Proficiency Frameworks in the U.S.

The term “levels of fluency” refers to predetermined levels of language skills that pertain to your ability to listen, speak, write, and read in a foreign language.

(Video) Levels of Proficiency in a Foreign Language

Your level of fluency helps potential employers assess whether you’re qualified for a specific job position, so it’s useful to include it on your resume. To assess your current skill level in a foreign language, you can take online assessments or official exams.

In the U.S., two commonly used proficiency frameworks exist:

  1. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)
  2. The Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale

The ACTFL scale consists of five fluency levels: novice, intermediate, advanced, superior, and distinguished. Each level contains three sublevels of proficiency (low, medium, and high).

The ILR scale includes the following language proficiency levels:

IRL Scale: 0-5 Levels of Language Proficiency

The levels of language proficiency detailed below come from the Interagency Language Round-table (ILR) scale, which is established by the US Foreign Service Institute.

0: No Proficiency

Essentially, this level indicates no knowledge of the language. You may know a few words but can’t form sentences or engage in basic conversation. Also known as No Spanish.

1: Elementary Proficiency

At this starting point of the levels of language proficiency, you can form basic sentences, including asking and answering simple questions. If you’re traveling to a new country and just beginning to study a language, this is your level. Also known as Elementary Spanish.

2: Limited Working Proficiency

At this level, you can handle basic commands and limited casual conversations. If you’re at this level, you still need help with more complex conversations and can only operate independently in basic conversations. Also known as Limited Working Spanish.

3: Professional Working Proficiency

Once you reach this language proficiency level, you can make contributions to meetings and hold conversations with customers or clients. You can speak at a normal speed in the language and have developed a fairly extensive vocabulary. You probably still need help to understand more subtle and nuanced phrasing. Many employers require a new hire to be at this level or above. Also known as Professional Working Spanish.

4: Full Professional Proficiency

At this level, you can have advanced discussions on a wide range of topics like personal life, current events, and technical topics related to your field. You may occasionally misspeak or make minor mistakes, but your vocabulary is extensive and you can carry on conversations with ease. Also known as Full Professional Spanish.

5: Native/Bilingual Proficiency

If you’re at this language proficiency level, you were either raised speaking the language or have been speaking it so long that you’re completely fluent. Also known as Native Spanish or Bilingual English and Spanish.

(Video) Language Proficiency Levels

Hand-picked for you: Spanish Reading Practice Tools for Spanish Learners of Every Level

What Are the Different Levels of Language Proficiency? (2)

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

Although the CEFR placement test is not well-known in the United States, it is common throughout the rest of the world. Job candidates from Latin America, Africa, and Europe typically state their language proficiency level using the CEFR categories. It is an internationally recognized way of communicating your language skills.

The six levels in this system ranges from A1 to C2. Most online Spanish language courses aim to get you to the same level in all areas, but don’t be surprised if your skill level varies across language acquisition areas. You may be at an A2 level for speaking, but a B1 level for reading.

See also: 10 Effective Habits for All Levels to Learn Spanish and Speak It Fluently

A1 and A2

At these levels, you are considered to be a basic user. As an A1 user, you can understand slow, articulated speech and ask simple questions. At an A2 skill level, you can compose short phrases and common sentences and understand slower conversations.

In other words, A1 and A2 users are beginners. However, an A1 student is not a complete beginner. According to the standards above, a student at the A1 level already has some primary mastery of the language. So, to reach the A1 level, you need to complete an introductory Spanish course.

B1 and B2

The B1 and B2 levels are for independent users. If you want to work abroad or travel, your goal would be the B1 level, or ideally B2.

At the B1 level, you can confidently get around Latin America or Spain on your own. While you may not understand everything, you know enough Spanish to get directions and hold basic conversations. A B2 user has more vocabulary and can work a job that requires intermediate language skills.

C1 and C2

The C1 and C2 levels are for proficient users. If your goal is Spanish fluency, aim for a C1 level in which you can fluently speak and express yourself. A C1 level does not mean you understand every word in the language but that you can handle most conversations and some tricky topics.

The C2 level is complete mastery. Often, even native speakers do not reach this level. This level pertains mostly to college professors, language gurus, and experts in a specialized field.

(Video) What Is Your Language Level?

Discover your level with our professional Spanish teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy!

Learn more: The CEFR and How Homeschool Spanish Academy Uses It

Ready to Climb the Levels of Language Proficiency?

The journey through the different levels of language proficiency may not be quick and easy, but it’s certainly worth the effort! You now have an in-depth understanding of the official levels according to two frameworks. The next step is to practice your skills with a native Spanish speaker. Try out a free class with one of our friendly, certified teachers today! They will help you effectively move your Spanish skills to the next level.

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(Video) What are the differences between language proficiency levels?

Editor & Writer at Homeschool Spanish Academy

Michelle Margaret Fajkus is a bilingual writer and longtime yoga teacher. A former advertising copywriter turned bilingual elementary school teacher, she is now a freelance writer, editor and translator. A native Texan, Michelle has Mexican roots and learned Spanish in middle and high school. She has become more fluent thanks to living as an expat in Guatemala. She lives with her family on beautiful Lake Atitlan.

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(Video) CEFR Language Levels Explained: What is A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2?


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