April 18, 2024

Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR)

by Mateusz Wiącek

The Common European Framework of Reference for languages, also known as CEFR, is a guideline developed by the Council of Europe to aid in the learning, teaching, and assessment of languages. It was crafted between 1991 and 1997, with the final version published in 2001. The main goals of CEFR are to encourage cooperation among educational institutions across different countries, facilitate the recognition of language qualifications, and assist learners, teachers, and administrators in improving language education.

What Does CEFR Offer?

  • Descriptive Scheme: CEFR provides a comprehensive descriptive scheme that outlines various aspects of language use, including situational context, communicative tasks, themes, language activities, language processes, and user competences. This scheme aims to help users describe their language objectives and achievements accurately.
  • Survey of Approaches: It offers a survey of different approaches to language learning and teaching, allowing users to consider various options in relation to their existing practices.
  • Proficiency Scales: CEFR includes scales for describing proficiency in language use at different levels. These scales help in assessing language skills globally and in relation to specific categories outlined in the descriptive scheme.
  • Curricular Design: The framework discusses issues related to curriculum design in different educational contexts, particularly focusing on the development of plurilingualism in learners.

Components of CEFR

  • Context of Language Use: Describes the context in terms of locations, institutions, personal roles, and events, among others, which influence language use.
  • Communicative Tasks and Purposes: Covers practical transactions, playful, and aesthetic uses of language.
  • Language Activities and Processes: Classifies language activities into productive, receptive, interactive, and mediating, along with language processes involved.
  • User Competences: Includes general competences such as practical skills and intercultural know-how, and communicative language competences like linguistic, sociolinguistic, and pragmatic competences.
  • Strategies: Discusses strategies used by language users to maximize the effectiveness of language activities.

Scaling and Levels

CEFR proposes a system of six levels for describing language proficiency, allowing for the subdivision of learners into homogeneous groups based on their needs. Descriptors for each level are selected through a rigorous process to ensure clarity, reliability, and independence.

Language Learning and Teaching Processes

This section explores how learners acquire language skills and competences and how teachers can facilitate this process. It discusses various methodological options and the role of teachers in language education.

Linguistic Diversification and Curriculum

CEFR advocates for plurilingualism and suggests planning for partial competences based on learners’ needs and available resources. It offers scenarios for language teaching in different educational settings.


CEFR defines and discusses different types of assessment and their relation to language proficiency scales. It emphasizes the importance of aligning assessment tools with the descriptive scheme.

User Guides and Reception

CEFR provides user guides to facilitate its use by both general and specialized users. Its impact has been significant worldwide, serving as a basis for curricular planning and international coordination in language education.

In conclusion, CEFR serves as a valuable tool for promoting language learning, teaching, and assessment, fostering cooperation among educational institutions and facilitating the recognition of language qualifications globally.

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