The Common European Framework divides learners into three broad divisions that can be divided into six levels; for each level, it describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing. The following table indicates these levels. A more thorough description of each level, with criteria for listening, reading, speaking, and writing, is available on the Internet
Breakthrough or beginner
- Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very
basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type.
- Can introduce themselves and others and can ask and answer questions
about personal details such as where they live, people they know and
things they have.
- Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
Waystage or elementary
- Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related
to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and
family information, shopping, local geography, employment).
- Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and
direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.
- Can describe in simple terms aspects of their background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
Threshold or intermediate
- Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
- Can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
- Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
- Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and
briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
Vantage or upper intermediate
- Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete
and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their field of
- Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes
regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain
for either party.
- Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and
explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and
disadvantages of various options.
Effective operational proficiency or advanced
- Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer clauses, and recognize implicit meaning.
- Can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.
- Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.
- Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex
subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors
and cohesive devices.
Mastery or proficiency
- Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read.
- Can summarize information from different spoken and written sources,
reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation.
- Can express themselves spontaneously, very fluently and precisely,
differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex
These descriptors can apply to any of the languages spoken in Europe, and there are
translations in many languages.