Goldilocks and the CEFR levels: Which proficiency level is just right? (2024)

Learning a language doesn't have to mean learning everything in the language you're studying. (Even native speakers have to learn new words!) Learners often have particular goals in mind when studying a new language, so what counts as success for one learner might look pretty different from the finish line for another.

That's why it's so hard to decide what exactly it means to be "fluent" in a new language. The number of words and kinds of grammar you need in order to arrange a weekend at the beach with your best friend are really different from the vocabulary and complex structures needed to write a dissenting opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court.

At Duolingo, we use the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) to set goals for different language proficiency levels when we design our courses. The levels are labeled A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2, and they cover increasingly complex language needs. For example, Academy-Award-winning director Bong Joon Ho used A1 English to express thanks ("Thank you, I will drink until next morning"), but in order to express more complex sentiments about his cinematic inspiration, he spoke in B1 Korean and used an interpreter.

Goldilocks and the CEFR levels: Which proficiency level is just right? (1)

Thanks to Hope Wilson for these CEFR examples!

Most people don't need to master all, or even most, of the levels! It's all about what you want to do with the language. To make those beach plans, you can probably manage fairly well at B1, but to give Ruth Bader Ginsburg a run for her money, you'll need to work your way up to C2, the highest level on the CEFR scale. Many speakers don't need to use C1 or C2 vocabulary and grammar, even in their first language.

People often use "fluent" to describe their language goals, but "comfortable" might be what they're really getting at – and you can feel "comfortable" at a lot of those CEFR levels! Which level aligns best with what you'll be doing in the language you're studying?

Español: Ricitos de oro y los niveles del MCER: ¿Cuál es el nivel de dominio adecuado?

Aprender un idioma no significa aprender todo en ese idioma (¡incluso los nativos tienen que aprender nuevas palabras!). Quienes están aprendiendo un nuevo idioma a menudo tienen diferentes metas en mente, así que lo que cuenta como una victoria para un estudiante puede ser muy distinta de la línea final de otro.

Por eso resulta tan difícil decidir qué significa exactamente hablar “con fluidez” un nuevo idioma. El número de palabras y el tipo de gramática necesarios para coordinar un fin de semana en la playa con tus amigos es muy diferente del vocabulario y las estructuras complejas que se necesitan para escribir un voto disidente en la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos.

En Duolingo utilizamos el Marco Común Europeo de Referencia (MCER, o CEFR en inglés) para determinar las metas para los diferentes niveles de dominio al momento de diseñar nuestros cursos. Estos niveles están designados como A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 y C2 y cubren necesidades lingüísticas cada vez más complejas. Por ejemplo, el ganador del premio de la Academia Bong Joon Ho utilizó inglés de nivel A1 para dar las gracias (“Thank you. I will drink until next morning”, es decir “Gracias. Beberé hasta la mañana siguiente”), pero para poder expresar sentimientos más complejos acerca de su inspiración cinematográfica, habló en coreano de nivel B1 y utilizó un intérprete.

Goldilocks and the CEFR levels: Which proficiency level is just right? (2)

¡Gracias a Hope Wilson por estos ejemplos del MCER!

¡La mayoría de las personas no necesitan dominar cada uno (o incluso la mayoría) de los niveles! Todo depende de lo que quieras lograr con el idioma. Para hacer planes para ir a la playa, probablemente te vaya bien con el nivel B1, pero si quieres acercarte al nivel del galardonado escritor Eduardo Galeano, deberás escalar hasta el C2, el mayor nivel de la escala del MCER. Muchos de los hablantes del idioma no necesitan vocabulario y gramática de nivel C1 o C2, incluso en su lengua materna.

La gente a menudo utiliza “fluidez” para describir sus metas de idiomas, pero quizás “cómodo” es a lo que se refieren. ¡Puedes sentirte cómodo en muchos de esos niveles del MCER! ¿Qué nivel se ajusta mejor a lo que estás haciendo en el idioma que estás aprendiendo?

Goldilocks and the CEFR levels: Which proficiency level is just right? (2024)


What is CEFR level of proficiency? ›

The CEFR organises language proficiency in six levels, A1 to C2, which can be regrouped into three broad levels: Basic User, Independent User and Proficient User, and that can be further subdivided according to the needs of the local context. The levels are defined through 'can-do' descriptors.

What is A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2 language proficiency? ›

They are grouped into three broader levels: A1-A2 (Basic User), B1-B2 (Independent User), and C1-C2 (Proficient User). What is the most popular CEFR level? The B2 level is the most demanded level when employers require “active command of the English language”.

What is CEFR proficiency level C1? ›


The CEFRL specifies the following: He/she can understand a wide range of more demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning in them. He/she can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for the right expression.

How do Duolingo levels compare to CEFR levels? ›

Duolingo uses the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) to establish learning goals for its courses. These CEFR levels, A1 through C2, represent increasing levels of language proficiency. What level of Duolingo is C1? C1 in Duolingo equates to a score of 120-140 (advanced).

How do I know my CEFR level? ›

The best way to find out your CEFR level is to take a well-designed standardized test. In English, the EF SET is the best choice because it is free and the first standardized test to be fully aligned to the CEFR. You will need to set aside 50 minutes to complete the test and find out your CEFR level.

What is CEFR level C2 Proficiency? ›

A C2 level of English is essentially a native level. It allows for reading and writing of any type on any subject, nuanced expression of emotions and opinions, and active participation in any academic or professional setting.

Is C2 considered fluent? ›

Level C2 corresponds to proficient users of English, who can understand and express virtually everything with ease and differentiate finer shades of meaning.

How do I know my English proficiency level? ›

The best way to find out your level in English is to take an English test. There are lots of quick, free tests online, but a lot of them aren't very accurate. We recommend you take the EF SET.

Is B2 considered fluent? ›

Level B2 corresponds to independent users of the language, i.e. those who have the necessary fluency to communicate without effort with native speakers.

Is C1 fluent or advanced? ›

C1 – Advanced (Proficient)

You now have a firmer grasp of more complex grammar structures, implicit meaning in both text and speech, as well as the ability to speak English fluently in almost any environment.

Is CEFR level C1 good? ›

The C1 level would allow for full autonomy in a native English-speaking country. According to the official CEFR guidelines, someone at the C1 level in English: Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning.

Can Duolingo get you to B2? ›

At Duolingo, we're developing our courses to get you to a level called B2, at which you can get a job in the language you're studying. Reaching that kind of proficiency requires dedication, varied practice opportunities, and a lot of time.

Does Duolingo go up to C2? ›

The levels A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2 come from the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR), the international standard that Duolingo uses to guide course development.

What CEFR level is fluent? ›

CEFR-level C1 (advanced)

You can express yourself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. You can use language flexibly and effectively for social and professional purposes.

What is Duolingo equivalent to C1? ›

How is the Duolingo English Test scored?
Duolingo ScoreCEFR Level
25-55A2 – Elementary
60-85B1 – Intermediate
90-115B2 – Upper-intermediate
120-140C1 – Advanced
2 more rows

Is B2 CEFR considered fluent? ›

CEFR-level B2 (upper-intermediate)

You can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible. You can take an active part in discussion in familiar contexts, accounting for and sustaining your views.

What are the 5 levels of English language proficiency? ›

  • English Language Acquisition Proficiency Levels. English Language Proficiency Levels serve as a guide of what can be expected of an English Learner's language abilities.
  • Level 1 - Entering. ...
  • Level 2 - Emerging. ...
  • Level 3 - Developing. ...
  • Level 4 - Expanding. ...
  • Level 5 - Bridging. ...
  • Can Do Descriptors. ...
  • Other Levels of Language.

Is CEFR B1 fluent? ›

However, a B1 level is not adequate to function fully in the workplace in English. According to the official CEFR guidelines, someone at the B1 level in English: Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.

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