by Aggie Chapman

In the next few posts I’ll try to decipher the mystery of the CEFR levels and briefly outline what each of them means for us, learners. Knowing what we should be able to do at each level will make planning our learning process easier.

Let’s start from the beginning – A1, aka breakthrough
It’s the moment when very basic communication begins, but we need the other side to speak slowly and clearly. Sometimes they need to rephrase what they’ve said in order for us to understand. We often use body language and gestures alongside the basic words and expressions to convey what we would like to say.

Communicating in a foreign language takes a great effort that’s why it’s normal that we often pause in order to find the words or expressions we need to use. At this stage we rely on imitation – repeating the words and phrases we hear from more proficient speakers and trying to emulate their pronunciation, rather than creating our own sentences.

We can say something about the topics we are familiar with. We can introduce ourselves, name our possessions, people around us – family members, friends, say where we live and what we do, as well as being able to answer simple questions, though the answers tend to be minimal and rely on formulaic, rehearsed phrases. We fall back on the very limited vocabulary range and a few simple grammar structures that we have mastered.

Some people believe that it’s impossible to watch a film or understand a written text at this stage. Not really. While we surely won’t understand everything, we will certainly benefit from the activity and will start recognising familiar words in the text. We can use illustrations to help us understand the text, and we are ready to start guessing the meaning of new words from the context, as long as the context is very clear and simple.  What’s more, we can understand information on social media pages, brochures or leaflets, and follow instructions and directions – for example how to get from the station to the city centre.

One of the best things about this stage is that we can see progress very quickly and as it is the beginning, everything is still fresh and new, which motivates us to learn more!

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