How can you prove your language Skill level?

Our comparison between the CEFR and the ACTFL proficiency guidelines explains all the important things you need to know

So you want to determine your Spanish language level? Or have you already reached a certain level and need to know where your level fits in with other standards? Here comes the inevitable question: how do you determine your Spanish (or any other language) level? Our post will answer all your questions.

There are two major frameworks for learning, teaching, and assessing foreign language skills and their different levels:

  • the U.S. defined the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines
  • and in Europe, there is the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR)

Both language standards provide the basis for accredited testing and certification systems in their region. Yet, if you want to prove your language level, it can be difficult to determine which of these two frameworks is better for your language proficiency.

In this article, we will explain what the standards are and how you can compare them to know your exact language level. Afterward, you will be able to choose the most suitable Spanish course or level for you.

  1. What is ACTFL?

We could spend a long time explaining all the tidbits of the scale to you, but to be honest, you don’t need to know every single detail. So instead we’ve prepared the most important and relevant information for you.

Let’s start at the beginning: The ACTFL standards are an enhanced scale, which was developed from the previously used ILR scale in the United States. The abbreviation “ACTFL” stands for “American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages”.

The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines are a description of the skills you have in a certain language in terms of speaking, writing, listening, and reading in daily situations in a spontaneous context. The ACTFL scale is being used to evaluate your functional language ability.

The ACTFL language levels identify five major levels of proficiency: Distinguished, Superior, Advanced, Intermediate, and Novice.

The system divides Advanced, Intermediate, and Novice into three sublevels each (High, Mid, and Low). The language levels are a scale from a native speaking language user (“Distinguished”) to an absolute Beginner (“Novice”). The graphic below states the different levels as a funnel.

AcTFL levels_language-levels

If you are really interested, you can read more about the scale, its history and development on the official ACTFL website. But for students in Europe, these levels can be quite confusing, so keep reading if you want to know how you can convert them to your usual standards.

2. What is CEFR?

Like the ACTFL system, we don’t want to bother you with irrelevant details but give you a short overview.

The CEFR language levels were designed by the Council of Europe. The abbreviation “CEFR” stands for “Common European Framework of Reference” and is the most widely accepted European standard for measuring language proficiency. Therefore, if you are coming from the U.S. this is probably new for you. But don’t worry, we’ve created a graphic in the next chapter to compare your ACTFL level with the CEFR scale.

The CEFR divides its language proficiency into six levels, which range from A1 to C2, where A1 would be a total beginner and C2 describes a mastery level.

These six divisions can be regrouped into three broader levels: Basic User (A1 & A2), Independent User (B1 & B2) and Proficient User (C1 & C2). The different levels all have fully elaborated descriptions and are defined through ‘can-do’ factors. The graphic below states the different CEFR levels.


3. How can you compare them? – graphic included –

Now to the most important part of our post. How can you transfer your language level to one of the other scales? And what should you keep in mind?

First of all, language proficiency is not a strict principle which holds for every language and every individual. It is rather a continuum, and as such there will be no perfect division of levels.

The ACTFL (formerly ILR) and CEFR language level skills each focus on slightly different aspects of your language proficiency. As such, it was hard to do a perfect comparison, but based on the official ACTFL to CEFR assignment and our rich experience as a language school we created the following graphic to save you the hassle of doing this extensive research.

CEFR ACTFL IRL scales_language levels

As you can see in the graphic you can’t transfer all 11 ACTFL levels exactly to the six CEFR levels, but this graphic is a very good orientation. Also because of these inaccuracies we have developed something to determine your level even more precisely.

We design our Spanish classes according to CEFR language levels. However, we also developed a more detailed unique teaching method, where we took the European framework and divided it into 48 language sub-levels. Each sub-level has its own content, learning objectives and an exam at the end.

4. Take Spanish Classes at FU International Academy

FU International Academy

Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced, we can provide you with the teaching you need. You can take classes for as long as you want. If you choose the online option, we will make sure to match your schedule as much as possible.

However, if you decide to join us at FU International Academy, in sunny Tenerife, then you will make the most out of your Spanish classes. Plus, you will be able to join our leisure activities in the afternoon. For those of you who have work to do, then you will be able to access our coworking space, and enjoy the island afterward! It’s totally up to you!