El Patio Spanish Language School

Spanish Language School

The Common European Framework of Reference
for Languages: learning, teaching, assessment

What is the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR)?
Society is undergoing a rapid transformation with the exponential development of electronic communications as well as international travel. The electronic exchange of information and ideas to any part of the globe is instantaneous, and personal travel whether for pleasure or business has become the norm. A knowledge of other languages and cultures has a new emphasis in the 21st century due to the growing need for communication skills across language boundaries.

In the 1990s the Council of Europe (an intergovernmental organisation), in its promotion of plurilingualism, developed the CEFR as a descriptive tool to aid in the standardisation of language educational systems. Its aim was to construct an internationally recognised framework for defining the learning, teaching and assessment objectives of any language.

It maps out language ability in a compact scale of six reference levels ranging from beginners (A1) to proficient (C2). It therefore provides an international standard for assessment which in the case of Spanish, is followed by the Spanish DELE diplomas.

"[the CEFR] describes in a comprehensive way what language learners have to learn to do in order to use a language for communication and what knowledge and skills they have to develop so as to be able to act effectively."

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, 1.1

The 254 page CEFR document is long and extremely detailed, and a good read for those interested in the intricacies of language learning.

What are the CEFR levels?

Basic User:

  • A1 Breakthrough (Acceso)
  • A2 Waystage (Plataforma)

Independent User:

  • B1 Threshold (Umbral)
  • B2 Vantage (Avanzado)

Proficient User:

  • C1 Effective Operational Proficiency (Dominio operativo eficaz)
  • C2 Mastery (Maestría)

Back to top

What has the CEFR to do with El Patio?

  • El Patio offers courses at all six of the CEFR levels
  • Courses offered by El Patio are guided by the levels described by the CEFR
  • For students wishing to undertake the DELE examinations, the corresponding levels are easily determined
  • Demonstrates the seriousness with which El Patio's courses are programmed

How do CEFR levels relate to levels at El Patio?

The table below maps the corresponding CEFR - El Patio - DELE levels

What are the study hours required to reach each level?

This can depend on factors such as intensity of study, prior language study experience, the exposure to the language being learned outside of study times, a student's age and personal circumstances. Studying in a Spanish-speaking country allows for faster movement through the levels. Below is an approximate guide for study in Australia at the pace of 1.5 hours per week:

  • A1 - approx 60 study hours, or 1 year
  • A2 - approx 120 study hours, or 2 years
  • B1 - approx 180 study hours, or 3 years
  • B2 - approx 280 study hours, or 4 years
  • C1 - approx 380 study hours, or 5 years
  • C2 - approx 400+ study hours, or 6 years

Back to top

What are the DELE exams?

Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera. These are internationally-recognised Spanish proficiency qualifications for non-native Spanish speakers offered by the Spanish Ministery of Education and Culture through the Cervantes Institute. There are six levels – A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2 - and the following skills are examined: reading comprehension, written expression, aural comprehension, grammar and vocabulary and oral expression. In Melbourne the exams are held each May and November. The DELE levels are quite difficult and correspond to the following CEFR levels (niveles). Here is some general DELE information on the Instituto Cervantes website, and below are links to the information regarding the six levels:

All of the texts used at El Patio are directed towards these exams, although prospective DELE students normally need to do supplementary study for their preparation. This is largely due to the format of the exam, quite apart from a student's Spanish. Past years' DELE exam samples are found on the pages for each level, above.

To register for a DELE exam you need to apply through the Instituto Cervantes in Sydney. All information and forms are available on their website. Instituto Cervantes in Sydney.

Table corresponding CEFR/DELE levels to those of El Patio

CEFR / Diplomas El Patio levels Previous Diplomas
A1 Upper Elementary 1 -
A2 Lower Intermediate 2 -
B1 Upper Intermediate 1 Inicial
B2 Advanced 1 Intermediate
C1 Advanced 7 -
C2 Superior/Proficiency Superior

Back to top