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What are the different LEVELS of proficiency in Spanish?

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Have you ever heard a Spanish student say: «I need an A2 to apply for residency» or «I need a B1 to attend university» or even schools that tell you when you enroll in their courses: «you have to start the A2.1 or A1.2 course»?

I have heard it many times!

Thousands of students come to me with some of these reasons and I also have said to many of them their level of Spanish with these references and the funny faces are always repeated. It is totally normal when you start studying a new language you may not understand what we mean by these, and that’s why I have prepared this post, keep reading to get the main differences for each level.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR) is a European standard, also used in other regions, which serves to measure the level of understanding in a given language, and has classified the acquisition of languages into three main levels: the initial which are named with the letter A, the intermediate levels with the letter B and the advanced levels with the letter C. Each of the levels is classified according to the acquisition or not of certain skills and abilities in the language, meaning that it is not only a matter of understanding the words, it is a little more complex than that. 

The skills and abilities considered important to perform well in a language are four: reading, writing, speaking, and listening, and each level has different objectives in relation to the skills. This information is quite extensive but very interesting, so if you want to find out in detail about all this, you can see here the last update (2020) published by the CEFR. 

Factors that determine your progress learning Spanish

As an online Spanish teacher, I can tell you what have been the factors that have influenced the learning of my students, although the CEFR gives a certain amount of hours to learn a language, always the acquisition of a new language will depend on the level of commitment and determination that the student has. I have had Japanese students who have learned Spanish in a few months and also other students who even living in Chile and have Spanish-speaking co-workers, learn very slowly. 

So what does it depend on?

These are the factors that I think are the most important 

  • Time for self-study: The more time you invest doing self-study the faster you will be able to progress; this is why the free resources that we publish in our blog can really make the difference.
  • Opportunity to practice Spanish with people other than your tutor: Being exposed to other accents will help you improve your listening skills tremendously!
  • Motivation to learn Spanish: A strong motivation is the secret ingredient to learn any language. If you are determined to obtain good results and/or have a real need to use your Spanish, there is a lot more chance of success.
  • Knowledge of other languages: If you are an experienced language learner and you know two or more languages, you will be able to acquire a new language more rapidly even when this other language has nothing to do with Spanish.

the ones LESS important when learning a second language. 

These are the factors that I think are the ones LESS important when learning a second language. 

  • Your native language: Some people say that the native language might benefit those who were learning Spanish, but my experience tells me the opposite. I have had Japanese students who learn Spanish perfectly in six months and also Portuguese students who have a hard time learning to pronounce and often make the same kind of mistakes. Although the native language helps a lot to understand certain grammatical rules, it is not always a determining factor in learning Spanish, even sometimes it could be more difficult. 
  • Living in or travelling often to a Spanish speaking country: The conversation practice that you get by merely living amongst Spanish speakers is invaluable but not fundamental to learning a new language. You can very well create a «Spanish environment» by being in a country where Spanish is not spoken. How to do this? By having friends who also want to practice Spanish, online classes with native teachers, consuming Spanish on your social networks, listening to music, watching movies, etc. You can expose yourself to the language as much as you can simply with the technology you have.
  • Your age. Age is not an impediment to learning a language, in fact, the more adult you are, the more seriously you take language learning. After all, you know what study techniques have helped you for years and surely you don’t want to throw your money away. For years, my adult students have always had very good results and enjoy the process a lot. 

Description of each Spanish language level

Level A1 Spanish

Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases in order to satisfy specific needs. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows, and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.

Level A2 Spanish

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 a simple way and perform routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment, and matters in areas of immediate basic need.

Level B1 Spanish

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 whilst traveling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected texts 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.

Level B2 Spanish

Can understand the main ideas of a complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without any strain for either party. Can produce a clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint from a topical issue giving the advantages and Independent disadvantages of various options.

Level C1 Spanish

Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic, and professional purposes. Can produce a clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors, and cohesive devices.

Level C2 Spanish

Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently, and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning, even in more complex situations.

source: Council of Europe

How do I find out my Spanish level?

Usually, most of the Spanish schools offer online tests in which you can know your level of Spanish very close, these tests are usually quite accurate and you can have the results at the moment you finish the questions. One of the online tests I find most reliable is the Oxford House BCN, it has a total of 50 questions and you get the results immediately.

Despite this being a good way to know the level of Spanish, as a teacher and language student, I think the best option is to have an interview with a native teacher in which you interact and speak as if you were in a real-time situation. That’s the kind of context in which you have to draw on all the elements you have already learned and react by applying the knowledge. At the end of the class, the teacher will tell you which things you got wrong and at which level you are to start studying.

Would you like to know your Spanish level?

Take a free trial class here.

Have an online meeting with your teacher and find out what is your Spanish level.


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