What European Framework of Reference for languages

What
Is the CEFR?

The Common
European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is a framework that can be
used to describe language ability in a consistent and standard way. The overarching
aims and objectives of CEFR are to increase transparency in language education
and to improve communicative competence. So, because different learners have
different language abilities, teachers’ opinion about learners language ability
can be subjective, teachers
might focus more on learners’ knowledge gaps or give holistic marks that does
not reflect the true ability of learners and which do not tell anything about
their strengths and weaknesses; Learners may be good in some skills than
others. This highlights the need for a clear objective way to describe language
skills that everyone can agree on. The Common European
Framework of Reference for languages breaks down foreign language proficiency
into six different levels; A1: Breakthrough or
beginner, A2: Waystage
or elementary, B1: Threshold
or intermediate, B2: Vantage
or upper intermediate, C1: Effective
Operational Proficiency or advanced, C2: Mastery or
proficiency and three broad levels; basic user, independent user and
proficient user. CEFR tells one where he is standing on
language learning scale by describing what one can do. The key to CEFR approach
in practice is based on what learners can and need to do rather than viewing
their language knowledge in terms of the gaps they have and what they cannot
do.

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The CEFR can be used by language practitioners as the
basis for:

·       Setting realistic learning targets for a
group of students.

·       Determining the language ability needed to
do a particular activity e.g. to do a particular job, study at university.

·       Designing tests.

·       Comparing language qualifications (from
different countries or different languages).

·       Reflecting on and describing teaching
practice.

 

CEFR
and the communicative competence

CEFR has an
underlying approach for teaching and learning namely the communicative approach
which pust the focus on setting up teaching in a communicative context that
simulates what is taking place in the real world. CEFR puts the focus on
learners communicative needs; what they will do with the language when they are
out of the class as independent language users. In an era of globalization and
internationalization where the profile of the language learners has changed and
where language skills are now equally necessary for social cohesion and
integration, a mere introduction of new theoretical Understanding to language
and language ability are not enough and hard for teachers to work with.  Changes in the theory and methods of teaching
modern languages requires a framework to guide and  facilitate to the teacher understanding what
he is teaching in terms of abilities and the specific attributes underlying
these ability. CEFR as a framework provides the teacher with detailed
description of what to target in his teaching. The descriptors provided by the
framework represent an operationalization of the theoretical knowledge in terms
of teaching, learning and later assessment.

The major
objective of CEFR is to improve communicative competence; encourage the
acquisition of a good level of communicative competence so that language
learners could benefit from the opportunities for interaction and mobility. As
a result of the changing platform of what language teaching and learning should
focus on, language textbooks and teaching materials have been adapted to the
arising needs which meant the incorporation of the communicative approach. By
Using the CEFR, teachers now can describe and compare their options in terms of
what to teach and how to teach it, and to describe and compare their teaching
goals and the outcomes in terms of levels of proficiency which facilitates for
them perusing and observing what level and type of communicative competence
their learners have developed.

As targeting
communicative competence, CEFR constitutes an Opportunity for learning the
conventions of linguistic, sociolinguistic and pragmatic appropriateness. The
development of communicative competence requires developing: first a

First, Grammatical competence: the knowledge of the language code
(grammatical rules, vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, etc.).

Second, Sociolinguistic competence: “the mastery of the
socio-cultural code of language use (appropriate application of vocabulary,
register, politeness and style in a given situation).” This type of competence
represents one’s ability to interpret and produce the linguistic varieties in a
way that the utterances conform to the norms and conventions of social
interaction (status of participant, degree of formality…).

“Sociolinguistic
competence is concerned with the knowledge and skills required when dealing
with the social dimension of language use …: linguistic markers of social
relations; politeness conventions; expressions of folk-wisdom; register
differences; and dialect and accent”. (CEFR, page 118)

Third, discourse competence which is the ability to
combine language structures into different types of cohesive texts (e.g.,
political speech, poetry) to produce coherent discourse.

Fourth, strategic competence  ‘verbal and non-verbal communication
strategies that may be called into action to compensate for breakdowns in
communication due to performance variables or to insufficient competence’
e.g. momentary inability to recall an idea or grammatical form, which
reflects  the ability to enhance
communication and reacting naturally to digression  through simplifying, paraphrasing, making
jokes…

 

The
CEFR’s communicative, action-oriented approach

The CEFR
incorporates the advances that were made with the communicative approach and
takes them to the next level, proposing a vision capable of linking teaching
and learning classroom objectives to the individual’s target domain language
use.

“The approach adopted here, generally speaking, is an action-oriented
one in so far as it views users and learners of a language primarily as ‘social
agents,’ i.e. members of society who have tasks (not exclusively
language-related) to accomplish in a given set of circumstances, in a specific
environment and within a particular field of action … We speak of ‘tasks’ in
so far as the actions are performed by one or more individuals strategically
using their own specific competences to achieve a given result. The
action-based approach therefore also takes into account the cognitive,
emotional and volitional resources and the full range of abilities specific to
and applied by the individual as a social agent. (CEFR, p. 9)

“If the goal of
language teaching is to ensure that the learner is able to communicate in this
language, sending messages and accomplishing speech acts, the usage of language
in the classroom must serve this purpose” In action oriented tasks Language use
is seen as purposeful, involving communication of meanings which are important
to learners, in order to achieve goals. Tasks such as these also give the
learners scope for working individually and in collaborative groups; to positively
criticize each other’s work.

 

Linking
teaching and learning to CEFR

For the productive
act of teaching/learning to take place the focus of teaching should be directed
towards the useful outcome of learning. In relation to the CEF, this can be
done by relating lesson tasks and corresponding materials to a list of can-do
statements as learning outcomes. For example, as far as learning is concerned this
can be done by accounting for the can-do statements of each task of  the  lesson as the target objectives for that
lesson, as far as testing is concerned,  by considering what exam grades tell in terms
of specific skills and abilities and how to act in response. CEFR can-do
statements provides A context for learning, a learner will have a clear
understanding of where he is on the scale of language learning and see where
they are going with regard to the next level through being familiar with the
CEFR self assessment grid, Also CEFR contribute to the daily practice of
language teaching it allows teachers to specify the strengths and weaknesses of
learners and based on learners’ levels they will decide on how to carry their teaching
and how to select course books and resources. CEFR promotes and consolidates
the scaffolding of teaching and learning in the way to achieving communicative
competence. It enables a shared understanding of levels, facilitates the
setting of realistic learning targets for a group, and relates outcomes to what
learners can do next. CEFR can be viewed as a tool for mapping the journey of
teaching and learning.

 

The
purpose of this work

This work is based
on a CEFR based textbook; Face2face intermediate (B1 and B2 levels). The work
deals with B1 level tasks introduced in the first unit of face2face.

The first unit of ‘face2face’
titled ‘how do you feel?’ is divided into four lessons; ‘Be happy!’, ‘Love
it or hate it’, ‘The best medicine’ and ‘at a barbecue’. Each lesson comprises
a set of exercises targeting the different language skills and aiming at
different can do statements as learning outcomes. The purpose of this work
is to analyze the skills practiced (listening, reading and speaking) in the
first unit of ‘face2face’ textbook with regard to the CEF B1 and B2 skills map
in order to identify how each can-do statement will be addressed across the
different skills covered in the unit in terms of developing communicative
competence.

To
start,  Based on the CEF B1and B2 skills map, the different can do statement
developed across the four lessons have been grouped in the following table in
terms of what each lesson include as can-do statements in terms of listening,
reading and speaking skills, separately. According to the CEF B1andd B2 skills
map, writing skill has not been targeted in this unit, no can do statements are
to be found for developing writing skill.

 

Can do
statements targeted in the four lessons of unit 1 in terms of listening,
reading and speaking skills.

 

              1A

1B

1C

1D

 

A
language user at B1 and B2* can:

A
language user at B1 and B2* can:

A
language user at B1 and B2* can:

A
language user at B1 and B2* can:

Listening

 
understand the main points of recorded
materials on familiar subjects**
 

 
understand the main points of recorded
materials on familiar subjects**
 

 
follow the main points of a clearly
articulated discussion between native
speakers
 

 
follow
the main points of a clearly articulated discussion between native
speakers
 

Reading

 
 
understand the main points in short newspaper
articles**

 
distinguish fact from comment in columns
or
interviews in newspapers and magazines
 

 
understand the main points in short newspaper articles**
 

 
 

Speaking

 
start, maintain and close a simple
face-to-face conversation on familiar topics
 
express and respond to feelings (surprise,
happiness, sadness, interest, etc.)
 
express beliefs, views and opinions in
discussing topics of interest
 
use a prepared questionnaire and make
spontaneous follow-up questions
 

 
start, maintain and close a simple face-to-face
conversation
on familiar topics
 
express and respond to feelings (surprise,
happiness,
sadness, interest, etc.)
 
express beliefs, views and opinions in
discussing
topics of interest
 

 
express
beliefs, views and opinions in
discussing
topics of interest
 
make his/her opinions/reactions clear as
regards
finding solutions to problems, etc
 
give detailed accounts of experiences,
describing
feelings and reactions
 

 
start, maintain and close a simple face-to-face
conversation
on familiar topics
 
 
use a prepared questionnaire and make
spontaneous
follow-up questions
 

 

The distribution
of the can do statements across the different sections shows that one can do
statement can be targeted in more than one section like the colored examples in
the table above (**). For a more practical analysis of the unit, and to avoid
dealing with the same can do statement in each section over and over, the can
do statements from the four sections have been grouped under each skill. The
result is the following table.