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The Common European Framework

October 16, 2007

Hello again,

Given the amorphous nature of language and the varied reasons for which different learners need a second language, it is useful to have a means of finding core elements that we can all agree form the essentials of linguistic competence. Yes, I’m sure you’ve...

...spotted the flaw in that sentence! When was anything ever so designed that we could all agree on it? And the Common European Framework (CEF) for languages is no different. Its aim is admirable: By providing a common basis for the explicit description of objectives, content and methods, the Framework will enhance the transparency of courses, syllabuses and qualifications, thus promoting international co-operation in the field of modern languages. The provision of objective criteria for describing language proficiency will facilitate the mutual recognition of qualifications gained in different learning contexts, and accordingly will aid European mobility. And for my own part I find it a useful approach as I will explain later. But needless to say, not everybody shares that view. By outlining it here, perhaps I can encourage others to explore it and form their own opinion.

Firstly let us look at the levels of language attainment. These are divided into three broad categories and each one is further sub-divided into two:
A: Basic User (A1, Breakthrough; A2, Waystage)
B: Independent User (B1, Threshold; B2 Vantage)
C: Proficient User (C1Effective Operational Proficiency, C2 Mastery).
These levels are explained by broad definitions; thus, B2 Vantage, for example is described as follows: Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
They are further dissected to give outlines of what is needed in skills performance at each level.

One interesting feature of the CEF is that it recognizes the validity of several different types of assessment, including self-assessment and provides reference grids by which learners can measure their attainment. Instead of simply jumping through examination hoops, learners can assemble a portfolio that bears witness to their achievement in a variety of ways.

The CEF also provides guidance in the form of a checklist for teachers wishing to plan appropriate lessons and select lesson content:
• Can I predict the domains in which my learners will operate and the situations which they will have to deal with? If so, what roles will they have to play?
• What sort of people will they have to deal with?
• Whatwillbetheirpersonalorprofessionalrelationsinwhatinstitutionalframeworks?
• What objects will they need to refer to?
• What tasks will they have to accomplish? • What themes will they need to handle?
• Will they have to speak, or simply listen and read with understanding?
• What sort of things will they be listening to or reading?
• Under what conditions will they have to act?
• What knowledge of the world or of another culture will they need to call on?
• What skills will they need to have developed? How can they still be themselves without being misinterpreted?
• For how much of this can I take responsibility?
• If I cannot predict the situations in which the learners will use the language, how can I best prepare them to use the language for communication without over-training them for situations that may never arise?
• What can I give them that will be of lasting value, in whatever different ways their careers may later diverge?
• How can language learning best contribute to their personal and cultural development as responsible citizens in a pluralist democratic society?

This checklist can be used in tandem with the information provided on the various domains of language use, so that the teacher has a clear template for lesson planning.

Well, I can only give a taste of the overall CEF but it is available in electronic forrm from: http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/linguistic/CADRE_EN.asp/. I think every school should have this. The CEF is to be discussed at the
TEA SIG - The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Benefits and Limitations
Start date: 19/10/2007
End date: 20/10/2007
Event coordinator: IATEFL TEASIG
Event coordinator: Zeynep Urkun zeynepu@sabanciuniv.edu
Venue: Opatija, Croatia
Member price: £45.00
Public price: £55.00
Event link: www.teasig.com/Croatia.htm/.

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