Learning, Teaching, Assessment
Abbreviated as CEFR or CEF, it is a guideline used to describe the achievements of learners of foreign languages across Europe and, increasingly, in other countries (for example, Colombia and the Philippines). The Council of Europe put it together as the central part of the “Language Learning for European Citizenship” project between 1989 and 1996. Its main aim is to provide a learning, teaching, and assessment method that applies to all European languages. In November 2001, a European Union Council Resolution recommended using the CEFR to set up systems of validation of language ability. The six reference levels (see below) are becoming widely accepted as the European standard for grading an individual’s language proficiency.
In 1991, the Swiss Federal Authorities held an Intergovernmental Symposium in Rüschlikon, Switzerland, on “Transparency and Coherence in Language Learning in Europe: Objectives, Evaluation, and Certification.” This symposium found that a common European framework for languages was needed to improve the recognition of language qualifications and help teachers cooperate, eventually leading to improved communication and cooperation among language teachers in Europe.
As a result of the symposium, the Swiss National Science Foundation set up a project to develop proficiency levels and create a “European Language Portfolio”—a certification in language ability that can be used across Europe.
A preliminary version of the Manual for Relating Language Examinations to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) was published in 2003. This draft version was piloted in several projects, which included linking a single test to the CEFR, linking suites of exams at different levels, and national studies by exam boards and research institutes. Practitioners and academics shared their experiences at a colloquium in Cambridge in 2007, and the pilot case studies and findings were published in Studies in Language Testing (SiLT). The conclusions of the pilot projects then informed the Manual revision project during 2008/09.