When assessing language skill levels, we use a scale based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. The framework divides language users into three categories:
- A1 and A2: basic user
- B1 and B2: independent user
- C1 and C2: proficient user
For example, when one studies English as an A-language in Finnish upper secondary school, the goal is to achieve skills at the B2 level.
It is possible to get by in working life with a B1 level, but more demanding tasks require level B2 or C1.
The skill levels described in the framework apply to everyday language use, not language and communication skills for economic life or other special fields, for example.
Below A1 Beginner level
A1 Basic level, mastery of the fundamentals
Understands basic expressions directly related to one’s own life or environment in slow and clear speech. Able to find information in simple texts. Gets by in the simplest speech situations, but speech is slow and there are flaws in pronunciation. Able to write very short texts. Knows the most common basic vocabulary (around 2,000 words at the basic level) and certain structures of the basic grammar.
A2 Basic level, developing language skills
Understands clear and simple speech about everyday, familiar themes. Easily understands short, simple texts and is able to work out the basic ideas of texts about familiar topics. Gets by in routine speech situations, although there are still some issues with pronunciation. Able to write simple, concise texts about everyday topics. Masters the most basic grammar and most common basic vocabulary.
B1 Intermediate level, fairly fluent and functional basic language skills
Understands longer stretches of speech and the basic idea of many television and radio programmes, if the subject matter is relatively familiar. Understands ordinary texts that do not require special familiarity with the subject. Normally paced speech and more demanding texts may produce difficulties, if the speech is long and the subject matter is unfamiliar. Gets by in the most common practical speech situations and is able to write simple, coherent text about everyday topics. Good mastery of the vocabulary needed in everyday situations (around 5,000 words at the intermediate level) and the most common structures of the basic grammar.
B2 Intermediate level, independent and functional basic language skills
Understands normally paced face-to-face speech and conversation about common topics as well as speech heard on e.g. radio and television, but may not understand certain details. Quick spoken language and dialectal features still produce difficulties. Understands text about common topics without problems, but some nuances of the text may be unclear. Gets by fairly well even in less familiar speech situations. Able to write both private and semi-formal texts and present one’s thoughts as a coherent whole. Able to distinguish between formal and informal language when speaking and writing. Good mastery of basic grammar and vocabulary.
C1 Highest level, proficient user
Understands longer stretches of normally paced face-to-face speech as well as speech heard on e.g. television and radio, although sometimes understanding requires more effort. Understands structurally and linguistically complex texts and contemporary literature. Speaks and writes clearly and fluently about different topics, but use of obscure words and complex sentence structures may produce difficulties. Good and versatile mastery of grammar and vocabulary (around 10,000 words at the highest level).
C2 Highest level, fluent and flawless user
Understands all types of spoken and written language without difficulties. Fine nuances in expressions rarely produce difficulties. Speaks and writes very fluently using forms appropriate for the situation and is able to express subtle shades in meaning. Mastery of grammar and vocabulary is certain in nearly all situations.