Published 5th September 2019
Even though you don’t need to be able to speak the local language to teach English as a Foreign Language – one of the great myths of our industry – most teachers take the trouble of learning the language where they are living. It’s always nice to be able to greet people in the supermarket or chat to your neighbours or order the correct food in a restaurant, and, let’s be honest, a lot of the time that’s easier in their language than in English. After all, if the whole country could speak English then you wouldn’t have a job! So perhaps you are asking yourself, what Spanish level am I?
There are a number of ways you can learn the local language of where you are living. You can take classroom-based lessons, find a private tutor or do self-study through books, websites and apps. However, as a teacher you know that learning a foreign language is not easy. One of the frustrating things of learning a language is not being aware of your own progress. Nothing like learning a language to help us understand how our students feel! But there are ways you can assess yourself so you can know exactly where you are on your language learning journey.
Why should you know what level you are?
Knowing your language level will help you identify resources which can help you learn. Coursebooks and reference books which are at the correct level for you are available. You can search online for podcasts and language learning videos. You will also know which level you need to sign up for if you decide to take lessons.
How do I know what Spanish level I am?
Just as we can assess our English students’ levels using the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), so we can assess our own level of Spanish using the CEFR. You see, the CEFR is a framework for all languages, not just English.
So just as in English, our level will be anywhere between A1 to C2, from Beginner to Advanced.
A Beginner Student
A Beginner student is A1 or A2 and has a basic use of the language. A Beginner student ranges from someone who knows no Spanish to someone who can introduce themselves, ask and respond to basic questions about personal information, and simply describe their immediate surroundings.
An Intermediate Student
An Intermediate student has a B1 or B2 level, with B2 often being called Upper Intermediate. An Intermediate student can speak about and understand the main ideas of a conversation about general topics like family, holidays, and sports. They can also write a short, simple text. An Upper Intermediate student can further understand more complex texts on more abstract topics, and offer an opinion or viewpoint.
An Advanced Student
Finally, Advanced students have a C1 or C2 level, with C2 considered Proficient. An Advanced student is fluent and does not need to think about their language production. They can use language effectively socially, academically and professionally. A Proficient student can understand almost everything they hear or read. They understand nuance and underlying meaning and may only sometimes be caught out by very colloquial or slang language.
There are numerous online tests that you can take to assess your own level. These are offered by Spanish schools or Spanish programmes, with the intention that once you have taken their test you will enroll in their school or buy their Spanish course, but they are usually free and have no obligations attached.
If you would like a formal acknowledgement of your level then you will need to take one of the Spanish exams. These are the equivalent of the Cambridge suite of exams which our English language learners take, except they are commonly known as the DELE exams – Diploma de Espanol.
You might be wondering how long it can take you to reach level C1 or C2 in Spanish, which is pretty similar to asking how long a piece of string is, but there are a few guidelines we can work with. A general estimate for English speakers who are learning Spanish is 1 000 hours to reach level C1. Bear in mind these are classroom hours, and not inclusive of studying time. Now that might sound like a really long time but you have to start somewhere and if you start today you could be fluent in Spanish in 6 months!