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Sign languages and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
Descriptors and approaches to assessment

This resource establishes European standards for sign languages for professional purposes in line with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and provides an overview of assessment descriptors and approaches.


Drawing on preliminary work undertaken in adapting the CEFR to sign languages, the project Signed languages for professional purposes (PRO-Sign) is the first to specify proficiency levels for sign languages establishing European standards for use in Deaf Studies and interpreting programmes offered at tertiary level across Europe and beyond.

This website seeks to act as a point of reference for teachers, teacher trainers and curriculum developers of sign languages in tertiary educational environments. It may also support the work of international non-governmental organisations such as the European Union of the Deaf (EUD), the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), the European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters (efsli) and other relevant international organisations.

This website provides ‘Can Do’ descriptors for reception, interaction and production from A1 all the way up to C2 level. The descriptions also include ‘plus levels’ (e.g. A2+). As in other CEFR documents, there may not be descriptors for all sub-categories for every level, since some activities cannot be undertaken until a certain level of competence has been reached, whilst others may cease to be an objective at higher levels. For more detailed information on the individual proficiency levels and different scales of CEFR, please refer to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (2001).

As a user, you are invited to use the scaling system and associated descriptors critically. While the Global Scale for Sign Languages – Common Reference Levels provides you with a simple and more holistic representation, it may not be appropriate for some purposes. The CEFR needs further adaption depending on the context that it is applied in. The sets of descriptors offered in the PRO-Sign tool suggest situations in which sign language users engage. An International Sign (IS) version of this document as well as an assessment framework in accordance with CEFR is also available on this website.


PRO-Sign inspires national work in Switzerland
Brigitte Daiss-Klang, Switzerland at the PRO-Sign Network Meeting, March 2015


Improving teaching objectives
Stefan Goldschmidt, Germany at the PRO-Sign Network Meeting, March 2015


ProSign project website 2016-2019

The project „Promoting excellence in sign language instruction“ is carried out as a follow-up to this publication in the ECML’s programme 2016-2019.

Click here to go to the project website 

Using the Pro-Sign website

Download instructions

Sign languages and the CEFR for Languages

Common Reference Level Descriptors

Download document: Czech - Dutch - English - Estonian - German - Icelandic - Slovenian

Global scale for sign languages

Download global scales


 Download flyer

For the first time, we can ensure that content about the teaching and learning of sign languages is available via ECML in International Sign.
The Pro-Sign team

These pages result from a project run within the ECML's Learning through languages programme entitled "Sign languages and the Common European Framework of References for Languages" (ProSign).
Find out more about the project here.

  In cooperation with the 
Moscow State Linguistic University

Video presenting the publication on the occasion of the ECML conference in December 2016.