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    About the CEFR

Promoting excellence in sign language instruction

Teacher competences
European Language Portfolio
Pro-sign reference
About the CEFR

About the Common European Framework of Reference
The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) provides a common basis for the creation of language syllabuses, curriculum guidelines, examinations, textbooks, etc. across Europe. 

The CEFR describes in a comprehensive way what language learners have to learn to do in order to use a language for communication and what knowledge and skills they have to develop so as to be able to act effectively. The description also covers the cultural context in which language is set. Through its Global Scale and the Self-assessment grid, it also defines levels of proficiency which allow learners’ progress to be measured at each stage of learning and on a life-long basis. These two features are central to assessment for the European Language Portfolio (ELP).

Common Reference Levels: Global Scale for Sign Languages

Proficient user C2
Can understand with ease virtually all [signed] texts. Can summarise information from different sources and reconstruct arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating nuances of meaning even in more complex situations. 
Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
Independent User B2
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/proficient signers 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.
Can understand the main points when clear, standard language [which for sign language users may be a locally used variation] is used and the topics are familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise where the sign language is used. Can produce simple connected text on topics, which are familiar, or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
Basic User A2
Can understand sentences and frequently-used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details, such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person communicates slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.


Did you know...

The CEFR exists in over 40 language versions.

A dedicated CEFR website established by the Language Policy Unit of the Council of Europe explains key features of the instrument:

  • The CEFR: a transparent, coherent and comprehensive instrument
  • Six levels of foreign language proficiency
  • The CEFR is much more than proficiency scales
  • Using the CEFR in specific contexts
  • The Companion Volume (2020) to the CEFR is now available

The full-text versions of the CEFR can be downloaded in English and French.

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

Making good use of the CEFR: some reflections on the PRO-Sign project

Guest contribution from David Little
Download document