How to describe your language ability

How to describe your language ability by Stephan Röhl

This article was written by Matthew Hepburn, published on 18th August 2016 and has been read 2362 times.

Matthew is studying French and European Studies at Nottingham Trent University, and is preparing for his year abroad studying at the Université de Franche-Comté in Besanon. Here is his advice about how to describe your language ability in interviews and on your CV, no matter which country you're in.

As a student of French, I often find it hard to describe my language ability to people. Sometimes people ask how fluent I am in French and I’m not always sure how to answer because knowing one’s own ability in a language is a) quite hard and b) very subjective.

However, there are times when being able to describe your language ability in an objective and factual way is important. For instance, if an employer asks you to describe your language ability during a job interview, it would be easier to use a recognised language standard for describing language ability rather than being unsure what to say without under or over-selling your language competence.

This is where the ‘Common European Framework of Reference for Languages’ (CEFR) comes in. ‘The CEFR is an international standard for describing language ability. It is used around the world to describe learners' language skills’ (Cambridge English).

There is a scale ranging from A1 (beginner) to C2 (mastered a language). The test will ask you to complete grammar, vocab, reading and listening questions. Once done, you’ll find out where you are on the scale. There may be tests online to do which will give you a score however, I don’t know how reliable this would be. I completed an official test because I had to before applying for my Erasmus grant for my year abroad. The test is done before and after the year abroad to see how much my language ability has improved. The test is really useful and can be used to show employers your level of language in an objective and universal manner.

TV5 Monde has a similar test which isn’t the CEFR but still may be useful to see your language ability in French. The test can be found here.

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