Language levels

All texts have a language level. Texts can be written at a high language level. These are difficult texts. Texts can also be written at a low language level. These are easy texts.

People have a language level too. Some people have a high language level. They have high reading skills. Other people have a low language level. They have low reading skills. If someone with low reading skills reads a text at a high language level, he cannot understand the text. People only understand texts that match their reading skills.

The International Adult Literacy Survey of the OECD shows that reading skills are unevenly distributed among the population. Therefore, the Council of Europe has developed the Common European Framework Of Reference For Languages. This is the European standard to measure the language level of texts and people.

Common European Framework Of Reference For Languages

The Common European Framework has 6 language levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2. A1 is the lowest language level and C2 the highest. Below you find two tables in which we describe the 6 language levels of the Common European Framework in short.

Language level of texts

A1

Extremely easy text. Very short and simple sentences. Everyday, very familiar words.  For example textbook integration-course (beginner).

A2

Very easy text. Very short sentences. Everyday words. For example textbook integration-course (advanced).

B1

Easy text. Short sentences. High-frequent words, no jargon. For example easy textbook in vocational training.

B2

Moderately complex text. Contains long sentences and some jargon. For example textbook in high school or college.

C1

Complex text. Contains long, complex sentences and jargon. For example ordinary legal document or mortgage-offer.

C2

Very specialized and complex text. Contains much jargon. For example, specialized scientific text or notarial document.

 

Language level of people (reading skills)

A1

Can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences.

A2

Can understand very short, simple texts in simple everyday words.

B1

Can understand texts that consist mainly of high-frequent language.

B2

Can understand articles and reports concerned with contemporary problems. Can understand contemporary literary prose.

C1

Can understand long and complex factual and literary texts. Can understand specialized articles and longer technical instructions.

C2

Can understand virtually all forms of the written language, including abstract, structurally or linguistically complex texts such as manuals, specialized articles and literary works.

 

Further reading

  • Literacy in the information age. Final report of the International Adult Literacy Survey, OECD 2000.
  • Common European Framework Of Reference For Languages, Council of Europe, 2001.
  • Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises. Bryan A. Garner, 2001.
  • Lifting the Fog of Legalese. Essays on Plain Language. Joseph Kimble, 2006.
  • Oxford Guide to Plain English. Martin Cutts, 2007.
  • Smart Language. Readers, Readability, and the Grading of Text. Willam H. DuBay, 2007.