How do you check your German level? Why do you need it, how to improve it and what to assess first. In this article, you will find out what language levels there are, what the strange letters A, B and C are and what is included in them.

Why should language levels be assessed?

When you learn German like any other foreign language, you can’t wait to find out how well you can communicate and understand articles in newspapers, stories in books, songs and programmes on the radio or on TV.
There are plenty of options to evaluate your German knowledge, but almost all of them are subjective: someone praises you, you understand the person you are talking to by ear, you understand films and news well, etc. However, such subjective evaluations do not provide the main answer to the question: what to do next.

To evaluate your language knowledge (so called language competence), a certain scale has been invented, which has its own specific criteria for each level. These are the mysterious letters A, B and C. The assessment on this scale is needed in order to:

  • clearly understand the stage at which the learner is at,
  • enable them to progress from stage to stage,
  • to show a potential university or employer what approximately one should already know and be able to do,
  • choose the suitable language level when entering a course (in this case the course becomes the most effective),
  • to check oneself while learning the language and to pay special attention to missed or understudied topics.

Who came up with this?

Some of you may have a logical question: wouldn’t it be easier to simply divide all German language learners into those who understand and can communicate with native German speakers and those who find it difficult?
The answer is that the Common European Reference Framework for Languages – Der Gemeinsame europĂ€ische Referenzrahmen fĂŒr Sprachen – was developed to provide a professional, competent and objective assessment of language skills.

It is the model-standard for language proficiency assessment and includes the classical division into levels:

  • Elementary (Grundstufe – A),
  • Secondary (Mittelstufe – B),
  • Advanced (Oberstufe – C).

Each of these levels is also divided into sub-levels. The assessment criteria, grammar and vocabulary topics as well as outputs are clearly defined for each level. In this way it is clear which level a student is at, what they have already learned and what they still have to learn as well as grammar and vocabulary topics they have missed for some reason in their study.

All levels & sublevels are presented in the form of “can do’s”.
Now let’s see what knowledge and skills should be at which level.

Basic levels of language proficiency

Level A

Level description: Elementary, beginner level of proficiency

Sublevel: A1
Short description: Introduction to the language, introduction to the basics (Grundstufe)

THE LEARNER IS ABLE TO

  • Understand familiar, sustained expressions and simple sentences. Build expressions and sentences independently.
  • Ask simple questions about common everyday topics (“About yourself”, “Family”, “Hobbies”, “Free time”, etc.).
  • Can understand short answers when the other person talks slowly and uses simple vocabulary.

GRAMMATICAL TOPICS

  • Definite and indefinite articles.
  • Negative pronouns. Pronoun “kein”.
  • Personal pronouns
  • Present verb tense (PrĂ€sens)
  • Simple past tense (PrĂ€teritum)
  • Modal verbs
  • Negative verbs
  • Compound predicate
  • Numerals
  • Adjective pronouns
  • Adjective comparison terms
  • Declension of Nouns
  • Plural Nouns
  • Basic word order in sentences
  • Prepositions, relation of prepositions and cases

VOCABULARY TOPICS

  • Getting to know each other: can introduce himself, ask how’s someone going, tell a compliment
  • Family: can talk about family
  • In a restaurant: can order food
  • In the city: can orientate & ask for directions (elementary knowledge)
  • Shopping: can select products and food
  • Health: can complaining about pain, can visit the doctor
  • Leisure time: can talk about hobbies
  • Housing: can describe his place of living
  • Home: cooking and household chores
  • Work: getting a job and finding a job
  • Travel: at the airport, in another country

Sublevel: A2
Short description: Fundamentals (Grundstufe 2)

THE LEARNER IS ABLE TO:

  • Understand sentences and frequently used strong word combinations that are directly related to everyday life (“Personal details”, “Profession, work and duties”, “Shopping”, “Environment”, etc.);
  • lead a spontaneous dialogue, initiate a dialogue (first dialogue), exchange information with the other party (“Your origins and place of residence”, “Education”, etc.)

GRAMMAR TOPICS

  • Past tense (Perfekt and PrĂ€teritum)
  • Types of noun inflection (in depth knowledge)
  • Positional numerals
  • Declension of adjectives and ordinal numbers (in depth knowledge)
  • Reflexive verbs and the particle sich
  • Relative pronouns
  • Infinitive constructions (basics)
  • Adjective clauses (basics)
  • Subjunctive (basics)
  • Passive voice (basics)

LEXICAL TOPICS

  • Appearance: can describe someone’s appearance, complimenting his appearance
  • Tastes: can talk about favourite tastes and preferences
  • Entertainment
  • Holidays: can talk about traditions, greetings and gifts
  • Weather and seasons: can talk about the weather
  • Basics of the German education system: can talk about choosing schools, university and specializations
  • Current social issues: can talk about religion, migration, demography, etc.
  • Literature: can talk about different genres, favourite books and authors

Intermediate levels of language proficiency

Level B

Level description: Comprehensible language proficiency

Sublevel: B1
Short description: Intermediate level (Mittelstufe)

THE LEARNER IS ABLE TO

  • Understand the basic meaning of information and be able to emphasise the key points of a conversation when the topic is work, school, leisure time and tourism;
  • Deal with everyday situations that arise when travelling to the country of the target language, i.e. can explain himself in a cafĂ©, theatre, cinema, shop, on the street (“How to get to or from
?”)”.
  • Give details about his/her interests (When he/she started doing his/her hobby, how long he/she has been doing it, what he/she likes in particular, etc.);
  • Describe personal experiences and achievements, dreams, future plans and hopes and give a brief justification or explanation (i.e., why and for what?).

GRAMMATICAL TOPICS

  • Past and future tenses (Plusquamperfekt, Futur I, Futur II)
  • Passive voice with modal verbs
  • Comparisons
  • Prepositions (in depth knowledge)
  • Sentence word order
  • The subjunctive mood
  • Participles
  • Past tense modal verbs
  • Word formation

LEXICAL TOPICS

  • Health and sport: can talk about choosing a sport, can talk about healthy lifestyles, competitions
  • Opportunities and wishes: can have free and detailed conversations on the topic
  • Life plans: can have free and detailed discussion on the topic
  • Careers: can talk about career choices, motivations, self-determination and the characteristics of his/her work
  • Business: Basic Business German (Wirtschaftsdeutsch)
  • Free time: can have a free and in-depth conversation on the topic
  • News: can describe news, retelling them, and express his attitude
  • Technology: can understand information and participate in the conversation
  • Literature: can have a free and detailed conversation on the topic
  • Art: can have a free and detailed conversation on the topic
  • Foreign languages: can have a free and detailed conversation on the topic
  • Friends: can talk about entertainment as well as participating in the conversation
  • Science: can understand information and participate in the conversation
  • Politics and History: can understand information and participate in the conversation

Sublanguage level: B2
Short description: Advanced intermediate level (Mittelstufe 2)

THE LEARNER IS ABLE TO

  • Have an excellent understanding of the content of complex texts/articles;
  • Understand his/her profession in a foreign language (be able to talk about it in detail), know the terminology and be able to have a discussion about most of the problems of the speciality;
  • be able to hold a conversation with a native speaker without stress (a good vocabulary and an adequate knowledge of common expressions, no ‘eye-catching’ grammar errors);
  • express in himself/herself in a clear and unambiguous manner; can express his/her opinion on the given point of view and position on the topical issue, explain the advantages and disadvantages of the topic in question.

GRAMMAR TOPICS

  • Use of prepositions (in-depth knowledge, complex cases)
  • The subjunctive mood (indirect speech)
  • Passive voice (advanced, complex cases)
  • Compound sentences (advanced knowledge, complex cases)
  • Word forming system
  • Word order in multi-conditional sentences
  • Attributive Adjectives

LEXICAL TOPICS

  • Talking about home country: can provide detailed descriptions of his/her country of origin
  • Technology and modern technologies
  • Psychology and communication: can support conversations, has got conversational skills and a good flow of dialogue
  • Music and musical culture: can discuss genres, artists
  • Finance: has a better knowledge of terminology (Wirtschaftsdeutsch)
  • Work: can react to situations, model conversations, report on events
  • World of books and literature
  • Views and attitudes: ability to have an in-depth conversation
  • German literature: can read in the original and retell.

Advanced levels of language proficiency

Level C

Level description: The level of literate, professional proficiency.

Sublevel: C1
Brief description: Advanced level (Oberstufe)

THE LEARNER IS ABLE TO

  • Understand long texts on narrow and specialized topic, can grasp the implicit meaning of a statement or an article;
  • Speak freely and fluently, without having to recall and pick up words and expressions that fit the meaning and context for a long time;
  • Use knowledge effectively in daily life, in education and at work
  • Speak correctly, clearly and concretely in all situations and use different turns of phrase

GRAMMATICAL TOPICS

  • Complicated cases of adjective declensions (in-depth knowledge)
  • Participles as a function of definition
  • Subjective meaning of modal verbs
  • Complex subordinate clauses
  • Modal verb passive and its forms of substitution
  • Verb tenses, the use of various prepositions and circumstances
  • Compound prepositions
  • Indirect speech transmission
  • Futur 1 & 2
  • Infinitive sentences (in-depth knowledge)

VOCABULARY TOPICS

  • Social life: has a good vocabulary, free speech skills
  • Careers: has a good vocabulary (Wirtschaftsdeutsch)
  • Famous people and their contribution to national development: can make conclusions based on historical knowledge
  • Business communication: good vocabulary (Wirtschaftsdeutsch)
  • Dialects: has the knowledge and listening comprehension of the most important dialects.
  • Goals and intentions: can talk freely and easily about plans and the future
  • Health: can go to the doctor, choose medicines, has got knowledge of basic medical vocabulary
  • Law, rights: understanding of laws, codes and legal texts.
  • Economics: good knowledge of vocabulary (Wirtschaftsdeutsch)

Sublevel: C2
Summary: excellent level of proficiency (native speaker) (Oberstufe 2)

A person who has been living in the language environment for a long time (also having completed all levels of education there) can understand everything about the language, can work freely with all information sources, can express his/her opinion and can ask questions on any given topic.


How can I improve my German?

If you have read through all of this carefully and have already estimated your level of German, it’s time to talk about how to improve it.

TIP 1: Learn German in a structured way. If on the above mentioned list of levels is written that you can talk about yourself, practice it! If you haven’t learned the topic it before, make sure you do it and build up an active vocabulary.

TIP 2: Don’t be afraid of the challenge! If you’re at the beginning of your journey, such as A2, you can still practice stuff that is in the levels above: watch TV and films in German, listen to music and translate song lyrics. You can go through a grammar topic more fully than your level indicates, all of which will make life easier for you in the next stage.

TIP 3: Follow your teacher. I would like to say that it is always easier to learn a language by following someone. It is optimal to follow your teacher at school or a tutor. Usually, teachers are good at presenting the material. But maybe you are taught to speak by a close friend or relative, that’s not bad either! As long as it is interesting and structured (see Tip 1)

TIP 4: Surround yourself with the language. Learn words, find people to talk to, meet native speakers, watch the news, YouTube in German, look for things you like!

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