Accuracy of CEFR Ratings in Modern Courses?

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Accuracy of CEFR Ratings in Modern Courses?

Postby Faust » Thu Apr 01, 2021 5:36 pm

After doing a lot of reading on this forum, I have a few general conclusions. First, and most important, is that learner’s should not expect courses to do all the heavy lifting. They can do a lot, and take you quite far, but engaging with a language (whether through conversation or consuming media) is an important part of the recipe. That is, after all, what the point of learning is.

Second, it the vast majority of courses simply slapped a CEFR label onto older, preexisting course, and they are unlikely to be accurate in many cases.

I am curious to learn more about your opinions for courses designed for self study. That is, NOT classroom textbooks that are adaptable or could be used successfully by the home learner.

Some things I have found that seem to have been designed with CEFR in mind are below:
These Spanish grammar books -
Gramática de uso del Español. A1-A2
Gramática de uso del Español. B1-B2
Gramática de uso del español: C1-C2

There is of course the extremely renowned Grammaire Progressive courses for French. I am unaware of anything similar for Italian, but for German maybe the Grammatik aktiv A1-B1 and B2-C1 course fit the bill? Though, I do not know any German to tell from the descriptions if they were actually designed for CEFR or just had the labels added later.

These Assimil A2 books have descriptions about how they were actually designed against and to meet the CEFR scales:
Learn Spanish: A2
Learn Italian: A2
Learn French: A2

As for the full Assimil courses, they seem to lack the exercises or drills or grammar review needed to actually get someone to B1 or B2. I am guessing those ratings are closer to “you will see lessons or dialogues at this level towards the end of the course” rather than an accurate appraisal of where one might end up.

Then I am thinking in the same way the French company Assimil has some courses actually designed for CEFR (if only the A2 ones), maybe it is the same for others?

It seems Langenscheidt and Hueber are well regarded German companies.

For Langenscheidt, I found two courses at the lower level that list A1-A2 on them (German Language Course: Picture by Picture and German in 30 days, but there is no indication they are actually made to get you to A2 rather than just the marketing hubbub implying it will be so. For the second one, 30 days seems quite quick as well to go from nothing to A2, no?

Hueber has what looks like an older course (presumably the 1756 date is a typo, haha) at A1, and then a newer set at the A2 and B1 levels.

I see no indication these were designed to achieve those levels, but is Hueber a reputable enough company that you think someone using the A2 and then B1 level (along with engaging with the language through conversation or reading news, tweets, etc…) could actually achieve those results? Their fairly recent publication made me think potentially yes, though I am again unsure if it just a course from the 90s or older that has been reprinted and had a label added.

Any other publishers with CEFR ratings you actually trust for self-teaching and achieving what the box claims?

From what you know, would you all feel confident telling a language learner to use combos like the following along with reading news or tweets or music or whatever else in the target langauge:

A2 Learn Spanish from Assimil with the Gramática de uso del Español A1-A2 book to actually achieve A2..
The Hueber A2 and B1 books with the A1-B1 Grammatik Aktiv book to actually achieve B1.

Again, clearly you can learn a lot from courses that were designed before CEFR was conceived, but I am curious only about ones geared towards getting learners to a specific level like some of the ones above.
Last edited by Faust on Sat Apr 03, 2021 4:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Accuracy of CEFR Ratings in Modern Courses?

Postby Faust » Thu Apr 01, 2021 6:44 pm

After posting, I noticed the Hueber A2 and B1 course I linked above have their table of contents and one chapter viewable on the Hueber website.

Here are the table of contents and preview chapter for each, in case it helps decide whether they live up to their billing:
A2 Table of Contents and Chapter 11

B1 Table of Contents and Chapter 7
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Re: Accuracy of CEFR Ratings in Modern Courses?

Postby lysi » Thu Apr 01, 2021 10:29 pm

I only know about the Grammaire Progressive series but I can say that the CEFR levels for them are absolute lies. Everything covered even in their "B2-C2" courses is incredibly basic, though it is useful and comprehensive. I cannot imagine someone who didn't know these things ever being able to pass a B2 exam. I think that they might have made these courses and then threw on the CEFR level after.
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Re: Accuracy of CEFR Ratings in Modern Courses?

Postby Le Baron » Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:00 am

Faust wrote:As for the full Assimil courses, they seem to lack the exercises or drills or grammar review needed to actually get someone to B1 or B2.

Do they not have enough grammar and drilling? I rather thought that was what Assimil actually does, but in a less military style than FSI.

I have those CEFR indications in my signature. Only because I've done tests and some exams (some way in the past), but things have altered over time and as we know so many tests reach different results and confer different levels on those results.

In general I don't care about A this and B that. When I learned French and much later Dutch I had no idea about any of these level indicators, not a single tutor talked about them at Dutch school. They're useful for choosing listening material, but even that is a variable guide. The real test and guide is if you are understanding it (that it's comprehensible) and you're learning from it.

I suppose it's good to have some guide of where to aim for and to know where you think you're at right now, but I personally don't want to be stuck on asking what CEFR level I'm at. If I'm getting better at understanding my target language and I'm even talking, then I'm improving.

I think I'm going to remove those letters.
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Re: Accuracy of CEFR Ratings in Modern Courses?

Postby EGP » Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:14 am

I can't comment about your links, nor anything other than English CEFR. I am sure there are commonalities.

1. CEFR is incredibly complex. As you know you could be A1 in Writing and C2 in Speaking. You could be advanced at one communicative task and have absolutely no idea how to approach another.

2. CEFR is controversial and with its critics.

3. In the end, the use of A1-C2 will be used interchangeably with terms like Elementary or Advanced etc. The context of the use should shed more light on what it actually means. For example, I have been tested/confirmed as being able to do most things a B2 student can do. I am in a C1 class because I am aiming to reach that level.

Is there any empirical proof of what students 'can do" in the languages you listed? I know that English writing is very well represented and offers most of the basis for the English Profile data. Not much for the other skills yet. They are working on it though.
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