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Language Teaching

Essay by   •  July 31, 2013  •  Research Paper  •  2,230 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,278 Views

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QUESTION FIVE

Discuss the rationale behind the CEFR, as well as its strengths and weaknesses.

The Common European Framework of reference for language was created by the Council of Europe in order to create language levels that were consistent, universal, and recognised. This allows employers and educational facilities to have a simple system to determine a person's language ability. Although not designed specifically for this purpose, the CEFR has been influential in national curriculum reform as well as many governments in language policy making. It was developed between 1993-1996 by a council of Europe international working party. It was eventually, officially published in 2001, the European year of languages. As of the mid-2000s the CEFR has been translated into 37 different languages (Cambridge ESOL 2011).

The CEFR describes a language learner's abilities, divided up into speaking, listening, reading and writing at six different levels of ability. These six sections in order of proficiency are:

* A1: Breakthrough

* A2: Waystage

* B1: Threshold

* B2: Vantage

* C1: Effective operational proficiency

* C2: Mastery

Effectively, learners want to aim to be level C2 for speaking, listening, reading and writing, which, according to the framework, would suggest complete mastery of the language. Splitting these up into these different areas of the language, allows language learner's to focus their learning in a particular area of language that they are weaker in. Accompanying these levels, the CEFR also outlines a "'descriptive scheme' of definitions, categories and examples that language professionals can use to better understand and communicate their aims and objectives" (Cambridge ESOL 2011). These are accompanied with a series of statements which show what the learner should be able to do at each level in terms of language ability. This allows these learners to compare themselves with others and allows them to plan their language learning progress.

The CEFR is split into 9 chapters, which explains the rationale behind its creation:

1. The first chapter outlines the aims, objectives and functions of the framework, with an emphasis on the promotion of pluralingualism. It also outlines what it wants to achieve from this framework.

2. The second explains the approaches taken in order to do this. They describe the framework as a descriptive scheme, based on their analysis of language use. It outlines how different strategies and tactics used by learners can trigger a general communicative competence. This is in order to carry out activities and different process which are apparent in the creation and absorption of texts which deal with different social situations, styles, themes, conditions etc.

3. This chapter describes the different reference levels (A1 to C2) which attempt to accommodate all learners' needs. These levels outline targets for learners, but are flexible and make a good basis for assessment for language qualifications.

4. Details the domains, and situations which provide the context for the usage of language. Also the different tasks, what the purpose of communication, different strategies and processes. These categories are needed for describing the types of language use and for the individual learner.

5. Puts these individual leaner's communicative competence on a scale and outlines their general ability.

6. Takes a look at the difference processes of learning and teaching languages. Mentions how acquisition and learning are linked to pluralingual competence and outlines more general methods to cater for the different issues in the third and fourth chapters.

7. Talks about the role of tasks in language acquisition and the teaching of language.

8. Chapter eight talks about some drawbacks of this framework in terms of its reliability in curriculum design in different countries. Linguistic diversity, pluralingualism and mixed cultures are issues here.

9. The final chapter discusses the different purposes that assessment may have, including formal qualifications, language reflection and teaching purposes. It also outlines the different types of assessment (Council of Europe 2001).

The CEFR has been used in the creation of policies which outline language requirements for different purposes, for example, having to be a 'B2 speaker' in order to work within a certain role or position. It has also been used in the creation of textbooks and materials in the classroom. Whilst being used in all of these contexts, the CEFR can't possibly cover every context. However the CEFR is not designed to do this and is more of a 'work in progress' rather than a completely perfect and finished product (WebCEF n.d.). This suggests that the CEFR is not something that should be used as an international standard.

In the creation of these curriculums, textbooks and assessment systems, there isn't a way to prove that one method is better than another, so in their creation, they need to be accompanied by evidence and explanation. As the CEFR is not specific to one language and doesn't specify different contexts, it cannot be used directly for these purposes. Policy makers/ teaching program designers need to adapt the framework to the language they are teaching and the context they are working in. The level descriptions outline in the CEFR can be adapted into specific languages and further adapted to include the linguistic material that will be learned and that are required in order to fulfill these stated competences.

The CEFR was therefore primarily intended to be used as a way to reflect on language learning, empowering the individual learner and communicating about their learning. It also describes some of the issues in language education. However it does not include any discussion of these issues and does not give examples. Despite this, it makes it helpful in raising awareness of some of the issues mentioned in the CEFR and encourages debate. It also makes comparisons between tests and assessment systems that may be different, fundamentally.

The descriptive nature of the framework means that it is not meant to be used as a prescriptive tool to standardize language learning solutions and guidelines are not meant to be exactly equivalent to actual language ability. It would seem that in order to get a better idea of an individual's level

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