Suppose you have just completed French Level 4. What standard are you at? Can you ask for directions, read L'Étranger, conjugate the pluperfect subjective, book a hotel room, express your thoughts on the Arab Spring, recognise the past historic tense, or discuss Molière on French TV?
It depends of course. In my most recent report of ‘non-specialist’ language learners (in other words, those not doing a degree in languages – I’m not really sure about the term), I asked learners to provide me with the exact title of their course. I then mapped their answers to the standard they said they should have reached by the end of the course. What I found was that Level/Stage 4 courses appear at all three levels to which I mapped the course titles.We have a Level 6 at A1/A2, a Level 8 at B1/B2, a Level 4 at C1/C2 showing just how every institution has its own system. Thinking radically for a moment, why don’t we standardise our course titles?
Some of the advantages I can think of include:
- More learners would be able to articulate their level to employers or other stakeholders. (Over a third of learners were unable to say what standard they should have reached by the end of their language course)
- Learners would be able to continue their language learning at another institution (e.g. if they got a job in another part of the country or wanted to continue studying at a higher level not available at their current university).
- We would be able to collect better data cross-institutional on the language abilities of ‘non-specialist’ language learners.
- Students might be less worried about whether a certain level of course was too easy or too difficult for them.
- We could have a national recognised standard for all language learners (you could argue that we could achieve this simply by putting CEFR levels into every course title).