spanish-language-levels

Spanish Language Levels Simply Explained

Has your Spanish teacher told you that you are an A2-level student? 

Did an online test place you as B1?

Has a friend mentioned that a real proficiency in a foreign language is achieved at the C2 level?

I’m sure many of you wonder how Spanish levels are measured and how to interpret these levels in terms of real skills. 

Today, I’ll try to answer these common questions and doubts. 

CEFR Language Proficiency Scale

You probably wonder what the abbreviation means, don’t you?

CEFR stands for Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. It is the most popular guideline to estimate learners’ achievements in Europe and the rest of the world. It can be applied not only to Spanish but also to any other second language. 

The CEFR scale distinguishes three levels: 

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A: basic user 
B: independent user
C: Proficient user

Additionally, each of them is divided into two sub-levels. 

Hence, whenever someone’s Spanish language level needs to be evaluated, there are six possibilities:

  • A1 – basic
  • A2 – elementary
  • B1 – intermediate
  • B2 – upper intermediate
  • C1 – advanced
  • C2 – proficient

It all looks very neat, but the main question still remains:

“What can you do in Spanish once you reach a certain level?”

Let me make it a little more approachable for you:

A1 Spanish Level

When you pick up a foreign language that you have never been exposed to before, you start at the zero level. 

According to the Cervantes Institute, it takes approximately 60 hours to move from zero to A1.

Once you’ve reached A1, you should be able to understand and use familiar everyday expressions and basic phrases, such as:

🇪🇸 Buenos días
🇬🇧 good morning

🇪🇸 Me llamo John
🇬🇧 My name is John

🇪🇸 Tengo hambre
🇬🇧 I am hungry

🇪🇸 ¿Cómo estás?
🇬🇧 How are you?

At this level, you are also expected to know how to introduce yourself, ask and answer questions about personal details, and establish simple conversations as long as the other person speaks slowly and pronounces clearly

🇪🇸 Pedro tiene tres hermanos
🇬🇧 Pedro has three siblings

🇪🇸 ¿Dónde vives?
🇬🇧 Where do you live

🇪🇸 Quiero un café con leche, por favor
🇬🇧 I’ll have coffee with milk, please.

🇪🇸 ¿Cuánto cuesta?
🇬🇧 How much is it?

If you can ask this kind of question but not more developed ones, and handle around 300 – 500 words, you are probably still a basic Spanish student. 

During your A1 Spanish course, you should learn the alphabet, colorsnumbers, how to tell time, days of the week, and such. 

A2 Spanish Level

This level is called “elementary,” which means that it provides you with elements necessary for a progressively better grasp of the Spanish language.

As an A2 student, you most likely can understand ideas and expressions related to everyday situations (shopping, restaurant, work, house chores, socializing, etc.). 

At this level, you also establish limited conversations on various everyday topics, make open questions, and describe basic emotions and personality traits.

As far as grammar structures are concerned, to classify as an A2 student of Spanish, you should be able to conjugate verbs in the present tense (Pretérito Indefinido) and talk about what you or other people are doing at the moment. You should also have some notions of past and future tenses (at least for the regular verbs) and know how to make comparisons. 

Your Spanish vocabulary is expected to have progressed to around 800 – 1000 words. 

B1 Spanish Level

According to the CEFR description, B1 level means that you’ve learned to:

  • understand when people talk about matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
  • deal with most situations that can happen to you when traveling and visiting a Spanish-speaking country, such as ordering a taxi, getting a haircut, or complaining about service quality.
  • speak not only in simple, separate sentences but to develop and connect ideas related to familiar topics and personal interests.
  • describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes, and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Do you think you might be at this level? Check out the sentences below and see if you can understand them, and most importantly, if you’d be able to make them yourself:

🇪🇸 Ayer no me sentía bien y es por eso que no fui al trabajo.
🇬🇧 I didn’t feel well yesterday, and this is why I didn’t go to work.

🇪🇸 Si tuviera más dinero, viajaría alrededor del mundo.
🇬🇧 If I had a lot of money, I’d travel around the world. 

🇪🇸 Creo que la única forma de solucionar este problema es cambiando el servidor.
🇬🇧 I think the only way to solve this problem is by changing the server. 

If you didn’t have any problems with these sentences and know about 2000 words, your Spanish is at least at B1 level. 

B2 Spanish Level

B2 means that most probably you’ve been studying Spanish for quite some time now. Maybe even a couple of years, combining classroom time with independent study. 

By now, your effort, self-discipline, and dedication have brought quite impressive results. As a B2 upper-intermediate Spanish student, you should have acquired the following skills:

  • understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in your field of specialization.
  • communicate with native speakers without much effort on either side, 
  • speak with certain fluency and spontaneity
  • write on a wide range of topics (e.g., pollution, economic crisis, unemployment, or immigration), compare alternatives, explain and defend your opinion. 

Some of the structures that you should have mastered by now are like in the examples below:

🇪🇸 ¡Ojalá lo hubiese sabido antes!
🇬🇧 I wish I had known that before!

🇪🇸 Los árboles serán plantados apenas esté listo el terreno.
🇬🇧 The trees will be planted as soon as the soil (ground) is ready. 

🇪🇸 Pedro dijo que fueramos a verlo el próximo miércoles, cuando vuelva del hospital. 
🇬🇧 Pedro said we should go and see him next Wednesday, once he’s back from the hospital. 

🇪🇸 Si me hubieras dicho la verdad, lo habría entendido.
🇬🇧 If you had told me the truth, I’d have understood it. 

By now, your vocabulary should have reached about 4000 words, you differentiate between different prefixes ((in-, des-, anti-)  and suffixes (-ez, -ción, -dad) and can form new words with them.

Probably, you have also learned some Spanish proverbs and colloquial expressions

C1 and C2 Spanish Level

Have you been placed as a C-level student? Wow, that is a huge achievement. Your Spanish is close to that of a native speaker, and you can talk and write virtually about anything.

You are able to make elaborate presentations in an entirely fluent way, watch movies and read books in Spanish understanding almost every detail. Your vocabulary is as large as 8,000 to 15,000 words, which in some cases is more than an average native speaker.

Congratulations, you have really mastered the Spanish language. 

***

If you wish to certify your Spanish level, the best way is to take the DELE test offered by the Cervantes Institute and available for all the six CEFR language levels. The test measures your ability to speak, read, write and understand Spanish. 

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Joanna Lupa
Joanna Lupa
Polish by birth, Chilean by the turns of life. Has spent 20 years in that beautiful South American country working as a language teacher and translator. Has taught Spanish and English to students of all proficiency levels. Passionate about languages, books, and traveling. A mother of 2 trilingual teenagers.

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