CEFR explained: What does A1, A2, B1, B2 and C1 mean?

What do A1, A2, B1, B2 and C1 mean? The CEFR in our Dutch courses

What do A1, A2, B1, B2 and C1 mean? The CEFR in our Dutch courses

When registering for a language course, one of the first things you’ll come across is the levels A1, A2, B1, B2 and C1. But what do these terms mean exactly? And what can you say, hear, write and read after finishing each level?


These descriptors are used by teachers and language learners to measure their ability in a language. They are skill levels in the CEFR system, which is short for the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, an international standard that describes your ability in a language. It was put together by the Council of Europe as the main part of the project “Language Learning for European Citizenship” between 1989 and 1996.

The CEFR divides users into three broad divisions (A, B and C) that can be divided into six levels, and it describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do with the four main skills at each level: reading, listening, speaking and writing. The six levels within the CEFR are A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. Below you can read how we organise our Dutch courses within these levels:

The A Levels: Basic User

A1 Dutch CEFR

Our courses for beginners are divided into two levels. For the A1.1 course, no previous knowledge of Dutch is required. In the A1.2 course you’ll use the language in various situations, such as buying new clothes, having your bike repaired and visiting the doctor. You’ll also learn how to compare things and to use past tenses.

After finishing the A1 level, you can:
– Understand and use very basic expressions to satisfy concrete needs.
– Introduce yourself and ask others questions about personal details.
– Interact simply as long as the other person speaks slowly and clearly

A2 Dutch CEFR

The A2 level is also divided into two levels. In the A2.1 course, you’ll learn how to use reflexive and separable verbs, and practise engaging in small talk on birthdays, asking for directions and joining a gym. In the A2.2 course you’ll start talking about the future, and more challenging subjects such as (Dutch) landscapes, technical problems and films.

We also have a A2 deepening course, in case you want to refresh, practise and consolidate what you’ve learned in this level so far. If you would like to focus on speaking, we also have conversation courses in A2-B1 level – online and on location.

After finishing the A2 level, you can:
– Understand frequently used expressions in most intermediate areas such as shopping, family, employment, etc.
– Complete tasks that are routine and involve a direct exchange of information.
– Describe matters of immediate need in simple terms.

The B Levels: Independent User

Dutch B1 CEFR

The B1 level is divided into four levels. In the B1.1 course you’ll practice by expressing your thoughts and talking about your identity, food and health, and learn how to use subordinate clauses, to express wishes and to talk about ‘what if-scenarios’. In the B1.2 course you’ll talk about emotions, education and your experiences in the Netherlands, and get introduced to the small but interesting Dutch word ‘er’. More complex grammar topics and abstract vocabulary will follow in the B1.3 course, in which you’ll also talk about cultural differences and your opinions on dating, and in the B1.4 course, wherein topics such as the Dutch economy and art and culture will be covered.

If you want to practise and consolidate what you’ve learned in this level, you could follow the B1 deepening course. Want focus on speaking? You might join a conversation courses in A2-B1 level – online or on location – or even one of the B1-B2 conversation courses if you already have some basics in this level. We also have specials in this level, like book clubs!

After finishing the B1 level, you can:
– Understand conversation regarding family, work, school or leisure-related topics.
– Deal with most travel situations in areas where the language is spoken.
– Create simple texts on topics of personal interest.
– Describe experiences, events, dreams, and ambitions, as well as opinions or plans in brief.

The B2 level is divided into four levels just as well. In the B2.1 course you’ll read newspaper articles and academic texts, watch documentaries and discuss various themes. You’ll also practice giving presentations and writing (in)formal texts. In the B2.2 course you’ll have discussions about stereotypes surrounding Dutch culture, such as Calvinism and tolerance, and practice building longer sentences and using ‘er’ and relative clauses starting with ‘waar’ + preposition. You’ll practice using synonyms and have interesting discussions about art and creativity in the B2.3 course. You’ll also learn more about the use of the different past tenses and the use of the relative pronomen. And in the last one, the B2.4 course, you’ll have interesting discussions about sustainability and learn more about separable verbs in combination with prepositions.

We have a B2 deepening course as well, in case you want to practise and consolidate what you’ve learned in this level. You could also join one of our specials like book clubs, or our B1-B2 conversation course if you want to focus on speaking.

After finishing the B2 level, you can:
– Understand the main ideas of a complex text such as a technical piece related to their field.
– Spontaneously interact without too much strain for either the learner or the native speaker.
– Produce a detailed text on a wide range of subjects.

The C Levels: Proficient User

Dutch C1 CEFR

Our C1 courses are divided into four courses as well. In the C1.1 course you’ll talk about linguistics, research, culture and education. You’ll also practise with ‘er’ and learn idiomatic Dutch expressions, just like in our C1.2 course, in which you’ll talk about business and health. In the C1.3 course you’ll cover topics such as philosophy, law and science, and in the C1.4 course law and science!  In this final course you’ll also learn how to express your opinion about topics like, the complex legal situation with coffeeshops in the Netherlands.

If you want to practise your speaking skills – and want to know more about Dutch current events and controversies, the particulars of cultural life – you can also follow our B2-C1 conversation course.

After finishing the C1 level, you can:
– Understand a wide range of longer and more demanding texts or conversations.
– Express ideas without too much searching.
– Effectively use the language for social, academic or professional situations.
– Create well-structured and detailed texts on complex topics.

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