I have been learning Spanish and have been very happy with my progress. In addition to using this site I have a teacher as well as two language exchange partners. I am in my 30’s so I don’t actually need a CEFR certificate, but I was considering doing it to check my level as a bench mark. I recall Steve saying he never took one of the tests. Are the tests worth it for someone learning for fun or is it a waste of time and money?
It is not a waste of time and money. It will help you to determine where you stand and where you need to go. Here in Germany, German employers require at least a B2 certificate for a job purpose and a C1 certificate for university-level study. It is not a waste of money if it provides you an objective evaluation of your language skills instead of playing a guessing game.
I’d say if you’re willing to spend the time and money go for it. i might in the future. However there other things I’m sure you can do to see where you are at. Have you tried speaking with any native speakers? Maybe spend 10 bucks for an hour on Italki and let the native speaker tell you how you are.
It’s a waste of time and money if you don’t need to apply for a job or a university study. A useless piece of paper with short validity period. In real life nobody cares what’s written on it, only about the actual language ability.
You’ll have to prepare for topics and tests that are:
- irrelevant for your language progress;
- not interesting;
Example. Write a formal letter to the mayor with a proposal to implement a roundabout in your neighborhood. Who in their right mind would write a letter like that when they are at a B1 or B2 level? And these tests are filled with dreadful tasks like that for writing, listening, speaking and reading.
Mind you, I’ve passed IELTS and Oxford tests for English, but:
- I did not enjoy the process;
- The IELTS certificate is not valid anymore;
- I could’ve bought 3 years of LingQ subscription instead and crush any language that I want (or 3!!!).
It seems to me that test makers have no idea what language learning is about and what should be tested at different levels (that’s the topic that I better avoid).
If you’re just curious, there are many free online “tests”. No idea how accurate they are but just search for these words “spanish cefr test free” or something to that effect.
You can also self assess based on these descriptions:
Also, some have said the LingQ levels roughly correspond…i.e. beginner 1 = A1, beginner 2 = A2. Obviously this would really just be for reading level (listening to a degree…if you can comprehend the same material you are reading) and language dependent as I think some have argued many of the slavic languages goals to reach the level are on the low side.
I use italki once a week. I have a teacher from Venezuala and I have two exchange partners from Spain
You should definitely take a test IF one of two conditions are met:
- You need a certificate for a job or Uni application
- You regularly have, or expect to have conversations with people who will keep a running tally of your grammatical mistakes and discontinue the conversation after a certain number. OR you have one of those Netflix accounts that won’t show you movies in your TL unless you can submit a B2 certificate.
Unless, you’re in one those categories, having a CEFR certificate will mean nothing – not even to you, really. Having a certificate won’t assert that you’re fluent – conversations with people is what asserts that.
It won’t assert your reading comprehension – reading books without looking up words is what asserts that.
Same is with listening – either you understand what you’re hearing or you don’t.
For day-to-day use of the language a CEFR is worse than useless, it’s actually a hindrance. The time you’ll spend doing grammar drills to pass a test will take time away from more practical language use activities such as reading and listening.
There are some interesting points to note about assessment methodology. We all have an innate desire to know where we place and how we are progressing, I think some of this is driven from how we learn at school. In school, the end point of your learning is always a summative assessment that usually leads to some form of qualification, which is based on attainment of defined criteria. Along the way, you have various formative assessments to check your progress. Most of these formative assessments in school take the form of a quiz, because if you are teaching 30 students then you just can’t individually listen to them speak and then give them detailed feedback. It is far quicker for teachers to, say, check how well students can remember the conjugations of a verb or can recall a list of vocabulary. Full marks = good student and you get praise, low marks = bad student and you get criticised. That kind of teaching I think sticks with us our whole lives, so we constantly want to know how we are progressing with our studies because we have had that mindset instilled in us. Sadly, most language courses (even app based ones) still have this educationalists mindset built in of quizzing and testing and making you repeat if you “fail” it.
A formal qualification like CEFR is just a formalisation of this same process. Assessors decide what standard a person needs to reach to be able to be called “B2” (or whatever). That is generally a rigorous set of criteria that can be assessed via an assessment, which to be consistent and fair needs to be reproducible. That means, in short, lots of tick box criteria in a very formal setting. Yes, to get a B2 level you will have to be able to use the language well and it does represent a high standard, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to how well you can use the language. Most learners do not have fond memories of working towards exams, and there is a certain amount of learning the criteria needed to pass the exam. It doesn’t matter too much if you use the wrong form of a verb in real life, but that is criticised heavily in an exam because that is all they have.
My personal acid test for anything is to think about what it would add to your life. Think how your life would be better if you have “passed” an exam. If you really think that you would enjoy taking an exam, can afford it and think that you would be happier if you knew that you had reached a particular criteria then consider it. If you need to be able to demonstrate your language skills for work or study, then you have to take an exam and that you can enrich your life. If you are working in a job (or want to work in a job) where having language skills would give you an advantage, then you may well want to have an objective grading of your skills that you can put on your CV (resume).
If learning languages is your hobby, then the enrichment in your life will come from the goals that you set for yourself. In my opinion it is far better to set yourself meaningful targets that mean something to you rather than shooting for an objective standard of your learning.
Back when I was learning Spanish I actually took a DELE exam. I didn’t really need to, I was just curious (and we were encouraged to do so in our Spanish class). In my experience, it was worth it.
During the several weeks of preparation before the test I significantly improved my Spanish. It was one of the biggest language learning boosts I had. I brushed up my grammar, reduced mistakes in the areas I had problems with, increased my vocab on a variety of topics, improved my writing, and hugely improved my listening comprehension (which at the time was my weakest spot and biggest concern).
So I’d say, if you can spare time and money - go for it. It will shake up your learning routine a bit and in the end will help you improve. And it does give you an idea of where you at and what are your weak spots. However I would advise against taking levels A1-A2, I think they’re too easy to be a challenge and practically useless in any other aspect. (Also, you probably won’t need a C2 test unless you’re an interpreter or a language teacher)
On the other hand, lack of a DELE certificate doesn’t mean your language knowledge is worth less then that of a person who has it.