Phonology still tends not to be taught explicitly, with many teachers lacking confidence as they fear they may not be perceived as providing the ‘correct’ model, and because they may have received little or no specific training. The CEFR 2001 went some way towards starting to address this problem in that the main CEFR text provided a detailed description of aspects of phonology. However, the 2001 CEFR phonology scale gave the impression that progression in proficiency meant becoming more and more like a native speaker, whereas research has shown that intelligibility is far more important to communication than accent.

The new CEFR Phonology scale consists of three subscales: Overall phonological control, intended for those who wish a simple update of the 2001 holistic scale, Sound articulation and Prosody. The scale broadens the scope of phonological competence in comparison to the 2001 scale and removes native-speakerism from it, with the overall aim of providing more explicit support to teachers.

Ideas for implementation


CEFR Companion volume - Updated descriptors - Phonological control (2018: Enrica Piccardo) (16:24)


CEFR Companion volume - Phonological control from section 5.1

Info sheet: Phonological competence

Phonological scale revision process report (2016: Enrica Piccardo)


Evaluating the essentials: the place of prosody in oral production (2018: Dan Frost and Jean O’Donnell)

Developing phonology descriptors for the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) (2017: Enrica Piccardo & Brian North)

Perceiving intelligibility and accentedness in non-native speech: A look at proficiency levels (2014: Bettina Beinhoff)