The CEFR was developed to provide a common basis for the explicit description of objectives, content and methods in second/foreign language education.


  • adopts an action-oriented approach, describing language learning outcomes in terms of language use;
  • has three principal dimensions: language activities, the domains in which they occur, and the competences on which we draw when we engage in them;
  • divides language activities into four kinds: reception (listening and reading), production (spoken and written), interaction (spoken and written), and mediation (translating and interpreting);
  • provides a taxonomic description of four domains of language use – public, personal, educational, professional – for each of which it specifies locations, institutions, persons, objects, events, operations, and texts.

For reception, production, interaction, and some competences the CEFR defines six common reference levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2), using “can do” descriptors to define the learner/user’s proficiency at each level.

The common reference levels provide a basis for comparing second/foreign language curricula, textbooks, courses and exams. Together with the rest of the CEFR’s descriptive apparatus, they can also be used to support the design of curricula, teaching programmes, learning materials, and assessment instruments.

The self-assessment that is a central feature of the ELP provides the essential link between the ELP and the CEFR. Self-assessment is carried out using checklists of “I can” descriptors arranged by language activity and common reference level (language biography) and summarized with reference to the CEFR’s self-assessment grid (language passport).