Changes to the CEFR Framework – Language Learning & Identity in a Digital Era

changes to the CEFR framework

As changes to the CEFR Framework occur this year, this quote by Benjamin Lee Whorf comes to mind, ”Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.”

Indeed, the language you speak influences your identity – how you see the world.

The CEFR Framework – A common standard for languages

As digital communication continues to connect us to more people around the world, we begin to realize just how important our language abilities are for us to communicate effectively.

One effect of globalization for many industries is the introduction of more culturally diverse workforces in many places. The increase in sharing of information is only as effective as people’s ability to formulate their goals. Due to this, it only makes sense to implement a certain standard to language exchange to understand and evaluate how we utilize language.

This European-established standard is known as the CEFR, or the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

In this article, we will discuss how recent changes to the CEFR have altered the way we view the framework, as well as how we identify with languages. In addition, we have spoken with Professor Dr. Berndt Rüschoff, Senior Professor at the Institute for Anglophone Studies at Duisburg-Essen University who has offered his insights and solutions on successfully applying the CEFR framework in the workplace.

What is the CEFR Framework?

The CEFR Framework, or the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is an international standard for assessing, measuring and validating language abilities. It is the most widely used and recognized language standard and proficiency scale worldwide.

The Framework’s goal is to ensure the highest quality standard of language learning, teaching and assessment for all.

The CEFR is just one of many major initiatives in the language field by the Council of Europe as a means to increase international relations and to promote lifelong learning through language education.

You will typically find six levels within the CEFR, which are A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. With these levels, a student can easily demonstrate their language ability in around 40 different languages.

Having a concrete level assigned to one’s language ability is a secure way to quickly evaluate one’s practical language skills. But what it may not account for is how this person’s language ability is integrated with their identity.

CEFR Descriptors for Online Interaction and Digital Tools in the Language Classroom

As most of us know, there have been many debates on how to best make use of digital technologies in the language classroom. In recent years, we see that the digital approach for learning a second language is becoming more accepted, given that the materials used, and activities undertaken in the classroom need to be firmly rooted in real-world contexts.

The fact of the matter is, the normalization of digital tools not only consumes our social and personal life but also how we communicate with each other- therefore extending to language.

The CEFR – seeing learners as social agents, competence orientation together with an action-oriented approach amongst its benchmarks – has developed a clearly defined set of descriptors for competences needed in today’s digital environment. As action-oriented language learning settings are very much focused on real-world relevance, mediation is now seen as one of the key modes of responsible and effective communication. Thus, digital tools are seen as an essential ingredient in language education.

changes to CEFR framework and multilingualism

Most recent changes to the CEFR Framework

The idea that language influences identity is something that Prof. Dr. Bernd Rüschoff discussed at our Speexx Exchange conference.

He gave an overview of the recent changes to the CEFR Framework 2020 and how the CEFR is now markedly addressing the difference between “plurilingual” versus “multilingual” concepts. 

With these changes to the CEFR Framework, Dr. Rüschoff argued the CEFR is signaling to the language community that plurilingualism is a good thing, something to embrace. We all, according to the new Framework, have a plurilingual repertoire that might actually be very useful in a language classroom – allowing ourselves and our fellow learners to be exposed to and benefit from different ways of approaching or speaking a language. 

“We are more aware of how language impacts each of us when communicating in the real world.” – Prof. Dr. Bernd Rüschoff 

No more ”native speaker” concept

Also during his talk at Exchange, Prof. Dr. Rüschoff explained that the CEFR Framework is deconstructing the idea of the “native speaker” – “nativeness” is now a thing of the past. This is another good p