Lovely community, what's the difference between the advanced and the proficient levels of English (or any other European language)?

I have calculated the cumulative hours of my language learning: it is approximately 1120 hours (self-study included!), which is, technically, equivalent to the C2 level. I understand it's just my narrow-minded calculation, yet I cannot say whether I have achieved this high level or not.

Could you explain some descriptors to me, when you can say: this one is advanced, and this one is proficient-only?

Thanks in advance!

2 Answers 2


You can find the definitions and a self-assesment grid at Council of Europe's website: https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/level-descriptions

See the website for the definitions in other languages.


  • C2 Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.
  • C1 Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.


Too lengthy to quote here; see https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/table-2-cefr-3.3-common-reference-levels-self-assessment-grid

Spoken language use

Too lengthy to quote; see https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/table-3-cefr-3.3-common-reference-levels-qualitative-aspects-of-spoken-language-use

Proficiency and hours

In particular, none of the definitions cares about the number of hours you have studied something. The results count, not the effort. Both C1 and C2 are advanced levels that allow university studies in the language. A levels indicate a beginner level skill (manages in easy and limited situations), while B is intermediate (manages in everyday life).

Note that reading, writing, speaking and listening might advance at different paces. While I can read academic French in my own field of research, I can not do anything in the other aspects of the skill. I understand there are people with verbal proficiency in Japanese, but very limited reading and writing abilities.

  • Thanks, Tommi! That's a genuinely fundamental answer. From your personal experience, is there such a noticeable difference between these two proficient levels? Apr 21, 2020 at 13:37
  • @AndrewBumetsov I can not answer from personal experience. I think it is more meaningful to consider what I can and can not do, while the proficiency levels are mostly meaningful as a shorthand for communication.
    – Tommi
    Apr 21, 2020 at 14:46
  • Oh, yeah! That's more important Apr 21, 2020 at 14:48

I would characterize a C2 has someone who has a "complete," but not "perfect" command of a language. That s/he knows most of what an educated native speaker would know, but will make occasional mistakes of accent, grammar, or idiom that will mark one as a non-native speaker. In the language of chess or other games, I would call this person a "master," with a native speaker being a "grandmaster."

A C1 is someone who knows "more than most" non-natives, and would be considered an "expert" in the language, but without the full mastery of a C2.

To finish the grid, a B2 is someone who shows "some" expertise and is "skillful," (e.g. a class A player), a B1 is an "intermediate," neither beginner nor expert (class B) player, and A1s and A2s are rank beginners and advanced beginners respectively (class C and lower).

  • Tom, thanks for such a figurative explanation! Food for thought :) Apr 21, 2020 at 13:35

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