The authors of this webpage say that, typically, 60-80 hours of English language instruction is needed to reach a CEFR A1 level, and they list some skills. Some of the skills in that list that I think are the more difficult in that list are:

  • talk simply about family and colleagues, describing their appearance and personalities.
  • discuss clothing at a basic level and ask salesclerks simple questions about it.
  • talk in general terms about his health and describe common medical symptoms to a doctor.
  • discuss common products, make basic purchases and return faulty items.

(I bolded parts of the quotation for emphasis).

These don't seem like easy things to learn in 60-80 hours of instruction! Talking about personalities seems difficult! ("My cousin Harry is quick to anger. Whenever anything minor goes wrong, he starts yelling" is not easy to say!). Vocabulary seems specialized, such as: vocabulary relating to medical symptoms, vocabulary related to clothing ("This shirt is too tight", "Is the fabric of this shirt durable?") or possibly-required vocabulary for all the various products (computers, radios, toys, cars, dishwashers...).

Similarly, the following comes from another webpage from the same company, for skills that someone at an A2 should be able to do; the website says that a total of only 200 hours of instruction is typically sufficient to reach this level:

  • evaluate coworkers' performance in the workplace.
  • talk about the natural world and travels to see animals and natural areas in your country.
  • describe an accident or injury, get medical help from a doctor and fill a prescription for medicine.
  • understand and make basic business proposals in your area of expertise.
  • talk about and explain the rules of games.

These abilities seem very difficult! Talking about the natural world requires specialized vocabulary. Explaining rules of a game requires tricky conditional sentences (eg "If you land on this spot, then you go to jail, unless you're a police officer. In that case, ..."). And evaluating work performance or making business proposals are high-stress events that seem to need very agile and socially-sensitive language skills -- I don't think I could easily do these things in English, much less my target language!

Are these skills listed really reflective of expectations of the A1 and A2 levels, according to the CEFR?


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