Modern Language Skills

CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages)

The specification of C1 or C2 above refers to CEFR, a standard for defining levels of proficiency in foreign languages. CEFR describes six levels, with C1 and C2 being the two highest. In my experience, levels below C1 do not allow one to understand the details of a text. This is why I don't claim to be able to handle a language if my CEFR level is below C1. Furthermore, people tend to overrate their language proficiency. Standardized language tests provide an excellent reality check, though. While it is easy to find language tests for the most popular languages such as English, French, Italian, or Spanish, this can be difficult for less learned languages. An excellent place to search for language tests is ALTE, the Association of Language Testing in Europe.

How to quickly acquire proficiency in a foreign language

The first thing to know is that there is no magic formula. At the end of the day, it boils down to hard work. That said, there are indeed approaches which can save enormous amounts of time. First off, I'm skeptical about courses. You need to attend, which means you have to go there and return, which costs precious time. I can't think of any reason why one would need an expert to explain the most basic rules of a language. For that, a good self-learning course will do. I usually start with Assimil. Note that less frequently learned languages are available in French only, so for these you will need to know French. When I'm through with this course, I start reading books and note down every (every!) word I don't know. I learn these words by heart when I travel with public transport or have to wait, i.e. I don't waste precious work time. After several months, there are few words left you need to check when reading. Listening comprehension can be achieved through subtitled YouTube videos. Active language usage comes last. For that, you either need a paid teacher or a tandem. But if your vocabulary is already very comprehensive, it will be easy to attain competence in expression.