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A1 CEFR Level | What Does It Mean?

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is a standardized framework used to describe language proficiency in various languages, including English.


The CEFR divides language proficiency into several levels, ranging from A1 (beginner) to C2 (proficient). Each level represents a different degree of language competency.


In this article, we’ll be going over the A1 level so that we can better understand what it is, and what is required to reach it.


In the end, I’ll give you some resources to make it through this level as soon as humanly possible!


picture of a chicken hatching with big words that say "A1 CEFR Level"


What Is CEFR Level A1

A1 is the lowest level on the CEFR scale, indicating a very basic level of language proficiency. At the A1 level, a learner typically has a limited vocabulary and can only understand and use simple phrases and expressions.


This level is often associated with beginners who are just starting to learn a language and will not be able to engage in conversations or understand extensive texts.


To provide a better understanding of what A1 proficiency might entail in English, here are a few examples of what a learner at this level might be able to do:

  • Greet and introduce themselves.

  • Ask and answer simple questions about personal information (name, age, nationality).

  • Use basic everyday phrases for ordering food, asking for directions, or making simple requests.

  • Understand and use basic vocabulary related to everyday objects and activities.

  • Construct basic sentences with simple grammar structures.


How Many Words Are Needed To Reach A1?

This number can change from language to language, however, in general one needs between 450-650 words to reach the A1 level.


This means that if you learn/acquire 5 words per day (on average), you’ll reach an A1 vocabulary within 3.5 months.


But don’t let the idea of “memorizing 5 words a day scare you,” if you study for 30 minutes to an hour a day, you’ll reach these goals as long as you’re not only using Duolingo, for example.


How Many Hours Are Needed To Reach A1?

While these numbers cannot be perfect, for the most commonly learned languages (Romance languages) we can assume that it will take between 60-85 hours of learning to reach A1.


This means that if you only study for 30 minutes a day, based on these numbers, you’ll take 4-6 months to reach A1.


Personally, I was able to get from 0-B1 in French in about 5 months just by studying 1.5 hours a day. So how long it takes - is really up to us!


Daily Study Needed

How Long To Reach A1

30 Minutes

​4-6 Months

1 Hour

2-3 Months

2 Hour

1-2 Months



Is CEFR Level A1 Good?

The A1 CEFR level is insufficient for any meaningful interactions, this is due to the lack of comprehension in the written language, and even more so in the spoken language.


An A1 speaker can say things like “Hey, how are you?” however, rarely will they understand the responses unless the native speaker tries as hard as possible to speak slowly and clearly.


How To Reach A1

From my experience learning languages, you have few options at the beginning when it comes to materials to learn from. However, below I have listed the ones that have helped me get out of the beginner stage as quickly as possible.


Apps: Busuu / Duolingo / Language Transfer

During the road to A1, it’s completely acceptable to use apps, even the ones with slow curriculums like Duolingo. This is because it’s hard to find good materials to get us out of this stage that aren’t extremely boring.


In order from the best to the worst, I recommend:

  1. Busuu

  2. Language Transfer

  3. Duolingo


TPRS Videos On YouTube

If you haven’t ever heard of TPRS, it’s a teaching technique known as “Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling.”


When you look up “TPRS [your target language] Videos” you’ll find videos of people with whiteboards, drawing pictures, and telling a basic story in the target language.


This helps us because along with simple vocabulary, and many context clues, we can understand the story in our target language - even if we have a super low level!


Beginner Textbooks

You can also find beginner textbooks to learn with, for example, if you’re learning Spanish I would recommend Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish.


Books like these give us the most important words and phrases first, they teach us a little grammar, and cognates too.


However, do your research before you buy a textbook, as I just bought one for French the other day without researching its contents, and it was below my level and poorly structured.


So… don’t be like me, research the book before buying it, lol.


A1 CEFR Test Example

screenshot of some questions on a CEFR A1 test

As you can see in this photo, some of the questions they ask are looking to gauge if the student truly understands the words/phrases that they are using.


If you are interested in trying a test for yourself click here and you can even try it in English to understand better what they’re testing for.



A1 CEFR Vocabulary And Phrase Examples

To reach the A1 stage there are many beginner words and phrases that one must know. The following list contains some of those which we should make a priority to learn:


A1 Vocabulary Example

  • Good & Bad

  • Delicious & Gross

  • Big & Small

  • Mother & Father

  • To need & To want

  • To speak & To listen

  • To learn & To forget


A1 Phrase Examples

  • How are you?

  • What's your name?

  • Where are you from?

  • My name is…

  • I do… for a living

  • My favorite… is…


A1 Resources For Different Languages:

Russian

Busuu/Duolingo Russian Course & Easy Russian

Chinese

Busuu/Duolingo Chinese Course & Hit Chinese (TPRS YT Channel)

Spanish

Busuu Spanish Course & Dreaming Spanish (Comprehensible Input YT Channel)

French

Busuu French Course & French Comprehensible Input (YT Channel)

Italian

Busuu Italian Course & Italiano Bello (Comprehensible Input YT Channel)

Portuguese

Busuu Course & Teach Yourself Portuguese (Comprehensible Input YT Channel)


Conclusion: A1 CEFR Level | What it means

The A1 level in a foreign language will not bring us much excitement, however, it is the first stepping stone to fluency.


The vocabulary you learn at this stage will stick with you forever and you will probably end up utilizing all of the time when you reach fluency in your target language.


If you are looking to better understand the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) then check out this article where we briefly go over every level from A1 to C2.


Thanks for stopping in at Acquire The Language, have a wonderful day,

~ Ben.


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