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C1 CEFR Level | What Does It Mean?

If you want to reach the C1 level in your target language, I genuinely applaud you. It’s incredibly difficult for most people to keep studying a language for this long, but you’ve got this!

In this article, we’re going to go over what the C1 level entails, how to get there, and where you can test your skills and even receive certificates proving your level.

Are you ready to go from fluent (B2) to advanced (C1)? These are my tips as someone who has reached the C1 level in Spanish and is working on getting there in French. ¡Vamos!

man flexing muscles and a title that says "C1 CEFR LEVEL"

What Is The C1 CEFR Level?

The C1 CEFR level, as defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, signifies an advanced stage of language proficiency.

At this level, language learners can engage in fluent and spontaneous conversations, understand complex spoken and written content, and express themselves well in both speaking and writing.

A learner with a C1 level possesses a broad vocabulary, including idiomatic expressions, and has a strong grasp of complex grammatical structures.

Reaching the C1 level indicates a high degree of language proficiency, enabling individuals to use the language effectively in academic, professional, and social contexts.

It's a significant achievement in language learning, representing advanced proficiency. The only level which is higher than the advanced C1 is the “native-like” C2.

How Many Words Are Needed To Reach C1?

While there is no “set number of words” that will determine our level, there do exist consistent and somewhat accurate guesses. It’s estimated that to reach the C1 level one must have an active vocabulary of 5,000 words and a passive vocabulary of 10,000.

How Many Study Hours Are Needed To Reach C1?

According to Cambridge English, it is estimated that one should study between 700-800 hours to reach the C1 level in English. While this is just an example for English, it gives a good view of what it takes, as most romance languages will take just about the same amount of time.

man saying "For these results, you need to study for about 700-800 hours and learn/acquire a total of 10,000 words! "

Is C1 Advanced or Native?

C1 is considered an advanced level, whereas C2 is referred to as a near-native level. The difference is found in the subtleties of the language. For example, understanding jokes and being able to use expressions that relate to culture, or a grander context than is found within the phrases being used.

The Difference Between B2 & C1 Level

B2 is considered high-intermediate, or the first level of “fluency.” The difference between B2 and C1 is that a C1 speaker should never have trouble understanding or being understood in conversation.

A C1 speaker also can understand and use more colloquialisms and native expressions with ease. While a B2 level allows us to interact with and enjoy a culture, a C1 level allows us to be integrated into the culture.

How To Reach The C1 Level

Reaching the C1 level is difficult and requires hundreds of hours of study time and thousands of hours of listening and interacting with the language.

While some methods can help you be efficient in your journey to reaching C1, it really comes down to immersion and getting as much contact with the language as you can.

Below are some specific methods you can use to get to the C1 level in your target language.

Language Immersion: At Home or Abroad

Language immersion is extremely important if we want to move from a B2 to a C1 level. This can mean traveling to a different country, or just listening to many podcasts daily.

I personally listen to music (only) in my target language, I listen to a podcast/documentary, and I read a chapter of a college-level book daily.

Along with daily conversations with native speakers and these other methods, I have been able to go from B2 to C1 in Spanish without any real “studying.”

Read, Read, Listen, Watch

When giving this immersion method a go, try and keep the language around you as often as possible. For example, here is how my day looks (when I’m not studying).

  1. Wake up, listen to a podcast in target language as I make coffee

  2. Drink coffee and write an article outline while listening to music (in my target language)

  3. **Writing article in silence***

  4. Edit article with podcast in target language playing in the background

  5. **Studying target language**

  6. Cook lunch & dinner while watching a documentary in target language

  7. Read a chapter of a book in my target language

  8. **Enjoy the evening with little to no target language exposure**

  9. Go to sleep listening to a podcast in my target language

Do you see why I am able to acquire a language at a decent pace? The best part is, that these immersion techniques don’t disturb my day in any way, once you create the habits it's natural.

Use A Program Like Busuu

I personally have used just about every language-learning app that one can find, and Busuu has taken the cake in just about every way.

If you want to learn more about Busuu, click here, but to summarize, it is a more intense curriculum, the course is broken up into the CEFR levels so we can specifically choose to learn C1 material, and you can get certified in your level!

Write A Daily Journal

Keep a daily journal and try to use some of the new vocabulary that you learn while reading books, for example.

Hell, you can even try and write articles or stories in your target language, why not, right? Whether you like Dr. Jordan Peterson or not, we all have to admit he is a good speaker.

The advice Peterson gives to become a better speaker is (and I’m paraphrasing) “Learn to write better and you will improve your ability to articulate ideas.”

man saying "To reach C1, stay immersed in books, movies, podcasts, music, etc - and think about taking a trip to where the language is spoken"

C1 Vocabulary & Expression Examples

Below are some examples of C1 English expressions and words. By looking at these, it should help us better understand what the C1 level should look like in practice:

C1 Vocabulary Examples

Ubiquitous - Present or found everywhere.

Meticulous - Showing great attention to detail and precision.

Alleviate - To make a problem or suffering less severe.

Resilient - Capable of recovering quickly from difficult conditions.

Eloquent - Fluent and persuasive in speaking or writing.

Prolific - Producing many works, results, or offspring.

Facetious - Treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humor.

C1 Expression Examples

In a nutshell - To summarize something briefly.

On the contrary - To express a contrasting or opposite idea.

To some extent - To a certain degree or partially.

In the long run - Over an extended period of time.

With all due respect - Used to disagree politely or criticize respectfully.

All things considered - After weighing all factors.

It goes without saying - Something is obvious and doesn't need to be mentioned.

To a certain extent - To some degree, partially.

In the blink of an eye - Very quickly or instantaneously.

In the grand scheme of things - Considering the overall context or perspective.

For the most part - Generally, in most cases.

At the drop of a hat - Immediately or without delay.

To make matters worse - To exacerbate a situation.

C1 CEFR Tests

If you’re looking for a free C1 test, check out this website where you’ll be able to test out your abilities if your target language is: English/Spanish/French/& German.

C1 CEFR Certificates

If you are looking to get certified in your target language, you have many options. The easiest ones are Busuu & Lingoda. Both of these platforms will not only teach you the C1 level with well-thought-out content, but they will also certify you as long as you remember what they taught you.

man saying "stay immersed and you’ll reach the c1 level, i believe in you!"

Conclusion: C1 CEFR Level | What it means…

In conclusion, the C1 level is the second highest level in the CEFR and is considered “Advanced.” This means that with this level you can engage in just about any conversation with ease.

The C1 level gives way to understand and use complex vocabulary and expressions and enjoy the language to the fullest extent. If you are looking to reach this level you’ll need to have studied for about 700-800 hours and learned about 10,000 words total.

To get there, use Busuu’s C1 course, immerse yourself in the language as much as possible, and take various tests to track your progress and understand where you’re falling behind.

Check out this article if you’re interested in learning about all of the CEFR levels. Have a wonderful day friend, and remember to continue to Acquire The Language.


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