Learning the language – knowing your A1 from your C2!

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One of the largest obstacles that Expats face, in Vienna, as well as elsewhere is the language barrier – while many are hired for English-speaking jobs in multinational companies, not being able to speak the local language of the land can make even the most routine of tasks (e.g. shopping, sending and collecting parcels, banking, travel) more difficult than they really are, and of course not being able to communicate in German can have drawbacks in that you find it more difficult to make friends within the local community – essential if you are here for the long haul, especially if you are not living in a cosmopolitan city like Vienna. For some people, e.g. trailing spouses and nationalities e.g. those not speaking another international business language, a lack of proficiency in German can also considerably hamper their prospects with regard to finding a job in Vienna and their prospects for getting particular types of visas and permits necessary for staying in Austria.

Courses are offered widely in Vienna and in many towns and cities in Austria, particularly where there is a high migrant population. A lot of the schools and courses available in Vienna have been discussed by our users in our Learning and Studying in Vienna Forum. Austria, like all EU countries divides language learners by levels on the Common European Framework – and courses at language schools are often offered based on the appropriate levels and divisions. Often prior to courses beginning they conduct tests to try to ensure that people are placed in the correct courses based on their level of linguistic aptitude, although this is not the only key to successful language learning.

A – Basic Speaker
1 Breakthrough or beginner
2 Waystage or elementary

B – Independent Speaker
1 Threshold or intermediate
2 Vantage or upper intermediate

C – Proficient Speaker
1 Effective Operational Proficiency or advanced
2 Mastery or proficiency

Each division and level within the Common European Framework describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing at each level:

A1: Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.

A2: Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

B1: Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

B2: Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.

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.

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 the most complex situations.