Translators, interpreters, teachers, academics and other language professionals for whom using two or more languages interchangeably is the core of their job will usually be expected to demonstrate very high and effective Professional Level proficiency (at least C1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages or CEFR below).
Some business people, professionals or those working in government - including diplomats and members of the Armed Forces - may require the two highest ‘Proficient User’ levels of linguistic ability (C1 and C2) particularly the skills of listening, speaking and reading.
However, many people also use languages in a working context, as a part or enabler of their job in business, the professions and government; typically to work/liaise with international partners, stakeholders, customers, subsidiaries etc. For people liaising with international customers, suppliers and officials, supporting inbound and outbound delegations and taking up international assignments or postings (and for whom translation and interpreting is not part of their role) CEFR ‘Independent User’ can be a useful level of linguistic competence, which will only improve over time and become more valuable and advantageous with use.
Those using languages as part or an enabler of their work, may make significant positive contributions to their organisations as ‘career linguists’ via regular or periodic interventions. Both individuals and organisations would, therefore, be well advised to recognise and formally capture B1 and B2 level language skills as a linguistic resource which is worth recording, developing and deploying; hence the Chartered Institute of Linguists also setting out this Working Level framework.
Basic to Independent Level
Many people with basic and intermediate language skills hesitate to use their languages in a working or social context. Even though quite capable of some useful ‘communicative’ use of language, many people with school and university level skills, and even those with considerable community and heritage language skills, often choose not to volunteer them even as a part or enabler of their jobs.
There are many roles in business, the professions and government, which involve working and liaising with international customers, partners, stakeholders, subsidiaries, etc. For people who work with international customers, suppliers and officials even a modest level of language ability can make a real difference to relationships, trust and ongoing engagement. The same is also true for those working in public services which have a duty to engage with all language communities.
It is important, however, to recognise and acknowledge linguistic limitations, not to put people in difficult situations or set them up to fail; and to recognise the scale of risk depending on context. This is why people and organisations also need to recognise when the stakes are such that they need to use properly qualified linguists.
Both individuals and organisations would, therefore, be well advised to recognise and understand the different levels of independent and basic language skills as set out in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and other frameworks of reference as in the document below. Understanding these enables different people’s skill levels to be better articulated, and their uses and limits as a linguistic resource also to be better understood.
CIOL Guide to International Language Standards
Click on the image for our short guide to international language standards:
Frameworks of Reference
Frameworks of reference like the CEFR are important to unlocking language use by individuals, and within organisations; hence the Chartered Institute of Linguists setting out this overarching framework which captures the CEFR and other widely used international scales, as they apply to linguists at all levels.
CIOL Individual Language Level Frameworks