Don’t take it from me. Here is a reddit post made recently.

J’étudie le français depuis 11 ans maintenant et je le parle couramment comme un natif. Mais quand j’ai passé le test CECR, le résultat était seulement B2. Est-ce normal ? Parce que je pense que je suis excellente en français.


I’ve been studying French for 11 years and now speak fluently like a native. But when I take a CECR test, I only achieve a B2. Is it normal? I ask because I believe that I am excellent at French.


You need to know a couple of things. You need to know that someone who comes out of university with a degree in French has lots of lovely grammar knowledge – very arcane, the higher levels of which are largely pointless and a vocabulary of between 6 and 10,000 words. A native speaker on the other hand of the same educational level will have a vocabulary of between 20-30,000 words. On top of this they will have a lot of slang, idioms and subtle nuances in the use of that language. The B2 level is really the “A” level level in England. Not even a degree. In fact 3 years of full time study short of degree level.

I took a similar test in English not so long ago (my native language) and only achieved a B2. Why? Because despite being well-educated and highly articulate and having gone to a grammar school, I don’t apparently know these subtle twists of grammar that these examining boards insist of checking. In fact I also failed to select the correct definition of the word “cabin” from four definitions none of which seemed particularly correct to me – yet anyone coming out of a degree programme in English would be incredibly happy to have my command of English or yours if you are a native speaker.

To create a language test in English in which I only earn a B2 is fine, if that is what you want to do and that is what you want to test. But let us not pretend that these tests test English ability and of value in assessing the ability to use a language effectively – which is, naturally enough, what most people outside of the field believe and tragically some within the field.


What the above shows is that the exam system has become a specialised industry that does not serve the communications desires of its audience but servers mostly itself. In other words, you can be fantastically good at speaking a language (native speaker or native speaker ability) and NOT do well in their tests and you can do very well at those exams and still not have very much ability in a language. It is simply self-serving none sense which is why we recommend to our clients that if you do not need to take a language exam there are better ways to test your ability and better curricula to follow.

I wonder when people will realise that the language learning emperor (universities) don’t do a very good job, don’t have a very good curriculum, do charge a great deal for something you can do very cheaply for yourself and have become a self-serving industry whose role it is to produce academics so that more academics may be produced and the organism continues its existence meanwhile treating the vast majority of their students as cannon fodder.