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How Long would it take me (a begginer) to learn A Level Standard Spanish?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by GroovyGuzi, Apr 11, 2008.

  1. A-Level corresponds to the Council of Europe's Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) Level B2, according to the DCSF's Languages Ladder:

    There are six CEFR levels, and the estimated Guided Learning Hours, as recommended by the Council of Europe, are:

    A1 = Breakthrough: 90-100 hours
    A2 = Foundation GCSE: 180-200 hours
    B1 = Higher GCSE: 350-400 hours
    B2 = A-Level: 500-600 hours
    C1 = Proficiency: 700-800 hours
    C2 = Mastery: 1000-1200 hours

    The term Guided Learning Hours implies that a teacher plays a key role, either in the classroom or in a tutorial capacity, e.g. on a self-study or distance-learning course. The actual number of hours varies, of course, depending on how gifted a linguist you are, which other languages you have studied before and the exposure you get to the language, e.g. on holidays, talking to native speakers, etc.

    Standards have slipped a bit since I was at school in the 1950s. 600 class-contact hours was the norm in my school reaching O-Level standard in a foreign language.

  2. I should have added that you would need to put in a large number of hours to reach A-Level standard by May 2009. I used to teach adult beginners German on an intensive course at university. They had all passed A-Level in a foreign language other than german. We were able to get almost all of them up to CEFR B1 standard in 25 weeks, with 12 class-contact hours per week, followed by a 3-week Goethe-Institute residential course in Germany.

  3. Hi, I would like to do this too. I am intermediate, Im looking into it at the moment. Where abouts are you. e-mail me on loumarei84@hotmail.com if you want to join forces!!!
  4. FrenchFlower

    FrenchFlower New commenter

    Graham, I am a new user (relatively so) and just read your story regarding your PMP from your wikispaces page. I just wanted to say that whilst I obviously don't know you I am glad that you are well now having fought your battle thus far. It was very interesting to read and I wish you all the best.

    I am about to embark upon my teaching career....I shall be teaching French and German at a lovely girls' school in Kent on the GTP programme from September. I am very excited but quite apprehensive. It is a new thing for me, I have undertaken two degrees...one in French (in Rennes, France for three years) and one english law degree. I am currently studying for my BVC in London, but shall not work as a barrister, as I have discovered that I would really like to teach.

    However, I only possess A Level German, and have not used it for years. THe school want me to take an extension course (which I have applied for and been accepted onto). I note from your posts and wikispace that you have extensive experience in ITT etc. Do you think that this would be enough for me? I need to be able to teach German to KS3. Or should I perhaps enroll in an advanced or some other type of German evening course over the summer?

    Thank you very much in advance. FF x
  5. I have done Spanish at university part time for a year during my degree, and would now like to do an A Level. How would you go about this, as I knoe OU don't do it and my local colleges don't offer A Level, often just beginners classes etc. How are you thinking of doing it?
  6. janemk

    janemk New commenter

    Hi Graham,

    Which bit of the site did you get the recommended hours from? I can't seem to find it, and I have someone starting next week who I think will be a little over-ambitious with his timetable for proficiency! I'd like to show him that!
  7. Thanks, French Flower. I appreciate your good wishes. For the moment I am winning the battle against PMP and feeling fit and well. I have been given the all-clear for a whole year.

    If you wish to boost your German I would strongly advise you to enrol for a Goethe-Institute course, preferably an intensive holiday course in Germany. You'll learn much more while immersed in a German-speaking environment. When I taught German at Ealing College we advised many students to top up their skills in this way. We found the Goethe-Institute courses very effective:

    It depends on where you live if you are seeking a local course.

  8. janemk, it took me a while to find the complete set of Guided Learning Hours. It was easy to find the learning hours recommended for CEFR A2 and B1, which are also known as Waystage and Breakthrough, as they are published in the Council of Europe's booklets for Waystage and Threshold. I have the 1990 editions of each on my bookshelf. The Waystage booklet states 180-200 hours and the Threshold booklet states 375 hours.

    I had to hunt around lots of different publications and websites to find the Guided Learning Hours for the other levels. The recommended number of learning hours for each level used to be specified by the Cambridge TESOL exams board and by ALTE, the Association for Language Testers in Europe, but now the learning hours are split up, depending on the level and mode (Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening) = 100 hours per level per mode.

    I documented what I found in Section 2.2.1 (which focuses on the CEFR) in Module 4.1 (Computer Aided Assessment and Language Learning) at the ICT4LT site:

  9. I should have added that the DCFS and our national exam bodies - unlike Cambridge TESOL - avoid mentioning learning hours. I guess this is out of fear that they would provide MFL teachers with a big stick with which they could beat HoDs and SMTs. But you can work out the hours simply be relating the CEFR levels to our national examinations.

    Proficiency, by the way, is a VERY demanding level. I used to teach English up to Proficiency level in preparation for the Cambridge exams. The students had to be close to native-speaker level in order to gain a good pass. Most of the students had completed their education up to age 18 in France, Germany or Spain and were in their 2nd year at university, studying English. The top level, Mastery, can probably be considered equal to native speaker level.

  10. janemk

    janemk New commenter

    Thanks, Graham. I thought it was me who couldn't find the stuff on the site!

    I know what Cambridge Proficiency is like - I used to teach it too! I used it in this example to describe what my student said he wants to reach in terms of Italian language - he said "almost like his English level", which I reckon equates to "proficiency", in about 2 years. Ahahahaha. They have no idea.
  11. Yes, janemk, so many students - and the public in general - are clueless about the time it takes to reach a respectable standard in a foreign language. Slogans in advertisements for courses that claim you can learn a language in 24 hours don't help our cause.

    Businesses are often impatient too and just want a "quick fix". When I was working at Thames Valley University a business sent us a sales manager who was about to be posted to Moscow. They released him for three weeks to do an intensive course in Russian. He worked hard with the three teachers of Russian, but he only got up to survival level. As one teacher put it, "He will be probably be able to get around on the Metro and buy a ticket for the Bolshoi Ballet".

    Other businesses are more realistic. Thames Valley University was involved in developing language training materials for the Eurostar staff. The Eurostar training management accepted that 600 class-contact hours were appropriate for training the drivers to speak French. The training was delivered in intensive bursts over a period of 20 weeks, finishing with a residential course in Lille. Nice to know, eh? It's a question of safety.

    The course the drivers followed was called "En train de parler".


  12. janemk

    janemk New commenter

    Yes, this is an adult student who needs Italian for work (trading, of all things.) His company are making him do it, which already sets off alarm bells in my head. He actually asked if he would have to do anything outside the lesson or if it would all be done in (a one hour a week) class! When I told him his success would actually depend on how much work he did outside the lesson he "jokingly" accused me of "passing the responsibility over already"! Yes, I said. It's your responsibility. Not mine. I still don't think he has this clear though.

    I used to be DoS of a Business English training company abroad. We had a realistic timetable, and companies accepted that their students would be with us for years. But then again, they weren't British... Most people highly underestimate the time and effort required, and I would even say that unless someone goes to spend a significant amount of time in a country, they will probably never reach the level they have in their heads when they start.
  13. janemk wrote:
    "Most people highly underestimate the time and effort required, and I would even say that unless someone goes to spend a significant amount of time in a country, they will probably never reach the level they have in their heads when they start."

    I couldn't agree more. On one occasion I was called in by a local German-owned business to act as an interpreter for the visiting head of accounts from the German office and the head of accounts at the English branch. The guy at the English branch had an O-Level in German, which his senior manager thought would be adequate for what he had to do. Of course, it was nowhere near the mark. He had to read documents in technical accounting German and liaise with the head office over the phone and meet face-to-face with the German head of accounts at least once a year. At the end of the meeting the German accountant said to me (in German) that the UK was the only country where the language skills of the local employees was not up to scratch. "Even in Mexico", he said, "I can talk with the local head of accounts in German."

    It is lack of time dedicated to foreign languages in schools that is exacerbating the woeful situation in which we find ourselves in the UK. Maybe we should persuade the DCSF to add a column to the Languages Ladder indicating the Guided Learning Hours for each level, i.e. along the lines of the Cambridge ESOL table that I mentioned in an earlier posting.

  14. janemk

    janemk New commenter

    Am laughing at the thought of all those with GCSEs (and probably not even an "A"!) in various languages being employed so they can liaise with their foreign counterparts in their native languages...
  15. I suppose the amount of time taken to learn a language would depend heavily upon the available contact with native speakers.

    Nothing beats spending an extended period in a country totally immersed in a language but that's not practical for everyone. Having access to a native speaker over here would certainly be a huge benefit if they were prepared to practice with you.
  16. Thank you for this information and discussion. One thing I have not been able to find out is whether these guidelines refer to clock hours or academic hours of some kind. I would be grateful if you or anybody else could clarify this.
  17. tortuman

    tortuman New commenter

    Normally in courses they tend to say "contact" hours meaning lesson time, and independent learning hours for your won learning.
    I would not worry too much about the number of hours they say. It is a rough guide. Two people may have studied 1000 hours and be at different levels. It depends what you study, how much you retain... etc.
    Personally, I don´t think you can go from scratch to A level in one year unless you do the language full time, and nothing else. But of course, it all depends so much of your personal capacity for learning and how much you study.
    I was very surprised that they consider B1 as GCSE and B2 as A level. My EAL students who live in England score only B1 or B2 max for English, and their level of English is much better than anybody doing a GCSE or an A level in French or Spanish.
  18. Yes, I was also surprised by this supposed equivalence. I have grade A at 'O' level (yes, I am that old) in three modern languages, and would not regard the level I achieved as anywhere near B1 (I am probably intermediate in two of them now, but only having worked in the countries).

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