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Language level, Assessment and Accreditation

All our courses range from Beginners to Advanced level, subject to language and demand. There are no entry pre-requisites for any courses other than credit-bearing courses for students. However, you should choose your level carefully to maximise the benefit from the course.

Studying at too high a level may mean you struggle. Studying at too low a level will mean you will not progress your language ability as far as you could. Our general guide to levels for each course indicates the modes of progression. See individual courses for details of course contents, which will give the best indication of learning outcomes and help you find the best course for you. Self-placement tests are available in some languages and can provide additional information.


All courses will recognise participation with certificates issued by the Centre for Foreign Language Study on behalf of Durham University.

Externally accredited qualifications are currently available through Durham University in:

  • Italian - Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera
  • Spanish - Diploma de EspaƱol como Lengua Extranjera (DELE) awarded by the Instituto Cervantes
  • with arrangements for French and German under negotiation

Similar qualifications in other languages are available, including Chinese (HSK) and Portuguese through Newcastle University.

The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR)

Proficient User C2 Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstruct arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.
  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.
Independent User 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.
  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 that are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
Basic User 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 similar matters in areas of immediate need.
  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.