For many professionals in the field of education, the Common European Framework of Reference is not really as accessible as a teaching resource or work of reference could or should be. It is just a large, blue book with around 250 pages of dense, unforgiving metalanguage, charts and diagrams. For some people, the ‘European’ tag is confusing. For others, it is an assumption that the CEFR aims to prescribe and define how languages should be learned and taught by listing a number of homogenised ‘standards’.
The CEFR Web Conference is an opportunity to dispel such myths and to share ideas on how the CEFR can be used effectively in all classrooms across all continents. In reality, the CEFR for example was not created in order to impose strict standards. Instead, it was developed by the Council of Europe to provide a mechanism for the mutual recognition of qualifications and to describe (not prescribe), on the basis of six levels of proficiency, the knowledge and skills that enable users of a language to communicate effectively with each other.
There were additional social objectives : developing open-mindedness among European citizens ; encouraging co-operation and mutual respect for different cultures ; promoting autonomy and responsibility. But overall, the result is a practical document that can be used by all language educators to develop syllabuses and courses, design language tests and to provide a foundation for supporting language learning and enhancing language learning awareness with the help of Language Portfolios (http://elp-implementation.ecml.at/).
Over the two days of the CEFR Web Conference, participants and presenters discussed how to use the CEFR to design courses and tests and how to use it to promote the teaching and learning of languages, not least to answer the fundamental question : What does it mean to learn a language ?
The inaugural CEFR Web Conference, 28-29 March 2014 closed its virtual doors with a record number of attendants.