How to use the European Language Portfolio to improve your language skills

When I taught at secondary school, the students were working towards GCSE level and since self employment I have worked with many students who were preparing for their GCSE or A-Level exams. While teaching at evening classes at college we used ‘Language Ladder Stages’ and if you didn’t go to school in England, you probably learned towards other qualifications.

So how can you tell somebody from a different country how good your German is? Even when you’re not interested in taking exams?

Enter the European Language Portfolio.

The European Language Portfolio (ELP) is a personal portfolio designed to help language learners track their progress and reflect on their learning. It is a tool for self-assessment, and it can also be used to demonstrate language skills to potential employers, educational institutions, or other organisations.

The ELP is divided into four sections:

  • Language passport: This section includes basic information about the learner, such as their name, age, language learning goals, and previous language learning experiences.
  • Language biography: This section is a personal reflection on the learner’s language learning journey. It can include stories, anecdotes, and reflections on the challenges and successes of learning a new language.
  • Evidence of language use: This section includes samples of the learner’s language work, such as essays, presentations, conversations or exam results.
  • Self-assessment grids: These grids allow learners to assess their own language skills in a variety of areas.

There are 6 levels, from A1 to C2 and they cover all four skills, reading, writing, listening and speaking, but speaking is divided into two: spoken interaction (think ‘conversation’) and spoken production (think ‘presentation’).

The following gives you an idea about the different levels.

LevelSkillsSample ideas
A1ListeningI can understand simple greeting and questions about myself.
ReadingI can pick out familiar names, words and phrases in a very short text.
Spoken interactionI can use basic greetings and courtesy phrases, like bitte, danke, wie geht’s, mein Name ist …
Spoken productionI can introduce myself and say what I do very briefly and simply using set phrases.
WritingI can write a greeting card or simple postcard.
A2ListeningI can understand the topic of conversation if people speak slowly and clearly.
ReadingI can understand short simple messages and texts containing basic everyday vocabulary.
Spoken interactionI can give or follow instructions, e.g. explain how to get somewhere or how to do something.
Spoken productionI can give short simple descriptions of events or tell a simple story.
WritingI can write very short basic descriptions of events and activities.
B1ListeningI can understand the main points of a conversation in clear standard speech.
ReadingI can read straightforward factual texts on subjects related to my interests or work.
Spoken interactionI can handle most practical tasks in everyday situations, e.g. making telephone enquieries, asking for a refund, negotiating a purchase.
Spoken productionI can explain and give reasons for my plans, intentions and actions.
WritingI can write my CV in summary form.
B2ListeningI can understand standard spoken language on familiar & unfamiliar topics in everyday situations.
ReadingI can understand in detail texts directly related to my specialist personal or work interests.
Spoken interactionI can exchange detailed factual information on matters related to my study, work or interests.
Spoken productionIf I do not know a word or expression I can find another way of saying what I mean.
WritingI can write a short review of a film, play or book.
C1ListeningI can follow mosts tasks, discussions and debates related to my area of work or study with relative ease.
ReadingI can read contemporary literary texts with ease.
Spoken interactionI can join in most lively conversations with several fast speakers, even if the subject is not familiar.
Spoken productionI can give clear detailed descriptions of complex subjects in my area of work, study or special interest.
WritingI can write accurate formal letters that I could confidently send, without getting another person to check the language.
C2ListeningI have no difficulty in understanding any kind of spoken language provided I have some time to get familiar with the accent.
ReadingI can understand complex factual documents such as technical manuals and legal contracts.
Spoken interactionI can express myself naturally and effortlessly; I need only to pause occasionally in order to select precisely the right words.
Spoken productionI can present a complex topic confidently and articulately to an audience unfamiliar with it, structuring and adapting the talk flexibly to meet the audience’s needs.
WritingI can write a well-written review of a paper or a project giving reasosn for my opinion.

You can get more information on the ELP website, but I struggle each time to find the downloadable PDF. To save you from searching, here is the link to the Language Portfolio. This is such a great way to see where your language learning is (no matter which language you are learning).

A simpler version is here, which you can fill in digitally (so no printing involved): Language Passport

I love the Language Portfolio as it allows you to fill in so much more than just some exams results. And once you’ve filled in in and if you then see an online exercise or find a textbook naming a level, for example B1, you’ll have a far better idea if it is suitable for you or not.

If you are serious about learning a new language, the ELP is a tool that you should definitely consider using. What do you think?

Do you need help reaching your goal of German fluency? I can help you. Message me

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