Before you register for a Spanish language course, it would help to have some sort of idea of your Spanish aptitude level. Most schools conduct tests of their own to place their students at the appropriate levels but it does not hurt to assess where you stand for yourself.
In Europe, there is a standard yard-stick that is used to measure the level of a person’s linguistic capabilities which is called the Common European Framework of Reference for Foreign Languages (CEFR) that was put into place by the Council of Europe.
It is a system that is employed by most European countries as a means of assessing most European languages in terms of learning and teaching. This common guideline makes for better language assessment commonality across Europe and enables a clearer and simpler way to know the actual linguistic level of the person no matter the European language or European country.
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According to the CEFR, there are 6 distinctive aptitude levels of a language summarized in the table below (for detailed information please see this PDF):
A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2.
Most Spanish language schools in Spain offer courses that cater specifically to the preparation for the internationally recognized Spanish language exam – the DELE. A successful taking of this exam will earn you an accredited certificate officially issued by the Ministry of Education in Spain that denotes your Spanish level according to the CEFR.
It is necessary to understand that determining one’s level of Spanish can be very tricky as, in reality, it is a very organic process. A person could have a level B1 level in writing and a level A2 in speaking. Absolutes are not usually a given. Trust the counsel and experience of the educators at your Spanish language school but be sure to consistently assess your progress for yourself personally as you go along.
If the beginner level test was too hard for you, then you are a complete beginner. You have probably never taken a Spanish class is your life! So your level would be A0.
But do not let that discourage you if this is your case. It is often easier and less time consuming to go from a complete beginner to a regular beginner. And the same principle often applies to going from the A levels to the B levels. Where it could get tougher lies in the effort and time required to go from a B level to a C level.
For a more detailed explanation of the 6 levels of CEFR, refer to this PDF below.
One last thing – it is not a race!
It is better to learn well than to learn quickly. I would never discourage anyone from aiming high, but do recognize that often times the minimum level required to study at a university or work in a professional setting is often from the level B1 and above. A very attainable goal! So take your time and do it right.
However, if you are still curious to know approximately how much time it could potentially take you to see progress, try the UniSpain Spanish Fluency Calculator which gives a rough estimate based on certain criteria.