English level B1 is the third level of English in the Common European Framework of Reference, a definition of different language levels written by the Council of Europe. In everyday speech, this level would be called “intermediate”, and indeed, that is the official level descriptor in the CEFR. At this level, students are beyond the basics but they are still not able to work or study exclusively in English.What can you do with a B1 level in English?

At this level you can understand:

  • Main points on common topics at work, school, or traveling
  • General and specific details given clear speech
  • Factual texts on subjects of interest

What can you do with a B1 level in English?

A B1 level of English would be sufficient for interactions with English speakers on familiar topics. In the workplace, people at a B1 level of English are able to read simple reports on familiar topics and write simple e-mails on subjects in their field. However, a B1 level is not adequate to function fully in the workplace in English.

According to the official CEFR guidelines, someone at the B1 level in English:

  1. Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
  2. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling
  3. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest.
  4. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

B1 level English skills in detail:

The official can-do statements are broken down into smaller chunks for teaching purposes. This more detailed skill breakdown can help you assess your own English level, or help a teacher assess a student’s level. For example, a student at the B1 level in English will be able to do all the things that a student in level A2 can do, and in addition he will be able to:

  1. discuss your personal and professional hopes and dreams for the future.
  2. arrange a job interview and interview for a job in your area of expertise.
  3. talk about your television viewing habits and favorite programs.
  4. describe your education and your plans for future training.
  5. talk about your favorite music and music trends and plan a night out to listen to live music.
  6. talk about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and give and get advice about healthy habits.
  7. talk about relationships and dating, including meeting people through social media.
  8. go to a restaurant, order food, engage in polite dinner conversation and pay for your food.
  9. participate in negotiations in your area of expertise, if you have help understanding some points.
  10. Discuss workplace safety issues, report an injury and explain rules and regulations.
  11. discuss polite behavior and respond appropriately to impolite behavior.

Although progress will depend on the type of course and the individual student, students can expect to reach the B1 level in English with 400 hours of cumulative instruction.

Practicing Intermediate English

Intermediate and upper intermediate students have a stronger understanding of more specific or concrete topics than beginners, but there is lots of work to do before you’ll be able to express feelings and understand more complex thoughts. At the intermediate and upper-intermediate levels, you have made great progress with your English, and you may be considering working in an English-speaking setting. But as with any learning process, practice is very important for upper intermediate students who want to be more advanced.

Your goal as an intermediate learner is to surround yourself with English, especially focusing on topics you are interested in or areas that you are planning to work in. Here are some strategies for continuing your English practice even as you reach the upper intermediate level:

Change the settings to English on your email and social media accounts as well as other devices such as your phone. This will force you to use English constantly, without having to make a choice.

Read as much as possible in English especially about subjects you’re interested in. A good place to start is by reading a series for young adults, or the day-to-day news in a newspaper. These should be accessible to upper-intermediate students, although you’ll have to look some words up. If you are studying or working in international finance, start reading the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal in English. Take notes and plan to discuss your opinion or thoughts on the pieces you’re reading.

Listen to audiobooks and podcasts that are of interest to you or within your field of expertise. Pause to note any words or phrases that you do not understand, and especially tune in to the tone of voice and emphasis on certain words. Some books and podcasts are more accessible to intermediate level students than others. News podcasts and young-adult fiction will be easier to understand than comedy, for example.

Have fun with it – go to karaoke! Learn the lyrics to your favorite English-speaking songs and sing out loud to a crowd. It’s easy to find lyrics to any song online.

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