Did you happen to have similar conversation with your colleagues? Sooner or later you would. And then: “Houston, we’ve got a problem!” What is obvious for the military personnel, it might not be for the civilians. Let’s analyze the military exams equivalents, available on the market.
International classification of language levels
European Union has set up some language proficiency standards. The scale of your proficiency is organized in a table know as Common European Framework of Reference for Languages shortly called CEFR. This internationally recognizable scale distinguishes 6 basic levels of language proficiency starting from A1 up to C2. Being strictly a European classification, it is applied to all exams sit in Europe. Other countries from outside Europe very often endorse and adhere to this classification too. It is simply very convenient to have some standards with no need to invent your own scale. Nevertheless, you will find plethora of official exams with its own level indication, which may vary in description. Even though they fall in one of the categories listed in CEFR. The tricky point is: where exactly we should place them on that scale!
Stanag6001 exams vs. CEFR
It was attempted a long time ago to relate NATO language standards to those included in CEFR. Why? Simply becuase all standards should be comparable or “translatable” into the other ones. It helps the military personnel to relate their language proficiency levels to the civilian society settings. Without official relation between these two there is no easy way to gain a civilian recognition of military qualifications and vice versa. You will not serve in the army forever. Sonner or later, retired soldiers may want to apply for posts in civilian organizations. Then, you would be required to prove your linguistic competencies in any foreign languages required for the desired job.
That task of translating Stanag6001 standards into CEFR is not that easy. Firstly, it would require practical testing of some students according to both scales and different exam models. It is a practical (empirical) approach but requires a testing group willing to sit different exams just for the sake of tests itself. Secondly, when you want to launch such a research you need time, personnel and money behind. And it was done, at least once!
Bureau for International Language Co-ordination (BILC), founded in 1966, is a NATO agency which did it! The results of tests were even oficially presented at the BILC Conference held in May, 2010, in Istanbul, Turkey. The drawback of their tests is that they could place students’ results obtained through BILC/BAT (Benchmark Advisory Test) and LTRP (Leipzig Test of Reading Proficiency) on the CEFR scale with a certain probability only.
Since their results were not explicit, they proposed a tentative relation of two scales:
- A1 (CEFR scale) –> 0 or 1 (mostly 1) (Stanag6001 scale)
- A2 –> 1, 1+ or 2 (mostly 1)
- B1 –> 1+ or 2 (mostly 2)
- B2 –> 2, 2+ or 3 (mostly 2)
- C1 –> 2, 2+ or 3 (mostly 3)
Common scale or common framework?
It is still fluid how to translate different certificates into one, common scale. And most probably, it will never be done! Even CEFR itself does not aim at defining such a scale. CEFR is just a common framework, meant for guiding teachers and students. It’s not science, so it won’t be precise!
Since we cannot have a simply one, measurable scale, each country or organization develops its own language levels and certificates which are compliant with CEFR or NATO Stanag6001 frameworks. Your country policy regarding languages is a result of some authoritarian decision or gentlemen’s agreement rather than an outcome of a serious research and calculations. That is why Stanag6001 compliance with other exams should be considered in each country or organization seperately. They may vary!
Stanag6001 certificates in Spain
Generally, it is assumed that students in Spain should take different exams and their results can be translatable (validated) into the proper level according to Stanag6001. It is absolutely necessary when e.g. a candidate for a military post in one of NATO HQs has to comply with the requirements listed in his/her future job description. The Spanish can issue then a Stanag6001 certificate basing on your score from other exam you took.
This is how the other tests results are officially converted (source: Boletin Oficial del Ministerio de Defensa, num. 211, lunes, 29 de octubre de 2012) depending on the type of exam:
- Integrated Skills in English (ISE) by Trinity College London (TCE-ESOL):
- ISE II –> SLP 1111 (if two blocks “passed with merit” or “distinction”)
- ISE III –> SLP 2222 (as above)
- ISE IV –> SLP 3333 (as above)
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS):
- SLP 1111, when 5.5 points are obtained in at least one of the productive and receptive skills and when for the remaining two skills you gained at least 6 point together
- SLP 2222 – the same rules as above with 6.0 pts and 6.5 pts respectively
- SLP 3333, when at least 6.5 points were earned for each skill.
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL – IBT):
- Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC):
- SLP 1111, when minimum the following number of points was obtained:
- listening – 275 pts
- reading – 275 pts
- speaking – 120 pts
- writing – 120 pts
- SLP 2222, when minimum the following number of points was obtained:
- listening – 400 pts
- reading – 385 pts
- speaking – 160 pts
- writing – 150 pts
- SLP 3333, when minimum the following number of points was obtained:
- listening – 468 pts
- reading – 438 pts
- speaking – 178 pts
- writing – 174 pts
- SLP 1111, when minimum the following number of points was obtained:
- University of Cambridge exams (Cambridge-ESOL):
- SLP 2222, if you passed CAE with “C” grade or FCE with “A” grade
- SLP 3333, if you passed CPE with “A”, “B” or “C” grade, or CAE with “A” or “B”
Unfortunately, the Polish MoD did not manage to develop the proper table which could be relevant for different certificates validation. But we can find some hints in the Ministry of External Affairs. The civil servants from that Ministry, while applying for posts abroad are required to have a language competency manifested either by CEFR level or Stanag6001 level.
Despite their own examinations, some other exams certificates can be validated, to include Stanag6001 exams. Shortly speaking, any civil servant must possess SLP3333 which is considered to be C1 equivalent, or SLP4444 which is regarded as C2 equivalent. Lower levels are not even mentioned because lower levels of your language proficiency does not qualify you to be posted abroad.
I hope that this analysis clarified a bit on possible validation of your language certificates. Regardless of the complexity of a language level verification, I proved that some attempts have already been done by multiple organizations/governmental bodies. No matter whether you are a former military trying to hit the civil market or a civilian seeking your skills recognition within military environment. This summary could serve you as a starting point to claim the recognition of your skills and competencies.
I hope you will share with us your own experience – your home country regulations and mechanisms.