Anything that makes language learning easier is a great thing for me. As is anything that takes the hassle out of a job search. And, of course, anything that helps me travel more and worry less. So today, I’m taking the time to celebrate three great European tools – three reasons why if I ever met Europe, I would buy it a nice cold beer. All you language learners, globetrotters and CV-updaters, pay heed.
1. So boring, and yet so useful: the CEFR
CEFR stands for Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Don’t fall asleep just yet, it’s awesome.
You know that comforting feeling when you walk into a fast food chain restaurant thousands of miles away from home and your cheeseburger is almost exactly the same as back home? Or when you order a coffee in the franchise store and you get exactly what you always got, no matter where you are? That’s not bad, sometimes. I remember taking a moment to gather my senses in a McDonald’s in Marrakech, enjoying the fact that everything is familiar.
CEFR is a bit like that, but for any language you learn or teach. It looks at languages through four skills: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. Then it asks lots and lots of questions about what you can actually do with each of those language skills. Finally, based on how these questions are answered, it gives each skill a “band” – from A1 or A2 at the low end, to B1 and B2 at the middle, and C1 and C2 for true language ninjas.
This is important for those who want to know, reliably, what their language is good for. Many foreign language exams are now “tracking” the CEFR bands. And if you then decide to learn another language – or to refresh what you know of the existing ones – you can focus on the “can-do” questions to quickly build a good structure in the language.
CEFR is now widely used outside of the European Union, showing that language learners and teachers know a good thing when they see it.
To read about the theory behind CEFR, follow this link.
To start building your own language passport, click here.
2. Ticket to ride: Interrail
This is one rail ticket to rule them all. I know a few people whose youthful summers were spent on trains and park benches all across Europe, simply because this ticket existed.
This is how it works: you plan your route (or not, you rebel, you). Then you choose your ticket – the cheaper options allow you to get on trains for a number of days within a month, the more hardcore options will let you ride a train every day of the month. Then you’re done! Provided you avoid night trains and stay away from reservations, you don’t need to pay a penny more. You can ride trains all across Europe and travel all you wish.
Interrail works only if you’re an EU citizen. For those from outside Europe, there’s Eurail. Also worth checking out.
Click here to visit the Interrail website.
3. Europass – the CV you’ve always wanted
It’s 2015. You see that cool job you want. You decide to update your CV and spend a whole day finding the text document, fiddling with the layout, exporting to PDF.
It’s 2016. Another cool job. Another CV updating day wasted.
It’s 2017. You know the drill…
Enter Europass. On the face of it, this is just another CV creator online. But what it does is something rather clever.
Europass is a CV format followed by all EU countries. It doesn’t mean that you can’t use other CV styles (although I’ve seen a few companies specifically request a Europass), but it means that this is the recognizable, reliable style.
The creator is painfully simple, taking you through the CV creation process in your web browser, and showing you step by step what needs to happen next. There are plenty of optional fields you can fill out too, if you wish, and it plays nicely with the language passport I’ve linked to above.
But here’s the coolest part.
When you’re done, you download a PDF file. So far, so good. What you don’t really see is that the PDF has XML data embedded in it – with the record of your Europass creation session. So the next time you need to update your CV, all you need to do is upload your Europass PDF to the online creator – and pick up where you left off, only modifying the sections you want to update. No messing about with imports and exports, no multiple versions of the same file…this is simplicity.
Click here to start building your Europass CV.
Any other cool EU inventions that make your life easier? Let us know on Facebook / Twitter!
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