MERLIN for CEFR-related language learning, teaching, and testing

MERLIN showcase

Introducing MERLIN for teachers | video presentation at MERLIN workshop in Linz, 12/2014
➜ Download usage scenarios: where are my learners | data-driven learning | material development: Czech pdf | German pdf | Italian pdf

Introducing MERLIN for testers and textbook authors | video presentation at MERLIN workshop in Linz, 12/2014
➜ Download usage scenarios: MERLIN and the CEFR | language tests, MERLIN and the CEFR | benchmarking with MERLIN | textbook analysis: Czech pdf | German pdf | Italian pdf


Using MERLIN for language teaching

MERLIN in the language classroom

Make your students understand CEFR levels.

You can prepare your subcorpus of MERLIN texts (e.g., sorted according to CEFR ratings) and bring it to your language classroom. Your learners can discuss strengths and weaknesses of written productions.


Make your students understand their own L2 competence with relation to CEFR levels:
Your learners can use the MERLIN rating grid for self-evaluation, they can do one or more MERLIN tasks, and they can compare their performances to the subcorpus you prepared. Thus, they can more easily understand where they are in their language learning process as well. This might be more appropriate for learners from B1.



To find written test of learners that performed on a specific CEFR-level:
Go to Define a subcorpus to filter e.g. for Italian texts rated B1 and B2 on the topic "describe experiences with language learning”.


Bring the platform to the classroom:
You can also let your (advanced) students look for language phenomena in the MERLIN corpus by themselves in order to familiarize them with the technology and enhance their autonomy in language learning. They could do peer-group error analyses of MERLIN samples, but also of texts of their own. You could have them compare MERLIN data with a native speaker corpus to illustrate differences in language use.



“Hands-on” for material writers

Explore crucial aspects of language learning, such as learners' use of collocations, verbal aspect, and mood, etc. and find suitable examples for your own materials.

You can then use data from the corpus to add usage notes to your materials, e.g. hints on correct use of a structure or suggestions to avoid the overuse or underuse of words or structures.



To find examples for the wrong usage of a specific structure, e.g. verbal aspect in Czech, by native speakers of German:
1. Define and save a subcorpus of Czech texts written by authors with L1=German Define a subcorpus
2. Make a frequency list of verbal aspect errors in Czech for your subcorpus Statistics


To search for a word in learner texts and explore how learners use it, and which errors are related to it:
Use the Simple search, type e.g. "Wohnung" in the search field and choose "Search in target hypothesis".


To explore the use of a specific structure:
Use the Advanced search to search for all instances of the verb “warten” (lemma 1) followed by a preposition (POS 2 = preposition)


Many teaching materials, including the vast majority of textbooks, claim to be related to the CEFR, but they do not make use of authentic learner language data. In addition, often learners proficiency comes in a profile, so that a learner might be more successful in grammar than, for example, in vocabulary.

Use MERLIN to explore these different aspects of learners' communicative L2 competence, e.g. vocabulary range/control, grammatical accuracy, coherence/cohesion, on different CEFR levels and develop your own materials tailored to your students.



To get an impression of what texts with a CEFR-related rating of these dimensions of language proficiency look like: Create a subcorpus of texts with vocabulary control | grammatical accuracy | coherence and cohesion rated B2 Define a subcorpus


Syllabus and curriculum development

Most syllabi, curricula and even national educational standards in Europe refer to the CEFR. ...

Nevertheless, often it is not well understood what learner language on these levels is like. 

MERLIN helps you to concretely identify typical & relevant milestones / errors in learner language with reference to CEFR levels. It can thus support decisions about the selection and progression of syllabus / curriculum contents.



To get a general impression of what B1 texts look like:
Create your own corpus of texts extracted from Italian tests rated B1 Define a subcorpus


To find out typical problems learners have on a specific CEFR level:
Compile a list of frequent learner language features, e.g. grammatical errors Statistics



Using MERLIN for language testing

Most European language tests are (or claim to be) related to the CEFR. While the Council of Europe provides numerous helpful materials, there is not yet much empirical data (i.e. CEFR-related language samples) to support the test development process, especially for languages other than English (for English, see

We believe the MERLIN data help to enhance transparency and quality in test construction. MERLIN is useful for familiarization with the CEFR, and it can be used for benchmarking purposes. It can be used for empirically based development of assessment materials.

Furthermore, MERLIN data lends itself to the empirical validation of the CEFR scales (see MERLIN for research) and might be helpful for empirically based rating scale construction.

You can use MERLIN in your institutions to create a common understanding of the CEFR levels and to practice rating procedures of written texts.



To extract a random sample of written tests on a specific tasks:
Go to Define a subcorpus and filter for tests on a specific task topic, e.g. "andare a rovare un amico"


To adjust the rating behavior among your teacher colleagues:
Have the example texts re-rated by your colleagues using the MERLIN rating grid. The results can be discussed in the group and they can be compared to the MERLIN ratings.



Council of Europe (2011). Common European Framework of Reference for: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Council of Europe.

The English profile:

Council of Europe materials supporting the use of the CEFR: