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C2 vs native speaker

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Serpent
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 Message 9 of 47
25 November 2013 at 1:24pm | IP Logged 
Yeah I hate the academic focus on being able to prepare and learn a speech. Not all CEFR exams are like that, though. At my Finnish exam I didn't have to make a presentation, I just talked with the examiners... but I also officially had about a minute to prepare. I had to choose two topics from a list, and I had to speak almost immediately. (in reality those who took the exam with me and did the interview before me, told me what they had chosen, but I didn't like those topics anyway) You also get a lot of questions, and probably even more if you seem to have learnt a speech by heart because you knew ecology was a likely topic to come up.
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geoffw
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 Message 10 of 47
25 November 2013 at 4:22pm | IP Logged 
I've seen a lot of mention in this and a concurrent thread of how native speakers
supposedly have "perfect" understanding of everything. This is completely false.

There's a good reason why the word "huh?" is one of the most commonly known and used,
both in English and in other languages--because people fail to communicate perfectly
repeatedly on a daily basis. If you put me under test conditions where I could listen
intently to a carefully-delivered news broadcast in standard dialect, yes, perhaps I
would have perfect understanding. But when I'm talking with my family at home about
simple matters, the word "huh?" or some more sophisticated replacement ("I'm sorry, I
didn't catch that last bit, what did you say?") is used several times a day.

It's all relative. Compared to a C2-level learner, my comprehension may be so much
better as to be "perfect," but it's not even close to being ACTUALLY perfect.
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emk
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 Message 11 of 47
25 November 2013 at 5:03pm | IP Logged 
geoffw wrote:
There's a good reason why the word "huh?" is one of the most commonly known and used,
both in English and in other languages--because people fail to communicate perfectly
repeatedly on a daily basis. If you put me under test conditions where I could listen
intently to a carefully-delivered news broadcast in standard dialect, yes, perhaps I
would have perfect understanding.

Interestingly, when I've been operating exclusively in French for a while, my ability to understand non-standard English dialects drops significantly. I have real trouble understanding people with thick accents, and I sometimes miss some dialog near the beginning of movies before my English fully reactivates.

There's always a sense that I could understand what I'm hearing, but that I would need to partially "deactivate" my French and turn my English back on, a process which may take as long as 5 minutes.

This suggests that certain resources in my brain can be used either for understanding French, or for dealing with non-standard English, but not necessarily both at the same time. For example, it's almost as if my brain has a "map" from non-standard phonemes to phonemes it can understand, and it's hard to keep two brand-new maps active. I think if you required me to interpret between someone with heavily accented English and someone with heavily accented French, I'd probably flail horribly.

EDIT: Now I'm imaging a Scotts/Quebecois interpretation challenge. :-)

Edited by emk on 25 November 2013 at 5:06pm

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JLR
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 Message 12 of 47
26 November 2013 at 5:16pm | IP Logged 
There is definitely a major difference between the two.

As a simple exercise, if you have a C2 level in a language, watch a video, or even better, listen live to a stand-up comedian in that language.

There's a great chance you won't understand most of the jokes since they will require current affairs knowledge (scandals in the news, famous people, etc.) as well as cultural and historic knowledge of the specific country or region. A native speaker would easily understand the same comedian.

So even if you understand the language at a C2 level you are miles and years away from native fluency.
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geoffw
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 Message 13 of 47
26 November 2013 at 5:36pm | IP Logged 
JLR wrote:
There is definitely a major difference between the two.

As a simple exercise, if you have a C2 level in a language, watch a video, or even
better, listen live to a stand-up comedian in that language.

There's a great chance you won't understand most of the jokes since they will require
current affairs knowledge (scandals in the news, famous people, etc.) as well as
cultural and historic knowledge of the specific country or region. A native speaker
would easily understand the same comedian.

So even if you understand the language at a C2 level you are miles and years away from
native fluency.


Aren't you testing here whether someone is local, not whether someone's LANGUAGE is
native?

I once had the misfortune of taking a large group of brand new college freshmen, all
native English (American) speakers, but from out of town, to a comedy club and
discovered that it was amateur night. One comic's entire act was jokes about the
socioeconomic problems of a particular nearby town that none of us had heard of. None
of us knew what he was talking about.

I have no problem following German-language humor about prominent American politicians,
on the other hand, and I'm not ready to claim even C2 level proficiency.

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JLR
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 Message 14 of 47
26 November 2013 at 5:46pm | IP Logged 
geoffw wrote:
Aren't you testing here whether someone is local, not whether someone's LANGUAGE is native?


I agree that it tests local knowledge.

I also believe it's a quick way to see if a person is closer to C2 or closer to being a native speaker. A native speaker is more likely to be able to understand the context, or to interpret the meaning, than would a C2 learner, or lower.

Also, if you find a comedian who speaks quickly, as comedians sometimes do as part of their skits, a native speaker is more likely to follow the idea.

Do you agree that there is a difference between C2 and a native speaker? From some of the comments above, not everyone does.

Do you have any suggestions for how to differentiate between the two?

Thanks!

Edited by JLR on 26 November 2013 at 5:51pm

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geoffw
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 Message 15 of 47
26 November 2013 at 5:58pm | IP Logged 
JLR wrote:


Do you agree that there is a difference between C2 and a native speaker? From some of
the comments above, not everyone does.

Do you have any suggestions for how to differentiate between the two?

Thanks!


The best that I've heard is the studies that emk has cited showing slight differences
in the response times observed in test subjects' brains when presented with
particularly difficult bits of language.

I guess I'm no longer sure why we're trying to figure out "how to differentiate." The
most effective way I know is to ask someone what his/her native language is. Certainly
one can pass a C2-level certification exam without reaching anything approaching
"indistinguishable from native," and accent is often the last thing to go, if in fact
it ever does.

But C2-level is primarily an abstract idea meaning "the highest level of adult language
acquisition there's any common reason to describe/measure." So talking about
differences in ability beyond that threshhold has basically been defined a priori as
something that is usually pointless to worry about.
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JLR
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 Message 16 of 47
26 November 2013 at 6:00pm | IP Logged 
geoffw wrote:
I guess I'm no longer sure why we're trying to figure out "how to differentiate."

But C2-level is primarily an abstract idea meaning "the highest level of adult language
acquisition there's any common reason to describe/measure." So talking about
differences in ability beyond that threshhold has basically been defined a priori as
something that is usually pointless to worry about.


On to new topics!!


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