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Moving from B2 to C2

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 Message 41 of 177
17 February 2015 at 11:12am | IP Logged 
Serpent wrote:
To me paying to have conversations in L2 is simply as awkward as paying to have them in L1. That's probably my insecurity too.

I understand this, and despite my disagreement with you and my very pro-tutoring post, it took me a long time to actually take the plunge because some part of me just didn't like the principle of paying to have conversations. I can afford it, but in a way it felt like admitting defeat, admitting that I didn't have the adequate social skills or wasn't a likeable enough person etc. to find native speakers who wanted to converse with me for free. So yeah, we all have our insecurities!

But I took a more pragmatic perspective, realising that conversing with natives seems to be essential for my progress and my motivation, and that by pursuing language exchanges I was already "paying" a lot in terms of time and stress, which are more valuable than a few pounds an hour for a tutor. And yes, posts by s_allard etc. about the benefits also pushed me over the edge.

Even now, I don't take very many lessons and I still pursue exchanges, meetups, and conversations with friends when I can, but even just the knowledge that these aren't my only options and tutoring is always there if I want it is helpful for motivation. It makes me feel like I have more responsibility and control over my own progress, rather than it depending on others.

I apologise for keeping the tutoring debate going (it has its place in any discussion about advanced levels, but I agree it's taken over the thread a little!), but I just wanted to provide some personal perspective that I felt was relevant. In any case, I've never reached C2 in a foreign language and I doubt I ever will, so I don't have much else to contribute and I don't know if I'm even on the right track. So just take this post for what it is, a few thoughts on my particular situation that I felt had some relevance.
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 Message 42 of 177
17 February 2015 at 11:17am | IP Logged 
hobom wrote:

Even huge amounts of input will not necessarily help to eliminate all mistakes. Speaking from personal experience, I have read quite a lot in English, from all kinds of sources, but only recently I stumbled onto the fact that "compared to" and "compared with" are not equivalent in meaning.

Thus I am asking genuinely, as a not experienced language learner, how are you supposed to notice these small differences in meaning between near synonyms? While a tutor might not be necessary, he can significantly accelerate the process.

Well as a native English speaker I find "compared to" and "compared with" virtually indistinguishable, so I am not convinced that a tutor would help you systematically pick-up these sorts of differences.

That's not to say anything particularly against tutors, but there is a point where the subtleties on the language can only be acquired from use. There is just not enough tutoring hours in the day to achieve that for you.

Native speakers of English don't max out their vocabulary until sometime in their mid-30s - people gain about a third of their vocabulary after 15 years f age. So whatever hours you spend with a tutor are going to pale in comparison to the number you'll need to spend to achieve native-like mastery.

Edited by patrickwilken on 17 February 2015 at 2:37pm

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 Message 43 of 177
17 February 2015 at 2:07pm | IP Logged 
I don't think there is much left to say about the usefulness of tutoring. It's like using flashcards; you
either like it or you don't. Now, a whole other issue is how to find a good tutor.

A common suggestion for improving one's speaking is to participate in conversation exchange groups.
I've never done anything online myself but I am familiar with face-to-face conversation groups that are
often held in cafés or in language schools. When I have time I go to a Spanish conversation group.

I think that it's a good idea in theory. Nothing can be said against actually practicing the language with
real people. I certainly recommend it.

The only problem that I have experienced is that more often than not one ends up listening to the
mistakes of other learners. This is the biggest complaint, especially from more advanced speakers.
What is often lacking is native speakers who can provide correction and proper speaking models. (Hm,
it smells like the tutoring thing creeping back in.)

So, generally, I think it's a good idea, and many groups try to address this problem of lack of native
speakers. Anything that actually gets you speaking is good.

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 Message 44 of 177
17 February 2015 at 3:15pm | IP Logged 
garyb wrote:
But I took a more pragmatic perspective, realising that conversing with natives seems to be essential for my progress and my motivation, and that by pursuing language exchanges I was already "paying" a lot in terms of time and stress, which are more valuable than a few pounds an hour for a tutor.

This certainly makes sense. I'm not really advocating doing actual exchanges instead of using tutors, I just simply believe that a real friend is worth several tutors. And I don't really like structured speaking practice, although I understand that it can be useful for others.
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 Message 45 of 177
17 February 2015 at 3:23pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
1e4e6 wrote:
To add to the point about grammar, for C2 I would say that it has to be pristine and basically perfect or near-perfect, especially given the academic type nature of the C2 (and CEFR in general) title. [...]
I read the entire Manual: Gramática de la lengua española, with is the RAE's
grammar manual, and things like this certainly helps a lot to improve at higher
levels. It usually is tedious (not too much for me because I like grammar), but
perfect/near-perfect grammar I would think would be a prerequistie for C2.

I want to add my voice to this position. What we are talking about at C-levels of proficiency is impeccable grammar, nuances and subtleties of expression, fluency and general sophistication.

A number of people have expressed the idea that if you have enough input and imitate good models you will eventually achieve this high level of proficiency. I think this is certainly possible. On the other hand, part of the discussion here is how to speed up this process by using effective methods and tools.

As I said, I went from B2 to C2 without formal studies. It might be important to note, however, that it was formal studies what brought me to B2 in the first place, and I don't think I could have ever made it without them.

Still, I had a (superficial) look at materials targeting C levels before sitting my exam and saw nothing noteworthy grammar-wise. What I saw was mostly oriented at avoiding common pitfalls, all obviously the more important the higher the levels, and heaps of hammering the old stuff, but little if any new grammar.

In similar fashion, one of my German teachers told me that by the time we finished the course I was in (maybe around the B1 level) all but the most obscure points of German grammar would have been covered, and in the most advanced courses from then on, we were mostly expected to stop making mistakes.

I'm sure that there must be some degree of variation across languages regarding what's formally taught at each level, just like there are slight differences between the formal level exams, even if only because they are made by totally different groups of people. Anyway, my experience suggests me that the journey from B2 to C2, tutored or not, will typically involve no explicit grammar, or much less than you may seem to think here.

OTOH I'm positive many learners ignore or overlook stuff that they only come to really understand at a later time, when it is explicitly repeated again. I, however, think that is typically due to a lack of reviewing habits.
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 Message 46 of 177
17 February 2015 at 4:05pm | IP Logged 
1.I wholeheartedly agree with robarb.

Huge amounts of listening are an extremely important part of the process.

When I was around the B2, a significant moment were several free days scattered
accross three weeks or a month I spent immersed in a French tv series, at least 5-7
episodes each. I think such an initial "shock" works much more than 20-30 minutes
every day.

After such an iniciation phase, continuing at a more practical pace is much easier

However, one area where a tutor can definitely help is correcting writing. A
good teacher will tell you for instance that you cannot use this word in this context,
in should rather be word B. Afterwards he will proceed to list examples for word A to
clarify the usage.

Frankly, I am unable to wrap my head around how a student is supposed to acquire this
knowledge without professional help. The vast majority of language exchange partners
will not provide this kind of assistance.

For exemple the same way I acquired my writing skills and passed CAE with writing
graded C2. Get into a community of people interested in writing in any form. Roleplay
forums are fine, fan fiction works, and so on.

The trouble is that there are not that many, especially for some languages.

Surprisingly to some people, may of those people on forums will give you awesome
corrections. If the forum members are having fun together by each member
participating, some awesome people find it important to help you improve

And there are still communities like Italki. Well, you might need to use it only for
shorter texts than a three pages long essays but still. The corrections usually come
from natives and are of high quality. But most correctors will be even less nitpicky
than tutors, those forums and writing communities tend to be better in this aspect.

And as was said, massive input helps. You develop similar "feel" for what is correct
and what is not to the one you've been developping in your native language since you
were a child.

3. Great point by sallard is finding out the amout of work needed and planning it out.

I found an awesome French grammar for advanced students that gives you overviews,
deals with common mistakes, points out differences between familiar, formal or bookish
language. However, such awesome books are not that common and some languages may have
limited offer.

A good amount of input to get over large part of the work is the original super
challenge. 100 movies and 100 book units by the original challenge equaled
approximately to 150 hours of native audio ad 10000 pages. I think it is a good
milestone and I found this amount of audio to be mine personal turning point. Yours
might come a bit earlier or later, I don't know.

4. I think you might like to try both intensive and extensive approaches. Extensive
ones offer real immersion, things get repeatedly writen into your memory as you
naturally encounter them, you learn to think in the language fast enough. Intensive
ones are good for various reasons as well. Whether you should prefer one or the other
depends on your experience and needs.

5. The Grammar mistakes. It is a very common point in discussions like this. Of
course, you should be near perfect by the time you are at C2. However, whether a few
nervosity and fatigue caused stupid blunders are going to ruin your exam, that is
something I cannot tell you now. But I will know and share the information in a few
weeks, when my results arive.

However, I would agree the grammar is a prerequisite. From my bitter experience: it is
a mistake to stop studying and reviewing grammar, at least small bits here and there,
for months or years.

6.Mr warper, you note about learning a subject on university classes without attending
them made me smile. I passed my immunology exams without having never attended :-)
Well, and a few more weren't that far from it.

So, I totally agree there are more paths. While there are some subjects that are
nearly impossible to learn without guidance (such as the usual patient examination
methods, to give a recent exemple), most things aren't and it's a matter of learning

Choose a tutor or avoid them. But no matter what, don't stop pushing yourself hard,
don't give up on things your tutor doesn't emphasize (or some they might even disagree
with), if you find them useful.
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 Message 47 of 177
17 February 2015 at 4:12pm | IP Logged 
I don't the question is whether formal study is necessary or not to achieve C2 level. The question is what
does it take to achieve a very high level of proficiency. To concentrate specifically on speaking, the
grammar is probably not more complicated than at a B level. It's all about putting everything together and
being able to discuss a relatively sophisticated topic fluently, accurately and with excellent pronunciation.

How do we get to this level? It's not by necessarily studying obscure points of grammar or studying more
fancy words. It could be just mastering the details of things we already know.
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 Message 48 of 177
17 February 2015 at 4:50pm | IP Logged 
The grammar is not more complicated, you just cannot afford to make mistakes anymore.
A learner in their B levels is to know and use the usual grammar. However, it is ok to
make a mistake here and there, especially when you are nervous, the subject you are
speaking of is complicated or for a hundred other reasons. At the C levels, your
mistakes, no matter the situation, should be minimal both in amount and importance.

It's not about obscure points of grammar, it is about perfection in the normal ones.
Knowing the the "obscure", or I prefer the word "rare", may be useful sometimes but
you can live without most of them. Cover your gaps, deal with the mistakes that
somehow keep persisting.

Fancy words. Well, accurate speech requires quite a lot of "fancy" words. I usually
recommend to learn words that either appear relevant to you and those you encounter
several times because that's an approach I found highly efficient but there are many
approaches to vocabulary. The massive input can help a lot with this.

One more point that noone mentioned but it is relevant. An educated native speaker
(which is the one the C level exams try to immitate), as the word suggests, has been
educated. And the education consisted not only of the language,no. During the years
spent at school, people learn physics, geography, maths, biology, literature, arts...
all using the language. And a C level speaker should be able to speak about such
topics as well.

So, I highly recommend acquiring the related vocabulary, phrases and style. Wikipedia
helps, or there are many websites dedicated to scince, history and so on. Popular
science books are great, and lots of other media meant for natives. Textbooks for
highschoolers are awesome, even though rarely found outside the coutry. Such
vocabulary is expected from anyone speaking the language but unlikely to be found in
frequency dictionaries.

Those are topics that are more than superficially covered in language courses, except
for selected topics, you might easily not find them in your fiction reading either.
But you are likely to often find yourself in a situation when you need to prove you
are not a total ignorant. You might get a science topic in an exam, you might get into
a discussion on economics with your friends in a pub etc.

Edited by Cavesa on 17 February 2015 at 4:53pm

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