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Moving from B2 to C2

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Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3411 days ago

3277 posts - 6778 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 Message 57 of 177
18 February 2015 at 6:53pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
   I am astounded. What have I been doing wrong? After
hundreds of hours of listening to Spanish, hundreds of pages read and countless hours
of grammar study, I didn't notice that my Spanish became "fluent" in a few hours. In
fact, it is very much a work in progress. And with a tutor. Something's wrong.

I cannot tell you what you have been doing wrong, I can tell what I had been doing
wrong for years. And I am unsure whether you understand what I've been describing. I
haven't writen about a miraculous method "learn a language in a few hours". I speak
about getting well prepared for very fast activation of the language. So, what I had
been doing wrong before I could breech the barrier of fluency:

I had been participating actively in classes, doing what I had been told and even
more. But I had been too afraid to use native sources. I had trusted my teachers too
much. Most teachers really have no clue what to recommend their students for further
practice and immersion. (Really, if I got a dollar every time I meet people desperate
from the things their teachers recommend, usually the radio and some classic books, I
could buy a car.)

Therefore after twelve years or so, I was barely at B2 with speaking being by far the
worst skill. A few years with lots of immersion taught me to think in the language,
made my grammar more automatic, especially the application and use of the grammar in
appropriate places. The idiomatic speech you mention in most threads, that's what I
got from the tv series and books as well. Listening a lot changed my accent. I already
had mostly correct pronunciation but the speech as a whole hadn't sounded natural
before. From an obvious foreigner identified as soon as she opened her mouth, I got to
the point when the natives start thinking where the hell I'm from after a while, most
of them guessing a different francophone region from theirs.

My progress is more or less documented in my logs, so far I can guess the amount of
input to be over 15 000 pages of books + things I do not log anyhow, and a few
hundreds hours of listening, usually in larger doses. After a year or two, I went to
Berlin where I met lots of francophone people and I was already more comfortable with
speaking after a short while and the discomfort for others was not significant. After
another year or two and much larger amount of media, I could trully consider myself
fluent in a similar situation. When I started meeting my tutor in December, I got the
dust away from my speaking very soon and was told I had no accent and made only one
smaller mistake during the 60 minutes. But hasn't been much progress from that point
on. My mistakes are rather stupid ones, caused usually by lack of focus and sleep
deprivation but there aren't fortunately many.

So, no idea what you are missing. Perhaps you just need more time. Or you could do
with listening in larger doses, if you mostly do smaller bits every day. Or your tutor
may not be that good. Or the books you've been reading are alredy too easy for you. I
don't know.

Edited by Cavesa on 18 February 2015 at 7:00pm

6 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 3832 days ago

2704 posts - 5424 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 Message 58 of 177
18 February 2015 at 11:19pm | IP Logged 
Now I think I understand what is meant by lots of input for achieving fluency after a few hours. First of
all, 12 years of classes with active participation. Then some years of immersion, whatever this means. I
would assume that this means some talking. A trip to Berlin and meeting lots of francophone people -
and some talking I assume. And then, finally, start working with a tutor. I assume the tutor gives lots
of corrective feedback.

All this looks fine to me. I even went to have a look at Cavesa's log. It gave me a better perspective on
what is meant by input. I see here that's it not that passive after all. It's not what I thought. It's not just
listening, reading and then suddenly start speaking at C-level in a few hours. The kind of input here
involves a fair amount of very active studying and actual speaking with natives. And of course a tutor.
So, this idea of achieving C-level speaking in a few hours after lots of passive input does not really
mean that. I don't see just a few hours. Quite the contrary, I see lots of hours.

I actually agree with this. This is pretty much the strategy I'm pursuing. Lots of active input, including
two hours a week speaking over Skype. I think it's going to take a lot more than a few hours to achieve
C-level speaking.
5 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Russian Federation
Joined 4999 days ago

9753 posts - 15777 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 Message 59 of 177
19 February 2015 at 2:01am | IP Logged 
Not sure whether to headdesk or grab some popcorn...

Just thought I'd mention that while listening and reading are (relatively!) easy for s_allard, he's mostly quite lucky with that. But nobody is so lucky that they're automatically C2 at listening or reading, even in a related language; nobody is A1 at speaking and C2 and listening. I find it hard to imagine anyone whose speaking is more than two levels below their passive skills (or in general, whose best skills are three or more levels above the worst ones).
4 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3411 days ago

3277 posts - 6778 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 Message 60 of 177
19 February 2015 at 3:04am | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
12 years of classes

I didn't say 12 years of classes! sorry if there was a misunderstanding. It was 12
yeaars since I started learning and the result of the 12 years was nothing to be happy

12 years of classes?
-3 years of classes when I was a child, so they were good but by far not as intensive
I would have prefered even when I was ten years old.
-1 year nothing, due to school not offering anything and no private classes
was before the Internet and a child couldn't just go and search libraries in the city.
-1/2 year of worthless "class" where the native teacher taught the students two or
three sentences and then gave up despite having gifted children from an elite public
school as students.
-1 and 1/2 year of nothing, just a little review thanks to a textbook I got as a
present. Nothing not because I didn't want to continue but because of not having any
opportunity. There weren't any good private classes accepting people under 15 because
of prejudices towards teenagers
-1 year of classes at supposedly the best French learning institution in the republic.
Well, the first teacher was bad, the other was average but I still learnt quite a lot.
Officialy, I should have been B1 by the end but I don't know.
-Than 5 years of classes at highschool, four of which were covering the same things I
had already learnt before and I had hard time trying not to despair and give up. I was
forced to suffer with beginners again and again due to stupid educational system. The
last year was better but not intensive enough for me by far.

So, my point was that after having put considerable amounts over the course of 12
years, the results were pitiful despite all my efforts. Certainly not that I had 12
years of great classes and now I am claiming success of great teachers as my own.

Yes, one of the teachers was very good and one was passable but in the end, the
educational system, the curriculum and majority of the teachers just wasted 8 years of
my time. And what I learnt during the four remaining can be learnt by an adult with
today's resources and good discipline in one or two years.

Serpent, I think headdesk is the correct option here.

Edited by Cavesa on 19 February 2015 at 3:13am

3 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 2692 days ago

1013 posts - 1587 votes 
Speaks: English*, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Dutch, Swedish, Italian
Studies: German, Danish, Russian, Catalan

 Message 61 of 177
19 February 2015 at 3:18am | IP Logged 
I tihnk that it takes a long time whether one uses tutour or not. And I must say that
self-teaching is something that is underestimated. I must return to the example where
my friend and I decided to learn ourselves the entire calculus curriculum in secondary
school, because the department refused us to skip a maths cycle. I find that this
situation closely parallels the B2 advancement dilemma.

Granted that we are good at maths, we are no geniuses, nor prodigies, rather just
regular people. We decided that if they would not let us skip a cycle, we would learn
the material that the "advanced" students had, a bit like immersion--daily
advancement, slow but steady progress. Short story is that we passed and did well this
test that those who had one year of formal instruction had, and many of them did worse
than we, even failed. It was a huge surprise to everyone in our year, who never would
have imagined that someone could teach themselves calculus by themselves, with the
added caveat of passing that class's year exam as well. With our passing mark, we were
even allowed to go into differential equations at age 17. It must be repeated that we
were (and are) no geniuses, just regular people, with the determination to find an
alternative to formal education to achieve what we wanted.

Likewise, I would not be surprised if some person just did a daily advancement from
their B2 level (which is a very good level already) to C2, over a period of years,
even faster if they live in country, but even if they do not live in country, this is
still possible. Do a little of each four CEFR skill everyday, in any way possible, and
C2 is there for the taking. It is just that it is a long an arduous process, which
should not be surprising--almost all high level academic-styled things like this are
long and arduous. A B.Sc. takes 3 years, a M.Sc. 1 or 2, a Ph.D 4 or 5. All take a
hell of a long time, as would a C2 level, but just like how I tended to "avoid" formal
instruction in university (if a class had no required attendance, it was sure as hell
that I would consider staying home), and strangely (or not?) I tended to do better
learning by myself than in a class. Putting my mobile phone in a target language for a
few months has taught me more than some of the language classes during the whole terms
that I have taken.

It should not be taken that I am a hopeless optimist, because I am not--I am a stark
pessimist naturally. But I do believe that this C2 goal, anything is possible, not
like blind belief, but rather because these things do happen, testament hereto are the
many who learn languages with such a high capacity that they make the natives look
like non-natives, disobeying all of the "commandments" of getting to a C2 level,
namely, classes, tutouring, living in the country, and so forth. And what I did at age
17 is something that always inspires me in terms of academics, and this definitely
includes languages, despite languages not being in any part similar to my university

Edited by 1e4e6 on 19 February 2015 at 4:22am

3 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3411 days ago

3277 posts - 6778 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 Message 62 of 177
19 February 2015 at 3:42am | IP Logged 
Yes, I agree with 1e2e6. I learnt all the physics for acceptance exams to faculty of
medicine in one year because the teachers had been failing for seven years of teaching
me and I hadn't found motivation until that last year. And I wasn't the only one by
far, selfteaching one of the three subjects required from scratch was rather the norm
than exception. Really, teachers and schools are being overestimated all the time. The
fact someone has a degree in teaching doesn't mean he can actually teach. For exemple
in my country, most people going to the faculty of paedagogy are there because they
are too stupid for better schools, that's the simple fact. And the more clever ones
with potential to become good teachers are rare and some of them get their potential
destroyed by the nonsense they obviously learn there.

And yeah, just so that Sallard doesn't find another nit to pick, I had a private
individual tutor during those years for several months and she wasn't good either so I
gave up on her lessons. Really. Not everyone can simply choose classes and join and
get awesome education, it is more utopia than reality.

I am not saying all the language teachers and tutors are bad (from my experience: 13
out of 28 were bad or even horrible, 11 were passable under otherwise favorable
conditions such as a motivate group of intelligent students, 4 were really good). It's
just that dependance on them and too much trust in their methods, advice, curricula
etc., that is a way to the hell and failure.

My recommendation wasn't "don't get a tutor at all costs", it was "no matter whether
you use a tutor, the key is your own work with lots of native input and some grammar

Edited by Cavesa on 19 February 2015 at 4:05am

1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
United States
Joined 3532 days ago

1871 posts - 3641 votes 
Speaks: English*, SpanishC2, ItalianC2, Norwegian, Catalan, Galician, Turkish, Portuguese
Studies: Polish, Indonesian, Ojibwe

 Message 63 of 177
19 February 2015 at 4:18am | IP Logged 
Cavesa wrote:

My recommendation wasn't "don't get a tutor at all costs", it was "no matter whether
you use a tutor, the key is your own work with lots of native input and some grammar

So then the next logical question would be: Why wouldn't "your own work with lots of native input and some grammar study" work with bad teachers as well? Your previous post seems to suggest that motivation comes from the teacher, not the student.

Personally, I think that a healthy dose of motivation from the teacher (or tutor) AND the student's motivation is key.

Edited by hrhenry on 19 February 2015 at 4:18am

1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3411 days ago

3277 posts - 6778 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 Message 64 of 177
19 February 2015 at 5:16am | IP Logged 
hrhenry wrote:

So then the next logical question would be: Why wouldn't "your own work with lots of
native input and some grammar study" work with bad teachers as well? Your previous
post seems to suggest that motivation comes from the teacher, not the student.

Personally, I think that a healthy dose of motivation from the teacher (or tutor) AND
the student's motivation is key.

1. A bad teacher can be very demotivating. There are people who were able to
demotivate even me and I was nearly always one of the most motivated in class
(Unfortunately, that wasn't true in all the subjects.)
2. A bad teacher can teach you mistakes. It took me lots of efforts to get rid of a
few such jewels.
3. A bad teacher is a waste of time and money you could put into self studies or into
time with a better teacher. Neither time or money is an infinite resource.
4. Trusting a bad teacher's advice too much usually affects negatively even your
individual studies.

I don't know where you found the motivation coming from the teacher. I was never
expecting a teacher to motivate me, the few who did were nice surprise, but I was
being demotivated by all the disappointments.

My usual complaints about most teachers and tutors:
-not being able to find the balance of how demanding they should be
-not being that good at the language (yes, that happens, especially when the students
cannot quit, which means until the end of their schooling)
-not being able to explain things well
-insisting on methods and coursebooks that obviously do not suit the student and
making the student believe it is their fault (I've even seen an extreme where the
coursebook didn't suit anyone in two classes per 15 people, everyone had the same
complaints and the teacher still believed the students were all just stupid bad at
-expecting the student to have the same troubles like other students the teacher
already had. well, various students and various groups of students have various
troubles and therefore need a different structure of the class.
-inability to recommend appropriate self study tools, resources and native media
suitable to the student's level and interest.
-wasting time on things the student can do on their own, and just consult with teacher
when needed, instead of putting the time to better use.

So, to your question. There are two options.

1. If you are experienced enough to choose lots of media and grammar sources, why
would you put up with a bad teacher?
2. If you are dependent on a bad teacher and cannot tell they are bad, how are you
supposed to find your way through the native media and self study resources? Most
people suffering from bad teachers just don't have the information.

The only case in which such an approach could work is this:
You are at highschool and you have no escape from a bad teacher. However, you find
your way independently and your native language is a large one, that gives you access
to sufficient amount of both learning resources and online advice. Try to imagine
having Czech as a native language and learning just English. There is no ajatt, benny
or htlal to point you in a possibly good direction. You are on your own and the
teacher seems to be your best advisor. They might be. Or not.

Edited by Cavesa on 19 February 2015 at 5:23am

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