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Moving from B2 to C2

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s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
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2704 posts - 5424 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 121 of 177
22 February 2015 at 4:22pm | IP Logged 
victorhart wrote:
I've read many of the posts on this interesting thread, though I confess not all 15
pages. For what it's worth, I have a slightly different way of looking at the
question.

To become proficient in a language (C-level or beyond), you just need to use it. A
LOT. There is an intangible element that is necessary, however, that many people do
not exhibit and that I would like in the future to analyze and be able to describe
better. It has to do with WANTING sufficiently to improve, to be willing to correct
mistakes and change habits. It also has to do with a certain type of interest or
attention to language, that some people may have grown up with, and others many need
to cultivate.

In addition to this intangible attitudinal element, whom and what you interact with in
the language is of great importance. You should do a lot of reading of authentic texts
written by native speakers, preferably of very high quality, such as literature by
celebrated authors. You must listen to native speakers--preferably well educated ones
if you want semantic richness and grammatical accuracy (in the standard version of the
language, since I fully believe in the value and acceptability of alternate grammars).

Lastly, you need to converse with native speakers--again, those who speak with the
grammatical accuracy and semantic breadth you would like to acquire. It makes a huge
difference if those native speakers are willing to correct you on a regular basis. Of
course, you have to be desirous of those corrections and take them in a positive way.

That's where the whole "tutor" question that everyone has been arguing about comes in.
In my mind, it's rather simple. No, you don't need a tutor, if you have other native
speakers who fit the description I gave above and who are willing to engage you in
conversation (and correct you) regularly. Yes, a tutor can be extremely helpful if you
don't already have that in abundance. The person does NOT need to be a professional
tutor in the sense of having a background in linguistics, pedagogy, or anything of the
sort. But he or she should be a professional in the sense of possessing a series of
skills--again, being well educated (if that's the type of language you're after), a
good listener, personable, willing to correct, patient, committed, punctual, and so
forth. Did I mention he or she must be a native speaker?

...

Very well put. I can't agree more. I hope this puts this whole tutoring business to rest and that we can
talk about something else.

One thing I want to touch on briefly is what it means to be a really good speaker of another language.
Sure, we have in mind the idea of native-like proficiency, sort of the way we speak and write in our first
languages. But we should also keep in mind that not all natives express themselves the same way.
There may be regional differences, but more importantly, there are differences of quality that are
usually the reflection of the amount of formal education.

As victorhart said, you want to frequent high-quality and trustworthy sources or models. This is where
good advice is very valuable. If I may use that dreaded word tutor again - or let's say resource person -
I would say that it's important to get guidance as to what is proper or not. This is especially important
in languages with major regional differences.

Similarly, it is important to develop a sense of social register or level of formality. My tutor is always
amused by my written Spanish because it is full of rare words and expressions that I love to use. I
probably sound like a stuffy old fart in Spanish. But I do know how to lighten up when necessary.

In my opinion, the key hallmark of high proficiency is the mastery of idioms. This encompasses things
like puns, fixed expressions and proverbs. For people who are interested in passing exams, this is
what really wows examiners. Great grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation are important, of course,
but the ability to use the language to a second degree shows real mastery.



Edited by s_allard on 22 February 2015 at 4:23pm

3 persons have voted this message useful



Kc2012
Diglot
Groupie
South Africa
Joined 2658 days ago

44 posts - 65 votes 
Speaks: English*, Afrikaans
Studies: Dutch, Mandarin, Russian

 
 Message 122 of 177
23 February 2015 at 6:13am | IP Logged 
Wow I had no idea this thread would generate so much buzz and discussion. Thanks to
everyone who has contributed. It has been extremely helpful for me (and I'm sure many
others) to hear the opinions of successful language learners on the topic. I have taken
all of your ideas on board.
1 person has voted this message useful





Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4888 days ago

9078 posts - 16470 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
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 Message 123 of 177
23 February 2015 at 9:21am | IP Logged 
It was also a surprise that it would generate so much animosity. It has been in severe risk of been closed before time, but it seems that the tone has been slightly less acrimoneous on the last couple of pages - let's keep it like that.

Edited by Iversen on 23 February 2015 at 9:21am

6 persons have voted this message useful



garyb
Triglot
Senior Member
ScotlandRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3392 days ago

1468 posts - 2411 votes 
Speaks: English*, Italian, French
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 124 of 177
23 February 2015 at 10:54am | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:

Similarly, it is important to develop a sense of social register or level of formality. My tutor is always
amused by my written Spanish because it is full of rare words and expressions that I love to use. I
probably sound like a stuffy old fart in Spanish. But I do know how to lighten up when necessary.


That's another important point that hadn't been mentioned until now, that needs to be mentioned if we're discussing reaching advanced levels: register. A lot of the corrections I've had for my Italian writing have been along the lines of "that's correct, but it sounds too formal" or "this sentence is strange because it has a mixture of formal and informal registers". Like everything else we've discussed, I think a lot of input from a variety of sources is crucial to getting a good sense for it but a helping hand to point out your own mistakes can also be very useful.

The discussion about corrections raises an interesting point for me: I've come across lots of people who have been in immersion for years, who understand the language very well and express themselves fluently, yet keep making the same fairly basic mistakes. Some examples in English are "depends of" instead of "depends on", "is good" instead of "it's good", or in one case, always using the article "an" and never "a". They've surely heard and read the correct form thousands of times, yet they still get it wrong, so I don't think one could claim that the problem is simply lack of input. I also doubt that they've never been corrected.

I think with both corrections and input, the important part isn't just getting them, it's what you do with them. A correction probably won't fix the mistake by itself; it's a sign to the learner that they need to then go and work on it, be it by studying or just increasing their awareness and paying more attention when they speak and write. Similarly with input, it's not enough to just understand it, you also need to pay attention so the words, expressions, grammatical forms etc. that you're hearing or reading, at least sometimes. Extensive and intensive input has already been discussed a lot on here; the people in the examples I gave probably get more than enough extensive input but not enough intensive.
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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2718 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 125 of 177
23 February 2015 at 11:07am | IP Logged 
garyb wrote:

The discussion about corrections raises an interesting point for me: I've come across lots of people who have been in immersion for years, who understand the language very well and express themselves fluently, yet keep making the same fairly basic mistakes. Some examples in English are "depends of" instead of "depends on", "is good" instead of "it's good", or in one case, always using the article "an" and never "a". They've surely heard and read the correct form thousands of times, yet they still get it wrong, so I don't think one could claim that the problem is simply lack of input. I also doubt that they've never been corrected.


Do you think these people have done much reading? I get the impression that those people I know in English who make these sorts of simple grammatical mistakes tend to be less well educated and/or be embedded in their own language communities.

There are different levels of immersion after all. The old guy I buy beers from at the corner store speaks some German, but not a lot, even after decades here because he's only partially immersed.
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mrwarper
Diglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
Spain
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1490 posts - 2500 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, EnglishC2
Studies: German, Russian, Japanese

 
 Message 126 of 177
23 February 2015 at 12:17pm | IP Logged 
OK, since we're apparently back from the rantlands...

garyb wrote:
I think with both corrections and input, the important part isn't just getting them, it's what you do with them. A correction probably won't fix the mistake by itself; [...] Similarly with input, it's not enough to just understand it, you also need to pay attention [...] Extensive and intensive input has already been discussed a lot on here; the people in the examples I gave probably get more than enough extensive input but not enough intensive.

Exactly: the single most important part of an individual's learning is always what they do with what they're given. Many people seem to think of learning or studying exclusively in passive terms, like attending classes, getting a tutor or plowing through books and films will make them magically learn somehow -- sorry to break it to 'you', folks, but putting in the hours just doesn't cut it, you need to get involved to get something out of it, call it 'intensive input' or whatever you like.

That's what I meant when I said I try to take after my prestige models in foreign languages, that I sometimes cringe at how people say things in my native one, etc.: I pay attention to others' production, and I take the effort to compute the differences with my own hypothetical production under the same circumstances (What Would I Say?), and to incorporate any results to my 'stuff pool'. The same goes for registers: unless you work on something heavily decontextualized, you can always have a good guess at register (and everything else) and, if interacting with live speakers, you can ask about it, or maybe even get corrections, spontaneous or not. But if you do nothing with that at the end of the day, register (and everything else) will simply fly past you. What exactly is more important is different depending on levels, and register awareness probably belongs high up, but it's the same principle at work all the time.

I may have been special or unique as an independent learner, so any data about me would be anecdotal, but I was certainly one of many in my school years. Input was exactly the same for all of us, yet some people learned and some didn't. And there's no need to get all carried away on 'learning styles' or how less learners are likely to get to the higher percentiles -- the broadest and deepest cut was between those who sat and those who worked through classes -- Spanish, English, Physics or Biology. It wasn't any different at college and I doubt it is with fully independent or one-on-one learning.

I still chuckle at how a Russian friend clapped and cheered when his wife spontaneously corrected herself from 'ruso idioma' to the correct Spanish 'idioma ruso' (Yeeees! There is progress at last!!)... after ten years of immersion, no kidding! No difference with a young couple I tutored for a short time to help them get a C1 certificate in English. If you get a correction, if it is pointed out how important it is, if you're still friends with the people who repeat the same correction over and over again, what is left to do? It must be important to you as a learner. Sometimes the light bulb goes off, sometimes it doesn't. As to why it may take ten years, I'll be damned if I know :)

Edited by mrwarper on 23 February 2015 at 1:45pm

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garyb
Triglot
Senior Member
ScotlandRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3392 days ago

1468 posts - 2411 votes 
Speaks: English*, Italian, French
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 127 of 177
23 February 2015 at 1:30pm | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:

Do you think these people have done much reading? I get the impression that those people I know in English who make these sorts of simple grammatical mistakes tend to be less well educated and/or be embedded in their own language communities.


One of the people I had in mind is a keen reader and has read a lot in English and other languages, did a University degree on languages and literature, and has also read a fair few contemporary books. I think it comes back to the point I made and mrwarper expanded on: just doing all that reading isn't enough if you're not making an effort to actively learn from it. But in most cases, it's people in the situation I described in one of my previous posts, where they speak a lot of English but mostly with other non-native speakers. That's probably also a factor as they'll reinforce each other's mistakes.
2 persons have voted this message useful



s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3615 days ago

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

 
 Message 128 of 177
23 February 2015 at 2:36pm | IP Logged 
I think error correction is probably one of the biggest challenges in moving from an intermediate to an
advanced level. In my opinion, there are two aspects to this problem: identifying the mistake and
correcting it

First, one has to be made aware of a mistake. The big problem here is how. Just to rewind a bit, one
can ask why do we make mistakes in the first place if we have lots of good input. As has been pointed
out by others, it's what you do with the input that counts. Unless you pay really close attention as you
are developing your internal model of how the language works, it's easy to misinterpret or misconnect
a detail in the language. And let's not forget the constant danger of interference from one's native
language.

The end results is that inevitably we make mistakes in the learning process. Will more input, such as
more reading, solve the problem? Probably to some extent. But the assumption here is that exposure
to the good forms will automatically eliminate the bad ones in the reader's output. This doesn't always
work because mistakes have become so fossilized that the learner is totally unaware of the mistakes
and keeps repeating them. For example, I hear French-speakers say things in English like "it depends
of" or "make attention".

This is where external help is so valuable. There is no way one can do this by oneself. Mistakes that
you may have been making for years are quickly identified. And I hardly need to mention that so many
tiny things can go wrong. The devil is in the details. I have found in Spanish that it's things like
prepositions and use of the subjunctive that are still tripping me up.

The second aspect of the problem is what to do after the mistake has been identified. Recent posts are
full of good advice in this area. The only thing that I would want to add is what I call " going back to
basics". The idea here is that since we know that in reality a small number of words and constructions
make up the majority of output, it's extremely important to totally master these core or key
components. I suggest reviewing this material from time to time to make sure that everything is under
control. This usually involves some explicit study of grammar and vocabulary but I believe that this will
help sweep away those elementary mistakes that one should never make at an advanced level.

For example, the inflections of the 100 most common verbs must be totally mastered. Period. There
should be no hesitation there. If this means reviewing verb tables and drilling them, that's what you
have to do. There are of course thousands of other verbs that you may come across but since you are
guaranteed to use the most common ones, you should at least get those out of the way. And most of
the time those other verbs will follow common patterns.

Then one has to explicitly monitor one's speech or output to make sure that the corrected forms have
replaced the mistakes. This is not easy if those mistakes are deeply ingrained, but that's the challenge.
The interesting thing here is that, in my observation, things basically fall into place as the correct
forms start to sound right because of all that good input that one has already been exposed to. The
correction is reinforced by the input.

Edited by s_allard on 23 February 2015 at 2:37pm



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