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Intermediate vs. Advanced Fluency

  Tags: Intermediate | Fluency
 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
19 messages over 3 pages: 1 2 3  Next >>
Journeyer
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
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Speaks: English*, Spanish, German
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 Message 1 of 19
01 January 2007 at 7:31am | IP Logged 
What exactly is the difference between this two higher higher levels? Is there something of a line that is drawn?   Can they both be considered 'fluent' (even if that is a rather ambiguous term).

Here's an example of what I'm asking: Someday in the future I'm planning on learning Japanese. I was looking at the book Barron's Japanese Grammar I believe it's called, and several reviews at Amazon.com said it was good for Beginner-Intermediate. And many many reviews for many many language books say a similar thing. In my case, it would be good for me because I am a beginner, but someday I won't be any more with language X and I'll want to know where to go after that.

For Japanese, I already have some more advanced grammar books, so that problem is essentially resolved, but the point of my question is, as far as grammar goes, can a book for 'Intermediate students' essentially give you all the *grammar* that one would need to essentially be fluent (I understand that grammar is just one component of both language and fluency, however). In other words, what do the advanced books have that the intermediate ones don't? If a person isn't going to be doing serious research on the language or going to learn all the nuances to one, do they need an incredibly dense grammar, like Hammer's German Grammar and Usage. Granted, it would be nice to know all those nuances, or even half of them, but even native speakers could probably find things in them that they didn't know, and it isn't really necessary to know all of those aspects to get along fluently, even at an advanced level. Don't you who have made it at those levels still make your share of mistakes in the target language(s)? Hopefully by the end of this year I'll be at an advanced level in both Spanish and German, but I still expect I won't have all the nuances down.
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Captain Haddock
Diglot
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Japan
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 Message 2 of 19
01 January 2007 at 9:40am | IP Logged 
Japanese will be a little different in this regard than Spanish or German. Here's how I'm finding it to be in terms of what one must master at different levels, and what the learning materials tend to target.

Beginner: kana, basic vocabulary, basic conversational topics, 50 or so kanji, basic particle knowledge, basic verb and adjective forms (present, past, negative, connective, polite). Should be able to pass JLPT-4.

Lower Intermediate: all remaining verb conjugations, 500 kanji, all particles, common conjunctions, and some grammatical expressions. Should be able to pass JLPT-3.

Upper Intermediate: 1000 kanji, nuanced use of particles, lots of grammatical expressions, expanded vocabulary (including gitaigo, compound verbs, some keigo, etc), good speaking and listening skills in normal conversation, ability to grasp the structure of most written discourse. Should be able to pass JLPT-2.

Advanced: 1900 kanji, nuanced understanding of vocabulary and grammar; nuanced sense of tense, modality, gender, and formality levels; knowledge of important Japanese proverbs and four-character idioms; knowledge of literary expressions, dialectical forms, and archaic forms; ability to make impromptu speeches and follow television news without difficulty; ability to follow complex literary and spoken discourse. Should be able to pass JLPT-1.

---

I myself am somewhere in "upper intermediate". I wrote JLPT level 2 a month ago, but I don't know whether I passed yet. I also have some skills with archaic forms that a typical intermediate student might not have.

The intermediate stage is somewhat longer in Japanese than in European languages, due to a number of factors (assuming you're an English speaker). Don't let that put you off, though; the language is highly rewarding. :)

The highly useful book Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar summarizes pretty much all the grammar and expressions you'll see covered in intermediate textbooks. Also, a lot of the textbooks published in Japan distinguish between lower and upper intermediate proficiency, unlike those published in the US.

Advanced textbooks will basically push your ability to use difficult vocabulary and idioms, and hopefully acquaint you better with Japanese discourse structure (which is quite different from that of English). There are quite a few things you can take for granted when learning European languages because of their similarity to English, that don't apply with Japanese.

PS — that book "Barron's Japanese Grammar" probably covers most of the material outlined in my descriptions of "beginner" and "lower intermediate" above.

Edited by Captain Haddock on 03 January 2007 at 9:36pm

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sumabeast
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
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Speaks: English*, Arabic (Written)

 
 Message 3 of 19
03 January 2007 at 3:43pm | IP Logged 
Captain Haddock,
that's a very good looking description of fluency levels, how could I apply that to Arabic fluency? I mean is there a similar grading for Arabic that you know of?

thanks
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Polyglot2005
Senior Member
United States
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 Message 4 of 19
03 January 2007 at 6:11pm | IP Logged 
It would be nice to know these fluency levels for different languages. Maybe these will be added to the language profiles in the future.
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Iversen
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 Message 5 of 19
04 January 2007 at 5:07am | IP Logged 
I think it is a special feature of Japanese that you can measure your abilities so precisely in a certain number of kanji. For a speaker of an Indoeuropean language who judges his/her ability in another Indoeuropean language it is a much more gradual process because it is so much easier to become at least partly fluent.

I have in another thread proposed the ability to think in the target language as the criterion for getting from beginner to intermediate. To accept somebody as an intermediate looking only at the passive abilities it should be fair to demand at least the ability to get the ordinary meaning of an ordinary newspaper article and the ability to follow, but not necessarily understand in details everything that is said from a news broadcast.

At the Basic fluency level coherent thinking, writing and speaking should be assured, and any criterion should be formulated in terms of the size of vocabulary plus the number of glaring errors in pronunciation and spelling. Note that I use the word 'glaring', - at the advanced levels there should ideally not be any glaring errors left. However we all know that even native speakers something do utter utterly nonsensical utterances, and near-native speakers must have the same amount of leeway. But kick a near-native speaker in the unspeakable lower part of the back, and more or less errorfree sentences should gush forth as from a spring.

For the advanced language learner the worst remaining problems should be to get as complete a command of the idiomatic side of the target language as possible and to get the 'rhythm' right both in speech and in writing. Vocabulary shouldn't be a problem at this level, which means that looking through an ordinary dictionary you would not find many unknown words you feel ashamed not to know.

A basic fluent person should be able to listen to an ordinary news broadcast and be able to follow practically the whole thing. However this level there will still be stumbleblocks due to unknown words or idioms. In contrast a near-native learner should basically understand such broadcasts or written material of the same kind as well as the average native (but with a margin of error for cultural or political terms bound to a certain country). The target at this level must be to get comfortable with slang, broken speech, regional variants and other kinds of niche language, and to understand what is said even if listening conditions are not optimal.   

I know that this is not as specific as one might wish, and I can only speak for myself, but now at least I have had the chance to organize my own thoughts on the subject.


Edited by Iversen on 04 January 2007 at 8:31am

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Captain Haddock
Diglot
Senior Member
Japan
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Joined 5171 days ago

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Speaks: English*, Japanese
Studies: French, Korean, Ancient Greek

 
 Message 6 of 19
04 January 2007 at 5:37am | IP Logged 
I suspect that the more foreign a language is to you, the more easily you can categorize and divide up the various things you need to learn.

I don't know about Arabic, you'd probably have to get a teacher or advanced learner to identify the stages of learning it.

Iversen: It's true that kanji knowledge is one thing that's easy to divide up into levels with Japanese (and Chinese and Korean). However, it's really the vocabulary that's important in that case; and regardless of the method you use for counting your vocabulary, you can always establish a baseline of (for example) 5,000 words for an intermediate learner of language X, and 15,000 words for an advanced learner.
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Iversen
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 Message 7 of 19
04 January 2007 at 6:22am | IP Logged 
We have had some threads where we discussed how many words you need to be fluent (primarily) at the basic level, but there are pitfalls. For instance in German many of the words in a dictionary are combined words and have a meaning that is easily deduced from the components, - so in a sense you get a lot of dictionary entries for free.

Another problem is that we should really count active words, but that's a very slippery notion. So instead the best strategy is to count passive words and then make a loose estimate of how many of those words that would pop up in a relevant situation.

Using a midsize dictionary (30-60.000 words) I would expect a basic fluent learner to know at least 15.000 words (= "items written in bold typeface in the dictionary"), but only maybe half of these words would be truly active. My own 'basic' languages lie in the interval from 15.000 (Catalan) to 23.000 (Spanish), using my latest word count lists.

Besides I have noticed that the better I know a language, the larger is the percentage of my passive ´words that might presumably also be active. Maybe using the percentage of passive words that you would expect to be able to recall if pressed is as relevant a measure as the 'raw' scores, though less practical.

But of course knowing lots of words is not enough if you don't know how to use them. I know a lot of words in Swedish and Norwegian which I don't speak.


Edited by Iversen on 04 January 2007 at 8:35am

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solidsnake
Diglot
Senior Member
China
Joined 5444 days ago

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Speaks: English*, Mandarin

 
 Message 8 of 19
05 January 2007 at 9:58pm | IP Logged 
to me basic fluency is when you can literally say, describe or explain
anything in L2 as easily and effortless as your L1.

adv. fluency is when your L2 is equal or surpasses an educated native's
L1.


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