Going from B2 to C1 (Spanish)
I would like to get some opinion and advice on how to go from a B2 level to C1 level in Spanish. Of course, I am looking for realistic advice (moving to a Spanish speaking country or marrying a native Spanish speaker is currently not an option!)
Here's some info about my current situation:
I completed the tree. I keep everything gold, always. My calculated fluency is 49%.
In my last trip to Ecuador, the locals keep saying that my Spanish was good and clear. In fact, they were surprised that I learned everything from Internet. When the guides were speaking, I could understand up to 90% of what they were saying. However, I had more trouble understanding the "regular" locals as they usually speak faster and do not articulate as much.
I can understand some movies up to 80% (The Amazing Spider Man) while for some movies (The Last Samurai), I had trouble understand half of what was being said. It all depends on the accent, the speaking speed and the vocabulary used.
Here is what I am currently doing on a daily basis:
I review words on Quizlet 2-3 times a day
I watch one video on Yabla and add the new words to Quizlet
I watch 2 episodes of The Simpsons in Spanish (Mexican version)
I get 50 Duolingo XP per day learning Dutch (ok that's unrelated)
Any criticism, advice, opinion?
Here are some tips from polyglots about learning in the intermediate stage:
Many people refer to increasing levels in language learning to an upside down pyramid or an expanding circle. To advance to the next level becomes increasingly difficult. It's also more difficult to see one's progress. It can also be hard to determine your own level precisely without being officially evaluated by a trained native speaker.
My own personal strategy for getting from an estimated B1 to B2 and C1 is to read novels in Spanish (starting with books for kids and young adults) and watch TV shows in Spanish with Spanish subtitles on (no English). I also want to listen to podcasts more to train my ear. If you haven't done the reverse tree (English for Spanish speakers) or laddering (learning one foreign language from another), I'd recommend trying those.
Si ya eres B2, eso significa que puedes leer bien, asi que te escribo en español. Entre B2 y C1 tienes que aprender mucho vocabulario, en B2 ya has aprendido la gramatica asi que tienes que practicarla.
Try to find a partner to speak the language online or in person. If you live in the USA you can try to visit Spanish grocery shops and talk in Spanish with the shop keeper, try to eat in a taqueria etc. I do not know Quizlet so I am not sure if you write and read enough, that is very important to learn more vocabulary and review grammar structures. Try to learn the pronunciation, pay attention to the sounds. Buena suerte.
Have more conversations with native speakers. Remember, however, that C1 is a lofty goal indeed.
http://www.conversationexchange.com - you create an account and then search for practice partners. You can search by various criteria such as gender, age, nationality, hobbies. You can search for pen pals, audio chat partners, or video chat partners. You can use their internal messaging service if you don't want to give out your email address.
Also check out iTalki, weSpeke, Busuu, and goSpeaky.
Thanks everyone for you inputs. I see two things from these responses:
- Immersion: I have to speak with native speakers
While I intend to go back to a Spanish speaking country eventually (in more than a year), I would have to use the tools that are available until then. The website to find a partner seems like a good place to start. Also, I would like to improve my Spanish before going back to a such country. I enjoy comparing my Spanish skills from a journey to another one.
- Reading more
I am a bit skeptical about this one. Is it really going to help? From what I see, my biggest weakness is my listening skills. In fact, I can read a technical Spanish article on Wikipedia without any problem (although I will have to focus very hard). I can still learn new words by reading though.
I can read a technical Spanish article on Wikipedia without any problem
I think this is pretty common for speakers of Romance languages and English. There are just so many cognates. It's probably in literature that the problems crop up. Of course, even a C2 speaker might come across words they don't know in literature with a certain amount of regularity.
Since it sounds like your biggest interest is in furthering spoken comprehension, so it would seem that listening would be the natural focus. Obviously the Simpsons isn't going to give you all the vocab to understand the words tour guides might be using to describe natural, architectural, historical aspects of things, so maybe there'd be value in mixing up the content a bit. I have a certain degree of skepticism about vocab drills originating with content you've come across. There's a possibility the vocab isn't that common, so you wind up spending an inordinate amount of time for little gain. I'm tempted to say it's better to spend the time just being exposed to more Spanish. Then if there are words that are popping out at you repeatedly that you don't know, it's more clear where to focus your vocab effort.
Spanish really can be spoken quickly. One tip to help with the fast stuff if you haven't tried it: use earphones instead of listening from speakers. I always find the sounds are just that shade more distinct that it can really amp up comprehension.
One more thing I recently started doing is reading the newspaper in Spanish. In fact, instead of reading the "World Section" in my native tongue, I am reading these news in Spanish, thus it does not consume more time during my day.
Out of curiosity, I picked an article (which was about the contamination of the oceans) and counted the number of words that I didn't know (if it took me more than 2 seconds to remember the word, it means I did not know it). The results: I knew 662 words out of 677 (approximately 98%).
It's sounds like the issue is with vocabulary rather than grammar?
Write down new words from the Simpsons and any other type of exposure you get and then short term, while fresh in your memory look back at them a few times i.e. the next tree days before discarding them. You "should" remember them plus the context you heard them in, creating rather strong memories. This might support you in building your vocabulary faster. When the Simpsons doesn't yield enough material anymore, switch to something else. Make sure you get a steady stream of new vocabulary.
Developing the listening skills and vocabulary size are probably important. I've tried to build up vocabulary with a smartphone by a) reading newspaper articles, and b) looking up each word I don't know from a dictionary app, and finally c) creating a word bank to Quizlet, based on the words I looked up. Then I use flashcards/quizzes in Quizlet to memorize the new words. Vocabulary grows pretty nicely just by reading 1-2 articles a day and sticking to it.
I have a four year Spanish major (20 years ago). Raised English speaking children in an English speaking, non-diverse community, with virtually no way to practice other than books. My college was not up to standard.
I wrote a Spanish email to the department head, to ask what can be done, since I cannot obtain a position in my career. He said come back and take second year Spanish! Seriously! I have completed four years!
After spending two months reviewing Spanish, and completing the Spanish tree on Duolingo, I took a quick little online placement test, and placed B2, as expected. I know my Spanish has increased tremendously this summer, grateful for that. I think a good quality community college Spanish 202 or 203 would be excellent, since I do know that there are language standards in place now, and students are required to do more than work through a Spanish book and take tests. Students are required to read and do extensive writing now at the earlier levels. Those were only upper division Spanish electives when I was in college and not required for my Spanish teaching degree.
Unfortunately academics in an English speaking country only carries you so far; I am fluent and fully literate in Spanish, Russian and English (I also have fluencies in French and German however these are on hold right in order to devote 100 % of my time to Russian); I minored in Spanish language and Spanish literature in undergrad and thought of myself as fluent before living in Mexico for a year and a half; You really need the 100% total immersion in Spanish speaking community, for at least six months to a year, to achieve the fluency to which you are aspiring---meaning that Spanish becomes permanently apart of your comprehension, thinking and speaking abilities like English; If you don't get the total immersion your Spanish skills will eventually go to waste and you'll lose the language eventually. My colleagues and I say that when a speaker speaks Spanish natively then the speaker is speaking "in the absence of English" and not from English into Spanish (like so many people think is the way to acquire Spanish as a second language); you need a total immersive environment which forces you to learn to listen and respond without relying on English language (not like classroom environment where you briefly learn to do this and then automatically and consciously STOP once you leave classroom); every day from morning to night in an environment where you are forcing yourself to recognize everything around in Spanish and everyone with whom you interact with will be speaking Spanish and not English; so that with every interaction you are subconsciously preparing yourself and your thoughts in Spanish--
Hey thanks for the comment.
My Spanish improved a lot since the time I wrote this post. I have been watching movies and series in Spanish regularly on Netflix. Understanding the spoken language is no longer a problem for me and I no longer need to focus hard in order to understand it. I also have been practicing my speaking skills with a meetup group once a month.
I believe that my speaking skills remained at a B2 level since I don't practice it so much (I would need immersion like you said). However, my listening skills are now closer to a C1 level.