About LLS:

Throughout my career, I have received thousands of questions regarding languages and I have finally decided to answer them objectively with no strings attached. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave your comments below.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Reaching fluency: A neverending frustration

If any of you have had the opportunity to learn a language well enough to be able to communicate, then you must understand the constant issue of being passively frustrated at all the never-ending vocabulary which keeps coming your way no matter how many pages of textbook you run through.

As a person becomes more apt at a given language, the requirements to reach perfection seem to triple with each advance and often lead to loss of motivation. The very moment you reach a different skill level, it seems as if you need to take a break and find another boost of energy to get you across the escape velocity of laziness. Nevertheless, somewhere deep down, you tell yourself that you have learned so much until now and that with time, improvements will come, only to misjudge the amount of time it would normally take to get over and done with it.

Ironically, the amount of vocabulary in my native language never ceases to amaze me as I still find countless words in bestsellers which can only reinforce the popular saying "we never stop learning".

According to my experience, there are perhaps 2 methods to deal with advanced language plateaus, but before getting into it, please take a look at this chart below:

Simplified Chart of Fluency (Between B2- C2):

Weak B2 - Being able to read newspapers

Average B2 - Being able to communicate clearly with native speakers
Strong B2 - Being able to discuss complicated topics with native speakers
Weak C1 - Understanding movies with the aid of subtitles

Average C1 - Understanding movies without subtitles
Strong C1 - Understanding music on the radio

1 - The passive way:

Make it a journey, not a mission!

After getting to a certain point within the realms of fluency, a good way to get better is to stop putting priority on studying but rather on casual conversations, music, movies and newspapers. Instead of setting goals, you should simply try to start enjoying the language. Your level would allow you to read newspapers on a daily basis listen to music on the radio or even watch popular box office hits with subtitles, assuming that you have Google translate on standby to help you cover news words.

Finding some foreign friends or joining some kind of language tandems weekly would make a tremendous difference over a period of years. This method is probably the best one due to its high degree of realism related to the obvious fact that one cannot learn to describe the world in a foreign language by cramming up vocabulary in one sitting. Make it into a lifestyle and don't focus on it so much! If it happens in 5 years, so be it! But then again, would you notice it? Imagine 4 years from now, waking up one day and noticing superb fluency.

2 - The active way:

There is another way to get good quickly, but it requires a lot of effort and tremendous amounts of motivation. My take on it would be to cover concise materials from exam books. Grab a couple of "B2-C1" and "C1-C2" exam books and do a few pages daily while attending conversation classes. Realistically, it would still take you a year or two even with strong dedication. Furthermore, "the passive way" as mentioned above could also be a good addition to bind it all together.

This road is rough and dry, make sure you have enough fuel!


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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available athttp://www.pmls.pl/Disclaimereng.htm.

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