BAnna's various languages log

Discussion in 'Language Learning Logs & Super Challenges' started by BAnna, Apr 19, 2014.

  1. BAnna

    BAnna Active Member VIP member

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    Sorry I misunderstood the level comment for Spanish and German. Perhaps my English needs the most work of all! :D

    I'd still say I'm at an intermediate, yet sufficient level to meet my needs, and would not claim to be at an advanced level, (solid C2?) where my skills would be nearly 100% interchangeable with my native language. I am not even comfortable claiming to be a fully competent C1 (see attached self-assessment checklist and be ruthlessly honest to see where you fall, you may be pleasantly surprised or get a wakeup call). I'd say I have partial C1 skills. I didn't go from a beginning B2 skill level to full C1 in a short while, instead I've gradually realized over time that most of my skills fall more toward the C1 end of the spectrum than the B2 one, and continue to remain extremely wary of overstating my level. Although my German teacher suggested I would be able to pass the C2 exam (undoubtedly says more about the exam than my abilities), if pressed, overall in both these languages using the self-assessment checklist as a measure I can do many of the C1 tasks in production skills and the majority of the tasks in the receptive skills. If you take into account that I have not yet mastered all the skills at the C1 level as evidenced by passing the exam, then it could be argued I have only become a much stronger B2 level student approaching C1, that's fine too...the label is not as important to me as the attainment of the skills themselves.

    Many people overstate their abilities when it comes to languages, and I'd prefer to err on the side of caution. I have met too many people who claim to "speak Spanish", yet their skills are quite low. I'm painfully aware of how much I suck and do see the glass as half empty. The question is whether to keep expending the effort needed to fill it up. I work about 50 hours a week and typically spend at least 20 hours per week on language study. That kind of grind is really wearing at times and leaves little time for other fun things and very important people. Sorry if I'm being a grump. :oops:

    When trying to decide how much further to go, I ask myself what can I do in these two non-native languages: Can I write a 500-word summary of a novel with only a few errors? Yes (German). Can I hold a phone conversation to troubleshoot technical problems with my cable provider? Yes (Spanish). Can I converse with native speakers on a variety of topics with minimal circumlocution? Yes (both). Do I "get" jokes? Not always, but mostly yes, even if they aren't especially funny (I even struggle in English with this one....:eek:).

    On the other hand: Can I easily make puns and wordplay in the language? No. Can I write a 25-page report with almost no errors? No. Can I comfortably stand up in front of 300 people, give a 45-minute talk and respond to Q&A? No. Can I entertain a sick three year old child with made up stories, songs and rhymes? No ...

    I have done all of those with moderate effort in English, but do I actually need to do any of them in Spanish or German? Nope, not really.

    Could I, with a tremendous amount of work, get to the point where the answer would be yes to those questions? Maybe, but what would the cost be in terms of lost opportunities to do other things? If I am honest, I'd say probably too high to be worth it for me. So I have decided that advanced is not something I'm going to keep chasing right now, though I will surely keep reading, watching, listening to and speaking those languages. If that makes me lame or mediocre or cowardly or whatever, so be it. :) I'll be a loser who can communicate at an adequate if not outstanding level in Spanish and German, yet who would be able to have fun messing about with Russian and Turkish and who would have time for a personal life and other hobbies outside of language learning. Doesn't sound so terrible to me. ;)

    Good point about low-frequency vocabulary in literary works. I read a mixture of literary works and lighter reading such as non-fiction, detective novels, young adult material, etc. without undue effort until they start listing very specific plant or bird names or machinery parts. I don't know the difference between an Aspen and a Larch in English--do I really need to know that in another language?:p
    I read the log entries on All Quiet on the Western Front in German with interest, since I'd read it in Spanish a couple of years ago and recently listened to the audiobook of it roughly around the same time as those entries were written. I knew many (definitely not all) of the words listed. To expand one's vocabulary in German, understanding word formation is really helpful (prefix, suffix, stems, compounds, etc.)
    Here's a site I like that might be useful to students of German:
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~german/Grammatik/Wortbildung/Wortbildung.html


    Some posts on HTLAL were what actually got me thinking about "how much is enough and where to go from here?": a general discussion of CEFR levels (What is your estimate of the CEFR levels?)and especially the below posts (both from Luso who is Portuguese and speaks English, German, French, Spanish and Italian and studies Sanskrit and Arabic). Who knows, maybe I'm just experiencing a bit of burn out, but at the moment I second Luso's statement, "The extra effort to acquire an advanced fluency is just not worth the effort at this point." Of course he's way more advanced than I am, up there in the C2 range. Maybe I just need a vacation :confused:

    Post 1 from Luso


    "This is an important post for me, as it structures my language learning for the foreseeable future.

    I've learned languages for a lot of reasons: I had to; it was useful; it could become useful; it was fun; it was easy; as a way to meet people (girls, TBH); to stay agile mentally; to better my social skills; etc., etc.

    In the world I grew up in, being able to speak other languages (English and French typically) was a big plus. Only a minority of people in older generations did. If you knew German, you were a polyglot. Scholars knew Latin and Greek. Anything else, and you were a mythological creature.

    In school, language teachers were Portuguese people with diplomas. There were the typical foreign language institutions, and the idea I have is that each had a handful of native teachers (Brits, French and Germans) who had been living here for ages, and spoke Portuguese with very heavy, stereotyped accents.

    Some 20 years ago, the situation had changed. In the urban working environment, everyone claimed to speak English. Differentiation became difficult. Possible, but difficult. There were also more people learning languages as a hobby (that's how I started with German). Multinational companies from all countries opened subsidiaries here. Meeting someone from Japan didn't necessarily mean the ambassador. But overall, a good command of a language was still a good asset.

    Fast forward to 2014. Things have become black-and-white. Are you a native speaker? If yes, you're lucky. If not, it doesn't matter if you are a C2 and hold your own pretty well (I'm not complaining, just stating facts). Of course, language skills are valued. As a balance-tipper, perhaps. But they aren't a very important factor on their own anymore.

    How does that affect my language learning priorities? I've decided to stop investing in German and Italian and go into "maintenance" mode. Personal life permitting, I'll do the last semester of Italian, but that's it. My level in both languages is enough to envision living in native speaking countries, and that's fine by me. The extra effort to acquire an advanced fluency is just not worth the effort at this point.

    As I'm happy with the level and "freshness" of my other languages, this leaves Arabic and Sanskrit. Both are difficult, challenging... and rewarding. In both cases, I have a teacher (and a friend) available. The disparity of levels (a beginner of half a year with Sanskrit, a beginner of five years with Arabic) will provide me with the option to toggle between the two. It will be fun.

    In forum terms, this means I'll keep my Spaß and Forza TAC memberships until the end of the year but will not renew either one of them. Maybe I could join an Italian team for 2015, but I'll stick to the Super Challenge instead.

    Speaking of SC, I'm a lot behind schedule by now, but there's still a lot of time to go. I'm not one a "we're are all winners always" kind of person, but I think the SC is one of the few instances where that happens, if people have a modicum of honesty and perseverance.

    I hope this may be of help to someone in the forum. Knowing what not to invest in is important. It's up to each one of us to decide.

    One last note: while not starting to learn a new language in the foreseeable future, I'll keep an eye on this thread. Check it out. "

    [Note from me: The link to the thread is one by Chung describing a plan and resources for studying a related group of Turkic languages over a two-year period. I must admit for about 10 minutes, I was thinking, "Sign me up!", but ultimately sanity prevailed :confused:.]


    Post 2 from Luso:

    "It seems the post was useful. I'm glad.

    I really should leave it at that. Quit while I'm ahead, not push the envelope, that sort of thing. But there's one more thing I think I should say.

    When you study management, there are a few concepts that keep coming up. One such idea is that of a "sunk cost" being irrelevant. In layman terms, this means you shouldn't keep investing in something just because you already invested a lot in it in the past.

    This seems clear in financial terms (sometimes, not even that), but much less so emotionally. I think most of us have invested in situations (jobs, relationships, other ventures) well beyond a reasonable point, just because our past investment had already been substantial.

    To give an example, when I evaluated taking my last semester of Italian, I weighed in a lot of factors: extra language skills, usefulness, diploma, boasting factor (less and less, but there's always a bit), time investment, money investment, class availability (C.2.2 classes don't open every semester, and it's getting worse), colleagues (nice older people), self-esteem (whether we like it or not, it's always there), feeling of completeness...

    These are some possibilities. To be honest, when it comes to this kind of reasoning, I always remember Astérix en Corse (which I read as a kid), when the Corsican guy describes the electoral process to choose a clan leader: 'we all vote, then we throw the urns into the sea, and in the end the strongest man wins'.

    For me, sometimes it's a (more honest) version of that reasoning: I make a nice pros and cons list, then throw the list away and do what feels best."

    Attached Files:

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  2. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    Nice post! The question I asked for advanced languages was "Please select languages in which you feel you have reached a CEFR level of C1 or C2 in at least one of the basic skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening)." That being said, you of course may decide you aren't advanced if you'd like.
  3. Peregrinus

    Peregrinus Active Member

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    @BAana,

    Nice post indeed. I too try to be conservative and dislike inflated estimates of abilities. This is most often seen in using the word "fluent" with no limiting adjectives, and not including a grading of proficiency. I know I am a bore on the subject, but I don't see how a L2 learner can claim "fluent" without being able to read texts and understand spoken language to the level of a high school graduate. I am not very familiar with Luso whom you quoted, but I don't seem mention of passive skills. However for the langs for which he has studied C-level courses, he should be able to read newspapers and novels and understand television. You seem to be able to do that in German and Spanish, and what you lack is the C-level type or oral and written formal presentation skills. You probably have all the vocabulary and grammar you need and just need to study discourse markers, lexical chunks and idioms more, along with formal presentation skills. Personally I would call your level C1 anyway, since you also seem to have good conversational and written skills otherwise. My concentration on passive skills and disinterest in spending much time on active ones means that "intermediate" is probably where any of my L2s will top out.
  4. BAnna

    BAnna Active Member VIP member

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    Although I have posted the below elsewhere (HTLAL), most of my Russian-related stuff is here. And I can correct a typo that a native-speaker pointed out to me while I'm at it. For the Super Challenge this month we were supposed to pick a grammar point that gives us grief and show some example sentences and an explanation:

    August SC Grammar Summary-Russian (Aspect of verbs)


    Sources: textbook "Russian for Everybody" V. Kostomarov, Seventh Edition, 1994 and russianlessons.net.


    The Russian language has only three basic tenses. Present, past and future. However due to such simplicity we need to introduce the concept of aspects. There are two aspects in Russian. The imperfective aspect and the perfective aspect. Aspects are only used in the past and future tense.

    The Russian "читаю" is the equivalent of "I read, am reading, do read, have been reading." The past tense form "я читал(а)" is the equivalent of "I read, was reading, did read, used to read, would read". What can be expressed by the one-word form in Russian may require a verb phrase or may require the use of other words such as adverbs to express the same thing in English. Some of the different forms of the English past tense represent different ways of viewing the action: "was reading"-the action is viewed in progress (progressive meaning); "used to read, would read"-habitual meaning. These different meanings are expressed by "aspects"- the attitude or view which the speaker takes of the action being described. The Russian system of aspects is more developed than that of English, and aspect is expressed within the one-word form itself, without the help of other words. Compare "я читал(а)" (I read, was reading, did read, used to read, would read), with "я прочитал(а)" (I finished reading, read completely).


    Examples:

    Виктор читал книгу два часа.

    Victor read the book for two hours.

    Сейчас он прочитал книгу.

    Now he has finished reading the book.

    Этот театр строили год.

    It took them a year to build this theater.

    Сейчас театр уже построили.

    Now they have finished the theater.

    Маша долго показывала квартиру.

    Masha showed the apartment for a long time.

    Когда она показала всю квартиру, они начали смотреть телевизор.

    When she had shown the apartment, they began watching TV.


    In learning the system of aspects, you do not need to learn any new endings or new types of conjugation. You will need instead to become used to paying attention to the type of action involved and the view of it being taken by the speaker. (Usually the forms of the two aspects are closely related. The two members of an aspect pair usually differ only in the presence or absence of a prefix or suffix). There are exceptions, however, for example Говорить, Сказать (talk, speak, say).

    The Russian aspects, imperfective and perfective, should not be viewed as opposites. The perfective can be defined very precisely, and everything which does not fit this definition will automatically be imperfective.

    The use of the perfective aspect indicates that the speaker views the action as a complete act of limited nature, a total event. Such an action has a definable result or consequence, produces a new state of affairs, and this result or new state of affairs is felt to be still in effect or relevant at the time of speech. A perfective verb views an action as accomplishment, rather than as process. Now examine the above examples with this definition in mind. In Виктор читал книгу два часа, (Victor read the book for two hours) the action is in the past, but it is not complete; it is viewed as a process (in its duration) rather than as a result or accomplishment. In Сейчас он прочитал книгу (Now he has read the book) the action is viewed as a single, total, complete event. It has a product (book finished), which has resulted in a new situation, making further reading impossible or meaningless.

    For a verb to have a perfective aspect it must represent a type of action which is capable of being viewed as a total event, a complete action whose conclusion represents an accomplishment and not just an interruption of the action. Verbs which indicate a continuing state of being or an action which does not lead to a definable result or change of state will not normally have perfective forms with this resultative meaning. Such verbs include быть, гулять, жить, знать, работать (be, stroll, live, know, work). These verbs represent a linear kind of action or state.

    Imperfective verbs in the past tense do not necessarily mean that the action is not complete, though this may be true; they simply make no statement concerning the completeness of the act. They indicate that it is not completeness which is being stressed by the speaker: Вы читали эту книгу? "Have you ever read this book?" Here it is simply a question of whether or not the action ever took place, whether or not the person addressed is acquainted with the book. If however, I knew that you had been reading the book and wanted to know whether you had finished it (perhaps I want to read it next), the question would be: Вы прочитали эту книгу? "Have you finished reading this book?"

    In addition to this "general factual" meaning, the imperfective can refer to actions viewed as process or in their duration (progressive meaning):


    Когда папа и Антон Николаевич играли в шахматы, мы смотрели телевизор.

    While Papa and Anton played (were playing) chess, we watched (were watching) TV.

    Виктор два часа читал эту книгу.

    Victor read the book for two hours.


    It may also express repeated or habitual actions:

    Все молодые люди, которые живут недалеко, ПРИХОДИЛИ сюда покупать газеты и журналы.

    All the young people who live nearby came here to buy newspapers and magazines. (They had the habit of coming to the same place repeatedly to buy them).


    Since perfective verbs indicate a complete action, it is logical that perfective verbs have NO present tense--an action being viewed as in progress cannot at the same time be viewed as a result, as a total event.


    There is one very firm rule of aspect usage: following verbs meaning 'to begin, to continue or to end", ALWAYS use an imperfective infinitive:

    Когда начали строить этот дом?

    When did they start to build this house?

    Вчера мы посмотрели фильм "Анна Каренина", а сегодня я начал читать книгу. Yesterday we watched the film "Anna Karenina", but today I started to read a book.
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  5. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    That's an excellent post. You've covered the basics, but I'd like to point out that there are lot's of other rules. The other rules cover both less common situations, and clarify some of the things you've already mentioned. When I write, aspect is probably my single biggest problem (next to "not talking like a native", but we won't go there). That's because I haven't had the patience to drill all the rules, or even gather them all in one place. You've inspired me to work on this again. I think I'll write a summary of the rules.
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  6. BAnna

    BAnna Active Member VIP member

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    I'm looking forward to that! :) This is definitely only the tip of the iceberg as far as aspect goes...
  7. Bob

    Bob Active Member VIP member

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    I wonder if we have this aspect thing in Greek but don't make a big deal out of it. We were just told to remeber the preposition + verb as its own word. There's some combinations that add the idea "thoroughly" for example.

    By the way, that's the only explaination of Russian aspect I've seen so far that makes any kind of sense.
  8. BAnna

    BAnna Active Member VIP member

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    August SC Challenge Content Summary-RUSSIAN (Spanish and German summaries on HTLAL).

    Am doing the 6 week challenge in Russian, but I've been busy with other things and haven't spent as much time on Russian as I would have liked to, but I finally finished Pimsleur 1. Hurrah! :)
    Unfortunately my library doesn't have 2 and 3, so I'll dip into other materials such as Assimil and Russian Pod 101 for a while while I think over whether or not to spend money on more Pimsleur. My goal for the 6wc is to spend 40 hours with Russian content/study materials. I'm almost there.

    WATCHED:
    1. Cartoon: три котенка (a family of cats)

    Soviet-era films on Youtube:

    2. Осенний марафон ( a professor's midlife crisis)

    3.Три Плюс Два (beach comedy)


    Modern films from Netflix:

    4. Итальянец (a child in an orphanage about to be adopted to Italy, hence the title, who is in search of his birth parents)

    5. счастье мое (a review called this a Russian version of "Deliverance" . That about sums it up: what can go wrong, does)

    6. В тумане (set in WWII Belarus, partisans pick up a suspected collaborator, kind of slow-moving but beautiful cinematography, I actually liked this a lot, but I read it was a flop in Russia)

    7. моя безумная семья (modern day slapstick rom-com, mostly ridiculous but a couple of scenes were really funny)


    8. TV Series: continuing with Кухня (often view the same episode a few times since my comprehension level is low).


    Not counted toward SC: BBC Russian podcast news. I usually listen to this about once a week or so and it led me to songs by Сектор Газа, for example:

    READ:

    Transcript of an entire episode of Кухня that I had already seen a few times, but definitely am still relying on the English translation. Большое спасибо to Big Dog for this!

    Also brief selections from each of the following:

    поколене "П" I have copies of this novel by Viktor Pelevin in English and Russian, so I'm slowly reading bits of it, one sentence at a time...

    Без свидетелей -graded reader about clashing geologists in Siberia

    калейдоскоп-graded reader with short humorous one page stories. This one is perfect for my level.

    однажды утром-child's story with animal characters This from the following site with lots of children's stories.
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  9. BAnna

    BAnna Active Member VIP member

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    Bad news/good news post:

    I've decided to throw in the towel on the Super Challenge in Russian. Based on my own experience and input from Kerrie and Solfrid Cristina on HTLAL, I have realized my time would be much better utilized studying the basics (grammar and vocabulary) than watching movies with subtitles and painfully slowly working through texts with dictionary or parallel text in hand. Since starting the challenge back on May 1, I've read 163 pages and watched 3270 minutes in Russian, probably 90% with subtitles. If I were going to actually finish reading 2000 pages and watch 9000 minutes of movies, my very rough calculation says I'd have to spend an inordinate amount of time (12 or more hours weekly). I do wish it could have worked, but no use throwing more effort along those lines, so I'm going to cut my losses and dive back into instructional material and leave the native content for later (B1+). I'll still read stuff like Kaleidoscop or watch a movie here and there, but not under the conditions of trying to complete a challenge. This isn't really bad news, but I do wish I had made this decision sooner.

    The good news is that yesterday's mail brought me a German-based book and CD set for learning Turkish. We hit it off wonderfully with our German-Turkish houseguest and I even skyped with her grandmother (almost exclusively in German, but with hello and goodbye in Turkish). We have an invitation to visit Turkey that I think we will be able to do within the next year or two, so I have a lot of motivation to learn at least enough for tourist usage.
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  10. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    Sounds like a good decision. It's also good that you gave it a try. No regrets.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2014
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  11. Peregrinus

    Peregrinus Active Member

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    I think this is the key point. Even Kato Lomb who used a novel in her learning method did so only after using beginning materials and amassing an initial stock of the most common words. I didn't start a literary novel until knowing almost 10K words in German, and still found another 1300 new ones in it. And if I didn't have a basic command of the grammar I don't think I would have attempted it.

    It is always hard to "cut losses" but I don't think you lost anything except time, and those sources can still be used later. Also I think listening, at least to radio, from an early stage every day is very helpful, even when not understanding a whole lot, in order to accustom yourself to the language. I've always done most of this in the background while doing other things on the computer, until I knew enough to benefit from listening more intensely.

    You know what I'm going to say now right? :) Acquiring a large vocabulary as fast as you can is the quickest way to access native materials to a higher degree and make substantial progress.
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  12. BAnna

    BAnna Active Member VIP member

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    Thanks to you both! I was definitely overly ambitious with Russian, but no regrets. I was able to find some interesting content that definitely gave me an ear for the language and insight into Russian culture.

    And oh yes, Peregrinus, I definitely need to work on building up the vocabulary. Way back with German I did a Gold-list kind of thing for a few months and it was great. I had started to do that with Russian early on, but my Cyrillic handwriting at that time was so atrocious I could barely read it. Now it's better...so I'll try it again. Or maybe I'll try the Iversen-list method. And who knows, I may even give Anki a shot again sometime in future.;) I have a couple of Russian apps on my phone that I've been using: one is a verb trainer and the other contains the 1000 most frequent Russian words. I've been doing these for a few minutes each day during waiting times.
  13. Peregrinus

    Peregrinus Active Member

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    Re handwriting, mine is atrocious in English, and though I could make it look nice, it just takes so much time. When I studied Russian in high school I had pretty clear Cyrillic handwriting, but I did write slow. As an alternative, especially if you would like to use Iversen lists in a spreadsheet as I do, why not just type in Russian? You mentioned earlier that you don't type Russian fast, but with practice you would surely get better. You can read my digital method in the Iversen list/GL/Anki thread. Basically you just use the hide function to hide columns from yourself for writing the next column. GL probably depends heavily on writing though so digital is not as likely to be successful there I would think. In fact being slow and deliberate in writing the lists is what the inventor of the method recommends.

    The common and good recommendation is to start out slow with daily vocabulary learning and then slowly tweak it up. I think anyone could do 10 words a day, which is fairly slow, but with a little more effort it can be 20 or 30. 30 a day gets you 2/3 of the way to the lexical threshold of 15K in a year's time. As always, you need to reinforce that learning with texts and listening.
  14. Bjorn

    Bjorn Active Member VIP member

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    I'm sure it was a wise decision, anyway I'm impressed with your language study activities.
  15. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    Finally, here is my follow-up post.
  16. BAnna

    BAnna Active Member VIP member

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    2014 Year-End Update- (Warning: absurdly long post ahead)


    POLYDOG: Yikes-I thought I had posted here a while back that I was going to be away for a while: I was not participating on any forums for the last few months or so due to a lot of things going on in real life (work demands/travel, houseguests and living situation changes, multiple health issues), but I'm back to check in, though I may not continue to post all that much (ongoing health issues need attention). I was surprised to see some membership changes, but this remains a vibrant forum with lots of fabulous resources. I posted most of the below over on HTLAL, but I think some people only participate in this forum, and am posting here as well in case any of it is useful to anyone thinking about or planning on taking a language test of any sort.

    ------------------------


    In the middle of the above-mentioned chaos, I (idiotically) succumbed to the peer pressure of the C2 German prep class and actually signed up for and took the C2 exam. Umm, what was I thinking? I had never taken any of the previous level tests so didn't really know what to expect and really this was way, way over my head. Clearly I signed up in a moment of insanity! Actually, part of the reason I took the test was that my son just returned from a year studying at a German university and I wanted to encourage him to take it, so I had to lead by example. We didn't really spend much time studying together since our schedules are so different, but we did spend a couple of hours the weekend before the test, which was helpful. I'm pretty sure he passed or at least came close, unlike Mom: I won't have my results until January, but I have no doubt whatsoever that I did not pass. I certainly don't regret taking it since it pushed me outside of my comfort zone and by studying for the exam I improved my German, even if it still falls way short of C2. During the time leading up to the exam I basically dropped all other language study and spent what available time I had completely focused on German, doing grammar exercises and watching/listening/reading with a different focus than usual (see gory details below if you care a whit!). I don't necessarily think this was the optimal approach but it seemed to be a good idea while I was doing it. Further down below I will summarize my experience with the test and how I prepared for it. By the way, even if you don't study German, you might find it funny that the verb "durchfallen" means to fail, and the noun "Durchfall" means diarrhea. I felt like both after this bear of a test!


    Anyone interested in Spanish, Russian or Turkish, sorry, I have basically nothing to report. I naturally watched Spanish TV (insane amounts of soccer, mostly) and spoke lots with my husband and family, but did no focused work on building vocabulary in Spanish and recorded nothing for the SC, since it was "pedal to the metal" German for the 6 or so weeks prior to the November 24th exam. Since then, I've been dealing with health issues so haven't worked on languages at all, though I hope to start up again after the new year probably relearning what I've forgotten. I will focus on my health and will abstain from TAC in 2015. I hope to continue with the Super Challenge and finish the 100/100 for German and Spanish and see how far I get piddling about with Russian and Turkish (not a priority, but still fun). In 2014 so far, I've spent roughly 300 hours on Spanish (not counting family interactions), 300 hours on Russian, 400 hours on German and a mere 12 hours on Turkish. These were a combination of study and consumption of native materials (a larger percentage time in studying instructional materials for Russian and Turkish and a larger percentage of using native materials for German and Spanish).


    German C2 Exam-**way, way more than you probably want to know**


    How the test is structured: four parts (Writing, Reading, Listening, Speaking). It is quite long (close to 4 hours on-task time not including breaks and time waiting for the individual oral part: I was there from about 10-4:30) and no reference materials are allowed. You must get at least 60 percent on each part to pass, but you are allowed at a future date to retake each part until you pass them all. I was achy all over and quite tired when done. It was really an ordeal, but I survived! It's been decades since I've taken university final exams, so stamina was a bit of an issue for me, though my son also was wiped out by the end of the day, so it wasn't just my being an old fogey. I also somehow muddled through without caffeine (due to health issues), but I don't think its addition would have made much difference in the outcome.


    1. Writing (80 minutes total) includes a section where you rephrase a sentence in other words using a keyword. That part was for me the hardest part of the entire test. The other writing assignment requires the writing an essay/formal letter (you choose from various topics). You have 60 minutes to write a 350-word essay. This part should have been doable, but was a total disaster for me because I majorly goofed up. I completely lost track of time and wrote about an 800-word essay on the scratch paper but did not have time to rewrite it all onto the answer sheet (the only bit that counts). Next time--providing there is one--I will just write directly on the answer sheet...It's clearly been too long since I've been in school. This was a really foolish mistake to have made and it shook my confidence badly since it was the first part of the exam. It was like one of those dreams you have where you're in the exam room naked or forgot your calculator or have nothing to write with. On the bright side, I learned that I am able to write a fairly long essay in German in 50 minutes. Too bad I then had only 10 minutes to try to transfer that monstrosity onto the answer sheet. ;) I pity the poor soul trying to read my frantic scrawl! Of course, only what is written on the answer sheet is evaluated, so I will definitely need to repeat this section if I take the test again. How I prepped: I wrote some short essays and formal letters and my kind native speaker friends corrected them for me. I also studied preposition and verb-noun combinations using Anki (yes, though I'm normally allergic to Anki, it does have its uses) and by doing grammar exercises. My son wrote stories daily and used memrise. An example of verb-noun combo is "einen Beitrag leisten". Estimated score: 25/100. Total Fail. Had I written the essay on the #$%^ answer sheet, I think I might have passed, albeit probably with a low score: 65/100?


    2. Reading. This section is also 80 minutes long. There are four subsections: a medium length text with questions in a multiple choice answer format, a text where you have to select and add connecting sentences between paragraphs, a text where you have to select and add entire paragraphs between other paragraphs and a relatively easy section where you look at a variety of job listings and have to indicate which position meets certain criteria. The texts use quite specialized vocabulary as might be expected for the C2 test, which basically qualifies one to study at a university in German. The writing is formal, non-fiction, geared to academic or professional audiences. For example, one section was on models used for problem solving in the workplace. I probably also failed this part. It's possible I might have squeaked by if I made a few lucky educated guesses, but I was so shook up after the writing fiasco, I had a very hard time concentrating. How I prepped: I read online news daily (Die Zeit, Süddeutsche Zeitung, etc.), lots of wikipedia articles and one book (detective novel as a break). Though I read a lot during this time, only the novel counted toward the Super Challenge. Estimated score: 50/100. Fail, but close.


    3. Listening. This section is about 35 minutes long and in three parts. Surprisingly to me after all the podcasts I listened to, parts of this were VERY challenging, because of vocabulary used and native speed. The first part is a series of 5 short radio broadcasts on various topics such as commercial fishing (no kidding!). You only get to listen to each one a single time and then have to answer Yes or No to 3 questions per broadcast. Part two is a discussion between two people and you have to pick whether the opinions expressed are held by the first or second speaker or by both people. Again, you get only one listen. I understood the conversation, but it was difficult for me to really determine if both people really held the opinion, especially when one of them said, "you said x", then person 2 said, "no, you misunderstood, I actually meant y when I said x". Yikes! The topic was orchestral music. The last section was an interview with a professor discussing urban planning (2 listens this time) followed by multiple-choice answers to questions. The last part seemed the easiest of the bunch even if the vocabulary was challenging. Maybe since we got to hear it twice, it didn't seem so bad. How I prepped: listened to a lot of podcasts and TV and radio news broadcasts. Tagesschau, I'm looking at you...again, most didn't count toward the Super Challenge, but some documentaries did and I had to take a break here and there to maintain my sanity and watch Tatort....lol. BTW, the Frankfurt Tatort that was Shakespeare/Tarantino-esque was awesome! It's possible but unlikely I passed this part. Again, a few lucky guesses would be needed. Estimated score: 50/100. Another fail.


    4. Speaking. You have 15 minutes to select 2 separate topics (one is a presentation and the other is a discussion) and prepare an outline. Then you have to speak solo on a topic for a minimum of 5 and maximum of 10 minutes and answer questions on it (topics such as globalization, stereotypes, environmental issues, etc.). Part 2 is interacting with a native speaker (one of the examiners) for 5 minutes in a pro-contra format trying to convince the other of the rightness of your opinion. How I prepped: talked to my skype buddies, and in my class we did a practice presentation. I made a lot of silly mistakes, but I'm guessing I passed this one, maybe with a 65/100? Pass, if just by a nose. Yay!- at least I hope...


    Conclusions: I think I'm at the C1 level (not too terribly bad for 3 years of very erratic part-time study followed by 2 years of pretty consistent study and not ever living in a German-speaking country.) If I had to actually go work or study in a German-speaking environment, I think I could somehow manage it with some focused, intense preparation, though I'd probably make frequent idiotic mistakes that would amuse my colleagues quite a bit. But hey, I do that in English, too :)...

    I have also gained a deeper respect for my many coworkers for whom English is not their native language. Of course I knew before that working on technical and professional topics in a non-native language is not easy, but having taken this exam I have a better appreciation of how much of a challenge it is to try to analyze, problem-solve and communicate in one's adopted tongue.


    What's next? I'll update here with my actual score when I get the results, no matter what the blow to my ego might be (maybe where I think I'm in the 50s I'm really only in the 30s? quite possible) Depending on the outcome and the amount of effort I'm willing to put in, I will either re-sit the parts of the C2 exam that I failed (next offering is in April) or I will take the C1 exam, which I now think I could pass with some studying but no major heroics. I've entertained the idea of maybe doing a C1 exam in Spanish, but it is not at all convenient for me and I don't really need it nor am I in any sort of class with fellow language fanatics/nutjobs such as myself, so I probably won't do it anytime soon if ever. I'm looking forward to some free time now to work on my other languages and other interesting things in general that I have neglected for a while. I'm also currently taking a break from the C2 German class but hope to start a C level conversation class in February. No, I probably won't learn as much, but my goal is not to be a university-level user of any of the languages I am learning. I'm happy being a casual user who can comfortably interact with people and easily enjoy movies/books that are not overly challenging (something along the lines of detective novels rather than great literature). I would be beyond thrilled if I could someday get to even a B-level with my Russian and Turkish. And yes, part of me does feel like a slacker for not pushing my Spanish and German to the highest level, but it's just not realistic or necessary for me. I need to accept that, be comfortable with where I am and stop berating myself for not attaining perfection. I don't even reach that standard in English, after all, and I no longer spend much if any time reading Shakespeare, philosophical or technical treatises either, so my resolution for the coming year is to ENJOY the languages I am lucky enough to be able to be familiar with. That should be an easy one to keep.


    Cheers, Best Wishes, and Good Health to all!
    Big_Dog likes this.
  17. Bob

    Bob Active Member VIP member

    Joined:
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    Wow if only someday I could be that good :) Here's a question... do you change your general study strategy when you're reaching for C2 rather that B2, etc?
  18. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
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    Welcome back - and what a great post!
    Those are some big, impressive numbers.

    Sounds terribly good to me :)

    Same to you, especially the good health part. I sure do miss mine when I don't have it.
  19. BAnna

    BAnna Active Member VIP member

    Joined:
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    Thanks, BigDog, for the kind words and good wishes. A lot of those "study" hours were watching TV, reading detective novels, listening to podcasts, etc., so figure half or less of all those numbers for actual study, but to your point, definitely a lot of time, which I unfortunately don't have currently available, but I hope to get back to it sometime.


    Hi Bob, on to your question.

    I really had to think for a while about the difference when studying B2 level material versus C2. I don't have a definitive answer (and I never tried the B2 test), but I think that for B2, the focus would be more on general vocabulary and just getting the hang of things like irregular verbs, whereas with C2, it's really much more technical/professional type vocabulary and literary grammatical features (think of something like a passive past perfect continuous sentence in English like "The restaurant's fantastic dinners had been being prepared by Chef Jones for two years before he moved to France"), as well as collocations and prepositional phrases.

    Just as an example, a common word for "offer": anbieten. For B2, it would probably be enough to know the meaning, that it is separable (means it can get split up in a sentence) and that it is an irregular (strong) verb that undergoes a stem change.

    For C2, you'd probably have to differentiate among the following examples below paraphrased from a great book, Dictionary of German Synonyms by R.B Farrell (1980).

    Part One:

    anbieten: the implication of handing a thing over to a person as a conscious act, possibly with the idea of pressing it on them. The intended receiver must be mentioned in the sentence (and in the dative case).

    bieten: not a conscious act of offering, but simply having available.


    Compare the following 2 sentences, which are almost identical:


    Die Universität Berlin bietet ausländischen Studenten größere Vorteile als Jena an.

    Die Universität Berlin bietet ausländischen Studenten größere Vorteile als Jena.



    The first one means that Berlin U is taking active steps to attract the foreign students, while the second one means that there are advantages, but the administration is doing nothing to bring them to the attention of such students.


    Part Two:

    anbieten v. sich erbieten:

    Here, anbieten refers to ordinary acts or to contracts, while sich erbieten means to volunteer in bigger matters.

    Ich habe ihm angeboten, den Brief für ihn zu übersetzen. (I've offered to translate the letter for him.)

    Sie hat sich erboten, die Diphtheriekranken zu pflegen. (She has offered to care for the diptheria patients).
  20. BAnna

    BAnna Active Member VIP member

    Joined:
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    Actually just got the results from my C2 exam, way better than I thought, although of course I did fail the writing part (no surprise there):

    Reading 77/100
    Listening 71/100
    Speaking 68/100

    Not the highest scores, but I'm thrilled nevertheless. Now I have to decide when to re-take the writing part (the test is only offered here twice per year).

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