Is there a life after C2?
Already after the first two weeks interpreting classes, something has become blatantly obvious to me: while a C2 level might be considered “near-native proficiency” there is still so much left to learn.
It always depends on the specific field you plan to apply your language skills in, but for me as an aspiring interpreter it has become clear that I will most likely never stop improving them. In the end, language learning is a never-ending journey.
Sometimes it even seems to me that a C2 level is merely the starting point for making working as an interpreter possible.
Which means that even at a C2 level one could set the goal of improving one’s vocabulary. Especially economical, finance-related or political terminology can always be improved and expanded.
Another sphere holding potential for improvement is cultural knowledge. The culture of a nation is continually changing and developing which will always leave us with blank spaces to fill in or with interesting facts to research and to discover.
Considering the seemingly endless possibilities of amplifying our cultural knowledge, why don’t we start tonight by watching a good movie or reading a classic in a language you already know really well?
Without a doubt, curiosity will be more helpful when improving than perfectionism. And from time to time I think we should simply be proud of having reached a C2-level in the first place!
Reading is one of the most valuable language learning activities. It helps you acquire new words and idioms while increasing your passive knowledge of the language.
At beginner level, reading will first and foremost help you internalizing the language structures and the grammar you already studied while introducing new grammatical phenomena.
It can be merely a pleasant pastime or a highly challenging learning strategy!
I think I made that clear – reading is just plain awesome.
But what should you read at beginner level as you don’t want to discourage yourself by grabbing a complicated news article or refined poetry?
1. Simplified reading
Less might be more in the beginning! I would suggest choosing designated didactic material in the early stages of language acquisition. Easily understandable texts that also provide you with notes on vocabulary and grammar are not only the most beneficial for improving your meta-language skills, but also the most motivational as you actually understand everything you read! These are the books I used for improving my Italian – entertaining and instructive.
2. Children’s books
Reading children’s books as a beginner will benefit you for various reasons!
Firstly, their basic language and self-explanatory content make reading delightfully easy.
Secondly, you will most likely encounter very useful, practical everyday vocabulary. As an advanced learner of Russian, I am painfully aware of the fact that I yet have to incorporate some of these words into my active vocabulary. I think this is quite a common phenomenon among those who study a language in an academic context – but you can and should contrast it by learning useful words like “vacuum cleaner” and “saucepan” early on! 😉
And lastly, children’s books are usually cultural artifacts of some sort. They do not only teach you language, but also give you an insight into cultural practices and realia.
3. Familiar texts
A different strategy would be reading texts you already read in another language. Knowing the contents of a text helps you retracing the meaning of new words and makes reading very pleasant. Many people I know actually swear by reading “The Little Prince” in every new language they learn!
Days before a presentation in one of my language classes, I would sometimes browse the internet for advice on how to not completely embarrass myself in front of the whole class. Hardly ever did I come by any useful content, which is why I figured I would put together a couple of tips in case you are in the same situation! 🙂
1. Do as much research as possible
Especially if your presentation is going to be oral, try to accumulate as much audio and video material on your specific topic as you possibly can. For one of my presentations in Russian, I transcribed a documentary about my topic of choice and re-watched the film until I had almost automatically memorized certain useful phrases.
2. Write out a complete script
Whether or not you should apply this tip depends on your fluency level and self-confidence. For my Russian presentations, it always helped me to type out exactly what I wanted to say. Then I would memorize the text and practice until I was able to put the content into my own words. Ideally you could bribe a native or proficient speaker into proofreading your notes beforehand!
3. Record and/or film yourself
Especially if you have to give a presentation in front of a larger group, I suggest you film yourself while doing a trial run. This helps not only with time management, but also makes you aware of rather annoying little habits you might have while speaking!
4. Analyse native speakers
Native speakers of any given language always embellish their speech with certain words, phrases or intonation patterns that indicate fluency and confidence. Be a careful listener and observer and you will adopt them almost automatically.
Good luck – and remember that if you pull through, you will benefit greatly from this exercise!
So germane to my life!
Naturally we all have a special relationship with our native language. German is the first language I ever spoke. It is my family’s and most of my friends’ native language. Certainly the fact that GERMAN is my mother tongue had its ramifications for the way I look at the world and how I relate to my environment.
When I speak German I am very sure of myself, knowing this language allows me to express myself with the detail, the nuances and the level of style only our native languages provide for us. Sometimes I just stop and listen to my friends speaking German, completely in awe of how well we master this language.
German is very rich, it is complex and powerful. And – of course – it will always hold a very special place in my heart.
But you are Oh too close!
Since I live in a German-speaking country, I use the German language most of the time and always did so. This caused me to develop this very tight bound with my native language because if which I prefer to use other languages on this blog, for example. The German words are somewhat too familiar, to well-known and every single word evokes a multitude of associations.
Writing in my native langue, I immediately start using heavy, pompous expressions and structures – and, to be honest, I don’t enjoy reading such texts very much! 🙂
By the time I enroled in the university, I stopped keeping a German diary and switched to English, just because I felt like I needed to create a certain distance to be able to set my mind in order.