B2 exam thoughts and learning points

I’m not going to pass the B2, that is for sure.

What’s interesting to me is that, as I sat in the exam room, I wondered why I was there. I mean I know I wanted to really gauge my French level, but something felt off about the exam. Regardless I will make some notes on very important things.

Firstly, I went into the exam under extreme fatigue. For the last month I have been working on releasing a novel online, and two weeks to the day of the exam were spent literally burning the midnight oil, doing tasks for about five people. During this time I didn’t do much French.

Also I worried about my writing ability primarily because I had never written much
French and it was a component of the exam.

Either way, the main thing that defeated me this time was mental. I had about seven weeks to prepare for the exam, and at least a month and a half of that I was feeling somewhat depressed. Happiness, or a relatively balanced mental state is key to pushing as hard as I do. Sure I read thousands of sentences out loud as an experiment, but after five days I wasn’t sure what was happening, and started feeling silly as if i was wasting my time.

Now the first section of the exam is listening. I have NEVER heard a French person speak that fast in my life. It was something recorded from the radio, and the man was speaking (and stuttering) rapidly. It was around that moment I realized i probably wouldn’t pass.

The exam is graded based on a very subjective set of tests. So if you don’t understand a thing you hear, and you must answer questions based on what you hear, well, how do you answer? You can’t.

It’s the same thing with the reading section. They produced two articles, one about some Internet Piracy act the government implemented, the other something to do with “camera cachee”. Now, the reality is if you don’t know what some key words mean, you can’t draw a proper inference (at least I couldn’t).

For example, in the exame I was asked to define what “Piratage” meant based on what the article said. I probably understood 70% of what the article said, but it wasn’t enough to provide a proper definition. The second article was basically noise to me. I couldn’t tell if they were talking about reality TV, or candid camera. There was one word that i didn’t understand “cachee” and based on the text, it didn’t point to what it was. This meant (again) it would be nigh impossible to answer nuanced questions. This was when i decided not to complete the exam.

It just didn’t make sense, simply because it was too subjective and I was lacking (a) very specific vocabulary. To put this in perspective, the examiner (who is a native French speaker) explained all the exam rules in French and spoke pretty fast but i understood 95% of what he was saying.

This illustrates what i didn’t like about it. i’m sure if the listening exercise was something where the speaker didn’t sound like was on cocaine i might have felt differently. Either way, what is great about this entire experience is that I didn’t feel bad or dissappointed. Actually, I was so tired and burnt out from doing my book launch that i’m surprised I even attempted the exam.

What it showed me is that I have French ability, and i’ve made great strides (for a guy who does no practice). I’m going to focus more on vocabulary and see if I can hit the 3000 word mark. I’m familiar with about 1500, but it isn’t enough yet and that’s the angle i’m approaching now as i keep blogging abou tthis process.

 

cheers

ONLINE BOOK LAUNCH: SEX DRUGS AND JERK CHICKEN

I’m happy to announce my first novel, Sex Drugs and Jerk Chicken which will be available worldwide on Amazon starting July 22nd, 2012. I’m doing a Campaign to boost first day sales, so please watch the video and join the mailing list to get your copy on day one! You can go directly to the mailing list site here:

wwww.sexdrugsandjerkchicken.com

Thanks in advance,

– Marcus

Day 3: 3,000 sentences read aloud

Day 3 : 3,000 sentences

I’m making specific observations to see what is changing as it happens. I made the mistake of “over blogging” the first time I attempted to learn French, because it caused me stress. This is more of an empirical study.

Reading so much French each day takes a little toll on the brain, but I am piece by piece noticing small things.

My first real observation was today with Star Wars 4 : Retour du Jedi. I explained I was testing out deconstructing the movie scene by scene ( I only did the first 15 minutes ) and I have about a 95% comprehension of what is said and I can hear how it is said.  However, it takes quite a bit of effort to do this process and I’m not thinking it will be very efficient for multiple films.

After doing my 1200 sentences today, I did some physical exercise (listening to French rap music while I did it) then as I ate my dinner, I watched Star Wars. I skipped the part I had deconstructed and watched about 20 minutes of the movie. This is without subtitles. Today I heard MUCH more speech patterns. I was actually understanding what Yoda said to Luke just before he died in the Degu system, etc. Now, I didn’t do any deconstruction of these parts. I was just watching without subs and hearing way more. I cannot emphasize how interesting this is, because more than Japanese, French has been very difficult for me to hear clearly. I mean I was clearly hearing stuff like étoile du mort (death star) when one of the Generals was explaining their strategy for destroying it. Now what is crazy is that I read the word étoile probably once or twice today in my 1200 sentences. But my brain put 2 and 2 together pretty easily. This is major for me.

This lead me to think of something called “language density” relative to what is happening here. If language learning is like a cabbage and say each 100 words you expose yourself to increases your “language thickness” then as you add thousands and thousands of words, at some point you will reach a sort of Terminal density.

To me this is why the 10,000 sentence or 20,000 sentence number is so important. Most heavy learners say when you reach 10-15,000 sentences you are pretty good at reading most things and saying almost anything you want to think about. Maybe the 10K sentence is like the lower end of Terminal language density, meaning if I am exposed to ten thousand sentences which equates to possibly a few hundred thousand words depending on the relative length of the sentences you use, then what is happening are strong impressions mentally on a dense variety of sentences that overlap in patterns, vocabulary and written style.

IDEAS ON ‘IMPRESSIONING’

I think this reading out loud that I am doing is creating these massive impressions on my brain, which are fed by immersive input. It’s like if  you aren’t a native English speaker and I teach you a creative way to remember “the apple is red” and you read that 100 times and then you are watching some movie. Let’s say that person can’t understand 99.9% of what is going on, then at some point a character say “the apple is red.” That speaker’s ears will perkup because the impression has been made on the mind and now regular content is reinforcing it.

So basically, without repeating myself, common speech is FILLED with repeating grammar patterns. Something about reading the sentences out loud seems to be creating a much stronger mental connection. I’m still trying to work out a revision schedule that makes sense, but I want to keep doing 1000 new sentences per day to see if I can create a short-term terminal density point. Meaning, I want to see if simply reading ten thousand mixed sentences with information on business, art, stuff from novels etc, if that will enable my brain to be so saturated with new data that as I’m reviewing it (and doing immersion)

Why I have been writing so much on this is because what seems to be improving for the moment is my listening ability more than my reading ability. I’m hearing a lot lot more in the last three days than I have the entire time I was studying and doing immersion a few months ago. So I’m just curious, if I keep flooding my brain with data through active input (speaking out loud and reading both meanings) is that a super key to rapid advancement? I mean I cannot imagine how I will view French if I was to hit a 50,000 sentence point. That would be ridiculous.

Either way, 3,000 sentences is still on the relative lower end of language density I believe. Depending on what I try and read, it might be very easy or still difficult because I haven’t been exposed to a large enough variety of overlapping patterns  yet.

MAIN CONCERN

I’m not going to stop this process because the results are good so far. I’m just not sure what the retention rate will be past a certain number of sentences. I plan to do reviews while I’m sleeping (playing a few thousand sentences worth of audio as I sleep do get the daily reviews and occasionally do active listening in free time). But so far, because of all this inundation it is easier to say certain things and think it out in French on just day 3.

I think I will take a break for about 3 days ,or maybe when I double my current number of sentences, so about 6 or 7 thousand sentences. I’m going to search for decks with different intermediate content and probably even practice reading sentences from certain movies as another means of getting more information in my brain.

Two Days 1795 Sentences

So in testing this “mass sentence method” I’ve been reasonably consistent thus far. As mentioned in my last post this method grabbed my attention because it gave me a way to gain massive exposure quickly before I attempt to take the B2 examination.

The more research I do on this, I like the direct sensibility it contains. If you can shoot for 50,000 sentences you have actually listened to an interpreted mentally (which a person can do in 3 weeks) then listening comprehension should increase. Plus reading French aloud for two hours a day can’t hurt either. The consistency will be the key to making this work.

La consistence sera le  clé pour acés le correct chemin.

This method is by no means for the weak-hearted. It is pretty hardcore and you need to be patient. Similar to when I was in Japan and recognized my first Kanji character and could “see” a day when I might be able to read Japanese, this is similar. As I was reading through hundreds of sentences in one sitting, I started to notice a buttload of similar patterns.

Now this isn’t a new revelation, but I’ve never done this approach to this extent. When I was doing hardcore Japanese SRS, I was doing maybe 250 cards per day and working on memorizing vocabulary and grammar patterns. Imagine if I was doing 1000 sentences per day. Not SRS, but just reading.

So back to French. Many patterns repeat and also vocabulary repeat. Some sentences are still a bit difficult to read grammatically (all the contractions and what not) but its not terrible. In fact, most of the sentences are about regular day to day things and its pretty cool how often many words repeated.

So basically I have to record these sentences bilingually. So you read the English and then the French. Afterward, you take time to listen to your recordings over time, ensuring that you listen to the Fresh new sentences within two days of recording.

Now, here is what I don’t know. I’m not sure how to create an accurate review schedule using this system. So far it takes me about 12 minutes per 100 sentences reading at a reasonably fast speed. I was doing my French Tateoba Anki deck that had 1795 sentences. I am looking at other decks with intermediate sentences and I’m about to start an Assimil deck that has 1000 sentences. But what this means is on average, per 1000 sentences you are looking at 120 minutes (2 hrs) 10,000 sentences would be 20 hours of recorded material.

So it looks like:

1000 sentences –> 120 mins

10,000 sentences –> 1200 mins

review time for each 1000 (x 10) = 1200 mins per 1000

review time for all 10,000 = 1200 X 10 = 12,000 minutes.

Time = 500 hours roughly.

So this is just a rough outline based on what I’ve seen thus far. On day one I listened to about 500 sentences while I was excercising,  and then today in the morning I listened to several hundred before starting my new set. I will have to get very creative to review this much information… but I am guessing that after I hit 5,000 sentences, so many expressions and phrases will mirror one another that I won’t need to seriously “worry” about remembering everything, but I should be able to eventually translate what I’m hearing  simply because of the amount of data and the frequency with which I’m listening to it.

Inherently the problem with “systems” are time and effort and a calculable absorption rate. With Anki, you will eventually memorize terms and phrases over time. Can you reproduce them easily? That’s a different story. I found that if you can read say, 500 sentences easily, it does not necessarily equate to speaking the sentences clearly as well.

Either way, this is the path I’m on right now. Massive exposure to thousands of sentences per week (for now) feels better than studying 200 per day.

MASSIVE FREQUENCY EQUALS RELATIVE MEMORIZATION

This is similar to cramming the day before an exam, but with a different purpose. Normally a person might not see a sentence pattern 100 times in one day. Using flashcards, they might see it once or twice per day during their study schedule, and then they cumulatively develop the short, mid-term and long term memory related to that as time passes. But imagine seeing the same grammar pattern 100 times per day for say 3 weeks straight. In only a few days, that pattern would be memorized in your mind, and you would be able to produce it. Also, common words repeat quite often and these would also be memorized if you are seeing the words say 50-100 times per day as well.

I discussed this on my Japanese blog as well, I called it “natural SRS” because basically when I was a kid learning English, I didn’t have these systems available. I just read A LOT and then the more you read, the more patterns become familiar and then you are also able to reproduce them. This is an aspect of that. What also happens over time is that there are only so many ways to say common expressions. After you hit a certain number of sentences (about 6,000) there aren’t many ways you won’t have seen to describe regular things. Of course there would be “beautiful French” or possibly “academic French” that you’d see in newspaper or journals, but that is different. After only two days of simply reading sentences out loud i’ve already noticed a slightly increased comprehension of fast-spoken French speech in some of my media. This is primarily because I am recognizing sentence patterns containing words and grammar i’ve recently read.  basically it is hard to hear what you don’t know, and hard to know what you’ve never heard. 

I have to make a note on this, the increase in my comprehension is incredible to me. I’m listening to Stargate Atlantis in the background as I am typing this, and I’m somewhat following what the characters are saying. Normally it would just be noise. But i’m hearing the character talking about something with the human body, conflicts with aliens and other things. This is just after two days. Imagine, ten, or twenty or one hundred? Can fluency really be a matter of all this brain-beating? C’est tres intéressant non?

Si on veut devenir un personne que parle Français couramment, est-ce que vraiment une situation òu on doit frappe beaucoup de connaisance sur la tête toujours?

(literally: if one wants to become a person that speaks French fluenty, is it really a situation where on must knock lots of knoweldge on the head everyday?)

That was me trying to translate the last sentence of that last paragraph. It is really interesting how I am also remembering the accents over certain words. Again, a matter of frequency, not writing. If i see intéressant fifty times in a day, its hard to forget the spelling or the direction of the accent.

I also read through a French article today that spoke about the role of Tumblr as a new form of lookbook for designers. I read the article without the need to look up more than one or two words. I could understand 95-100% of the grammatical structure and the rest through context. It’s weird, after reading so much French, now when i read articles, i am getting the “feel” of it, without needing to look everything up. I am very curious to see how my reading will be after i hit 6 or 7,000 sentences in another four days.

GOOD SENTENCE MATERIAL

I’m trolling through Anki decks and academic Anki decks that contain one to two thousand sentences. Since these are sentences that are taught to students, I don’t have to worry about them being incorrect. I just have to read them out loud. Based on my progress so far, my aim is to hit 10,000 sentences in ten days or maybe push harder on one day and see if I can do 2,000 sentences in one day (4 hours of reading).  At the ten thousand mark I want to see how I feel mentally after seeing more French sentences that i have ever read before. Will reading become much easier? Will my speaking explode? Naturally I won’t have memorized 10,000 sentences in 10 days, but I will have repeated speaking and reading similar patterns thousands of times a week, versus maybe a dozen  times a week which i was doing before. I’m already remembering some patterns such as pas moins de (no less than ) dans mon avie (in my opinion) puis-je~? (can I~?) je n’amais vu (i have never seen) je n’amais entendu (i have never heard ) je n’aimas~ (i have never ~)

I’m not getting ahead of myself here, I have seen these things so many times in just two days it isn’t even hard for me to say it. If I ever do 100,000 sentences my French will be ridiculous. But the goal is to try and hit 20,000 if possible in several weeks as a booster for my exam.

In another day or two, I will try and see how I can create production practice from this. Meaning, I will see how to produce well written sentences based on what I can say. My writing isn’t strong yet, and i’m hoping that i will be able to write good sentences from memory after seeing them a bazillion times.

Since similar patterns will blend, I won’t have to focus on memorization because of massive frequency. I will see how much I am able to remember after say, five days etc.

Mass Sentence Method

Mass Sentence Method

 

I felt a burst of inspiration recently. As I wrote in my previous blog about “fear kicks in” I outlined a way I was deconstructing my fear in an attempt to create a positive mental strategy. I’ve been doing a lot of SRS repetitions and reading articles, but something still felt very slow about what I was doing. In actuality I’m not doing anything wrong, but I felt like there was more I could do each day to explode my exposure to French, as well as my speaking. I think I’ve found it.

I found a video on youtube when I was researching the “sentence method”. I already knew about this for Japanese, and I was curious to read/watch videos about people who used the sentence method for French. What I found was a video (will post it at the end of this ) where a polygot explains in heavy detail a way that he can expose himself to several thousand new sentences per week. This excited me for one main reason.

Massive exposure is never a bad thing.

Massive exposure in a short time period allows a cumulative (and faster) mental refresh.

He explained how he could expose himself to 40,000 sentences in two weeks. I was SUPER curious about this, because there is no way you can be exposed to that many sentences and not see ridiculous gains in ability in your target language.

He said that he takes sentences from phrase books or learning books. The books tend to contain thousands of good sample sentences. Then he will record himself reading these sentences and listen to the recordings frequently. What this means is that he will speak thousands of French sentences during whatever period he chooses to read through the book. This is with a disclaimer, you must already have some familiarity with the language you are reading. Meaning, understand the grammar and constructions before you start reading. (this makes sense)

What I immediately realized was that, doing this, I could choose to do 1000 to 1500 new sentences per day reading. In four days I could mentally be exposed to 4,000 new sentences. Why this is different from what I’ve been doing is because using Anki SRS I will see a sentence, reading it, try and remember the meaning and then choose what level of recall I have relative to the program. This entire process can take ten to fifteen seconds. This “extensive speaking” method is just a flood of French. A flood of French I can control.

When you think about trying to get information in your brain there is massive immersion, there is using flashcards, and music, but I’ve always tried to figure out how try and create a situation where I am speaking French for about an hour or two a day (in whatever fashion). I didn’t think of reading French out loud as a way to do this.

I tested this yesterday and the results were pretty crazy. I read 1000 of 1700 sentences (and recorded myself speaking). The process took about 2 hours and I could feel the difference.

I think I’m going to do this for about 4,000 sentences that I’m going to mix and match (some business French, etc) and then figure out a review schedule. Also I’ve discovered something exciting as well.

I’m calling it 100% comprehension.

So for now I am reading the English meaning first then the French afterward. Eventually I will just record myself reading the French when I am familiar enough with the material. But I said to myself, “what is a good way to review without always listening to myself speak”? I think the method relates to movies and subtitles.

Subtitles are easy to find in many languages and the translations are basically the same. This means, say I take Star Wars and personally read the first 500 sentences of the movie and get familiar with them. Then I will watch up to the 500 sentence point a few times, two things will happen.

One, I will know everything the persons on screen are saying. I will also be able to hopefully hear clearly what they are saying in native speech. The implications of this for me are incredible. This is giving me a great way to review sentences that I pull from movies.

  1. Read sentences from list for familiarity
  2. Watch part of movie with sentences for review
  3. Repeat

I’m still going to read other sentences, but the point of things is to make them interesting and memorable. Is it more likely I will remember random sentences or dialogue from a movie I’ve seen a dozen times? Also it is easier (over time) to rewatch Star Wars versus listening to myself I believe. I’m not tired of hearing my voice speak French, but this is a test. So I’m going to read through the first 500 sentences of Star Wars now to test this and make some notes.

Fear Kicks In

FEAR KICKS IN

 

I’m a little bit stressed as I’m typing this. Mostly because of the nature of what I’m trying to attempt.

Despite all the systems I’ve tested, and the progress I’ve made I’m still nervous about doing an “exam”. Why? Exams are structured within tight confines of survival; one must understand how and exam is setup before one can battle it. The opponents vary in size and ability, they may be brutally complex political essays with nuances meanings that one must decipher, or relatively comprehensible essays with more palatable information. Whichever type of enemy, they remain unknown, and they are still dangereux.

I think what is happening to me is a sort of negative academic feedback. I’m worried about the exam because I am worry about failing. I’m not focusing on the process, I’m overthinking certain things and I’m missing the point of what I’m trying to do… which is prove to mysef my French ability.

This means I have to pull out a lot of stops in terms of my methodologies. Despite what anyone might say about learning a language, what I’ve learned is that:

Structure can be relatively easy, but EFFORT is hard.

Even if you take a week or two and understand intermediate French grammar, you will still have to learn two to three thousand words to be able to read properly. There is no way around that. You will also have to spend considerable time watching French media and reading in French (also trying to write). No matter how good your system, you must do this as well.

This is what has been bothering me. During my renewed look at language learning, I made a decision to operate in as low-stress a manner as possible. With the deadline of an exame just six weeks away looming in the horizon, I am feeling …. You guessed it, stress!

But I think I have a clear idea why I’m feeling stressed. I’m telling myself a few key things mentally:

  1. I keep saying I’m not ready
  2.  I keep saying that I don’t have the best system

I will leave it at those two, because they are the strongest. So on this blog I will “truly” analyze what the fears mean, because its is all about deconstructing these things. So I will write how I feel then write a reality check(meaning a more rational view of things)

SAYING I’M NOT READY

I felt like I wasn’t’ ready because even though I could read and mostly understand a recent B2 essay, I didn’t really answer many of the questions properly.

Reality check: Since late March I have not written, read or spoken much French. Which means, I started French in February, and the current vocabulary, understanding of grammatical structure and listening exposure has:

a)    allowed me to read a regular essay with 80-90% comprehension

b)   showed me I can try and understand things in context

So instead of me worrying about what I don’t know I should realize what I do know is a decent base. I didn’t realize this, but I can read quite a few French Articles on the website Le Monde and understand a good bit of what I am reading. Any loss in meaning is due to one thing mostly: vocabulary.  My guide for the B2 exam wrote in the last preparation class: “Le exam du B2 est dans le vocabulaire”

So at first it felt daunting to thinking of …”how do I massively pad vocabulary in a short time?” Well duh—there are a few approaches which I’ll outline. This relates to the second fear:

THINKING I DON’T HAVE THE BEST SYSTEM

Presently, its not about “best” but about “what works relative to what you’ve done before”. For me efficiency lies in approach and information in context. I find some difficulty in finding super interesting high context information all the time, but I know that even if I use a “reasonably interesting” approach with a high volume “hardcore” approach the benefits are better than just sitting down being frazzled. So how I will boost vocabulary is below.

  1. SRS system. – I can find a deck filled with words or complex sentences and do high volume, say 200 sentences per day and see if high frequency words are contained in the sentences. This will massively boost short term vocabulary and bolster things already in my long term memory. My only difficulty has been finding a deck I like, because I find decks that show only one word at a time are boring (especially if you need to learn 1000 words).
  2. Reading many articles — I’m finding that a lot of vocabulary repeats (in relative context) when I just started reading the articles from Le Monde. This means, just reading a ton of articles will expose me to high frequency words, particularly if I focus my attention on stuff I am interested in, say Film, or Technology.
  3. Writing a set of sentences with vocabulary I want to reinforce – this won’t exceed more than say 50 sentences per day (no sense overdoing it, because I will be reading hundreds of sentences per day). I think I’ll try and either just write high frequency words in simple sentences or practice writing sentences I already know. Hopefully muscle memory might equal a strengthened recall.

There is a belief that all overlap is good overlap, but INTEREST is King. Its much easier for me to watch Back to the Future 2 in French, versus watching some documentary about 17th Century France.

Either way, deconstructing this fear involves setting up an agenda around these two attack plans. So personally the plan will be :

DECONSTRUCTING FEAR PLAN

  1. 3-5 Le Monde articles per day (focusing on Technology and Film, maybe Fashion) —focus will be

a)    reading for comprehension, stopping only to lookup meanings of words. I’ve expedited this process by adding a Google Chrome dictionary application that allows me to simply highlight a word and get the French meaning. This means I can read with reasonably fluidity. So the point is not to stress over knowing everything it is just being able to understand the point of the article but more importantly being able to recognize the high frequency words.

  1. 200+ intermediate sentences per day – This is pretty hardcore, but I only have six weeks. I might even hit way more than 200 per day is they aren’t to hard. —- the focus will be boosting short term memory with high frequency expressions (that hopefully will popup in reading articles) and high frequency words. I’ve tested this with Japanese. When I’m relaxed and do high frequency SRS, I find you accelerate. It takes a good bit of effort, at least 2 hours per day. But doing this much memory exposure pretty much guarantees you will hit a “high frequency word comfort cushion” in the short term. Meaning, is it better to memorize 200 words, or be very, very familiar with 3,000? That is what I mean. If am plugging hundreds of words into my mind each day (words I will see in reading, watching films with subs, etc) it will simply be a cyclical reinforcement system.

 

GOALS OF THE ATTACK PLAN

I have about six weeks. I’m not sure how many words I know presently in all honesty I’m going to be mixing a few French Anki decks and then just looking up words I don’t know. I will occasionally use memory tricks to remember difficult words and then move on from there. So the goal? Hopefully familiarity with about 2000 newspaper common words.

Personal challenge: B2 examination

I’ve decided to take a French exam in June to truly test if any of my systems worked. I am a little hesitant because since March, I haven’t spoken, read, or watched much French all. However, I still want to try.

Why the B2?

All things said, my goal was originally to see how fast I could become highly proficient in 2-3 months. I already tested that in terms of how quickly I was able to enter conversation and acting classes. The first time I did this experiment, I was feeling sad in my life about many things, and despite my progress, i stopped learning French completely for a period of about 7 months. In the second or third week of February this year, I decided to go for it again, because I realized I was putting too much pressure on myself. I didn’t change the way I was learning, I simply changed the way I thought about what i wanted to achieve. So I worried much less. That said, after another two months passed, I found myself losing motivation once more. Simply because I had no one to speak with. The only place to frequently meet with French people is the Alliance Francaise building (which isn’t exactly near to where i live) and I’d probably have to take a class as well (and I don’t like classes) so I was facing a problem. So for a little while i’ve stopped. But recently i received an e-mail from the Alliance about certification test that show your level of French ability in an official form. So recently, I said. Not only would that be a tangible goal with a deadline but it would also show me if my methods of language learning work with reasonable effeciency.

There are different levels to these exams, A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. Ideally, I’d want to shoot for the C1 examination but i know personally I haven’t done enough speaking/reading/writing by any means to even attempt that one. But B2 is defined as the following:

  • Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation.
  • Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party.
  • Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.

C1 is defined as this:

  • Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning.
  • Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.
  • Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.
  • Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

Now, based on a discussion I had both exams are structured quite different based on these things. If i had been actively reading writing and speaking French on almost a daily basis since March, I probably would have attempted the C1 simply because it is a better diploma to have, but for me life isn’t so much about “labels” as they are about targets. I think personally i’m thinking C1 is “better” because its “higher”, but I need to remember that I started learning French this year in FEBRUARY!! Add to that, I’ve been studying primarily by myself, using a mixture of methods to take me to a level where I can take the B2.

So me, no even 100% “gung ho” has developed a reasonable ability in the language. Yesterday I did a sample written test, which had two essays and we had to answer questions based on what the essays said. Again, I haven’t looked at/read/watched/listened to any French since March and i was able to read through both essays with a reasonable level of comprehension. (say 80%). I was also able to understand what some of the questions were asking me. I understood most of both essays and I was able to answer all the questions on the paper.

Now did I write the “best French” in these answers. I doubt it. But what I took from the experience was:

1. It was a simulated exam condition situation and i was able to think critically, gain a sense of context in sentences that had complex vocabulary and formulate answers.

2. I was able to read and understand both essays and finish before the alloted time was complete.

What does this mean?

Basically it means that whatever i’ve been doing with my personal systems, allows me this level of comprehension. Now I am not sure how strong I will be in the listening section or the oral section. But I know that speaking a lot can put me on good ground with oral, so i’m giving myself that. Listening has been problematic for me, so I will have to work on increasing my immersion level and creating challenges around summarizing speeches and such things. At the very least, it shows me that I am not completely lost and that if I continue what i’m doing, I should be able to manage this exam.

It is fascinating how in my mind, I’m tempted to worry about stuff I worried about in school, but this “class” I am taking is more of a strategic guide. One will have to spend considerable amounts of personal time listening, reading and writing by one self, so essentially I am the real teacher in this situation. I’m presently thinking about the best approach to boost my vocabulary and writing skill and i will post my findings as they come. But today i’m saying here that i’m going for the B2 level.