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Jamie Griffiths
Professional Teacher
How to get from B1 to C2 quickly
Hi everyone,

A couple of months ago, a student on this forum was frustrated with her progress and asked "How can I get from B1 to C2 quickly?". My original (extremely long!) response is copied below. Which parts do you agree/disagree with? Do you have any other ideas that you would like to share? It would be good to hear the opinions of students and other teachers.

Thanks

Jamie (www.italki.com/jamie.teacher)

1) Getting from B1 level to C2 level is possible, but it is important to recognise that this will take consistent, patient, daily practice for a long time (ie more than a year). If anyone tells you can get to C2 quickly or without a lot of hours of practice, they are not being honest with you. I feel this is important to mention as you mention wanting to make a "sudden jump" to C2, and I am afraid that there is no way of achieving this without time, patience and practice.

2) If your long term goal is to achieve C2 level, have a smaller short term goal. If your level is B1 now, think about what you can do to get to B2 level (I will make specific suggestions below). Once you are at B2 level, you will then want to think about how you can get to C1 level and so on.

3) Don't think "how quickly can I get to C2". Instead, your focus should be "what can I do today/this week/this month to improve my English". If you change your focus from "this is the goal I want to achieve" to "this is what I will do today to achieve it" then you will focus your energy on putting in as much effort as possible. Here are some specific suggestions:

1) Have lessons with a teacher who will work hard to help you achieve your goals. This means someone who will dedicate time to preparing classes, correcting your homework and so on. In return, you need to consistently arrive on time for lessons, do all the homework that the teacher suggests and do any extra practice that they recommend too.

2) Do a LOT of listening practice. The BBC Learning English app, and the British Council Learn English website both have a lot of practice materials which are perfect for B1 level students. There are many dialogues which are 5 minutes or less. 2) (continued) the first time you listen, try to listen for key words/phrases that you understand. After that, listen a second time and read the text at the same time. This will help you to notice details that you didn't understand the first time. TED Talks are a fantastic way to practice listening as well (you can listen and read at the same time) and Netflix is great too (again, you can watch a film or episode while reading the English subtitles at the same time). However, TED Talks and Netflix can be difficult for B1 students so it might be better to focus on doing A LOT of Intermediate level practice and then returning to TED Talks/Netflix once you have a higher level.

3) Read a graded reader. These are books which are designed for students with different language levels. Here is a link: https://www.penguin.co.uk/series/penrea/penguin-readers--graded-readers-.html If you are B1 level, you should choose a book which is level 5. But, if you find level 5 is too difficult, don't panic. Choose a lower level, read A LOT of them, and then try a level 5 book again later. Doing a lot of listening and reading is a great way to improve your vocabulary.

4) Listen to songs and read the lyrics. If you like music, listen to some songs in English and read the words on the internet. Listen to some music that you enjoy, read the words and enjoy doing it. If you like singing, do it in your room (but some people don't like singing, which is fine). www.lyricstraining.com is an excellent website where you can listen to a song and type the words. It is fun and addictive!

5) Find a language partner. As well as taking formal classes, find a native speaker on Italki who is learning your language/find someone else who is learning English who you can practice with in a fun informal way.

 6) Focus on improving your grammar. If you have a good teacher, they can help you to practise grammar in a way that is both enjoyable and that will genuinely help you to improve your English. An excellent book for B1/B2 level students is English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy. There are also plenty of great websites like www.perfect-english-grammar.com and more. There are, of course, many more ways to improve your English but this is plenty for you to do. Your level is B1 now. For the moment, your only goal should be on following suggestions 1)-6) as much as possible with the aim of getting to B2 level. When you get to B2 level, you will basically continue the same process but with more difficult grammar, more difficult books, more difficult listening texts and so on. In summary, just practice as much as possible with materials that are appropriate for your level, accept that this will not happen immediately and, most of all, enjoy the process. If you have any questions, please let me know. Jamie (www.italki.com/jamie.teacher)
May 30, 2020 4:12 PM
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Comments · 16
Haha, yes Marcelo I agree that it is a VERY long article so I take your point. However, despite its length, I think that people will find useful information in there if they have time to read it.
May 30, 2020
I agree that it won't happen quickly, unless one has many hours a day to dedicate to the language. Even then, you'll have to put in the same number of hours. People asking for quick results usually don't want to hear that hours matter. Yes, the quality of practice is paramount (half an hour of intense focus is better than three "multitasking" ones), but you do need a lot of it. People want the trick, the tip, the way around the work. I'm sad to say that there is no magic pill.

The importance of consistency, exposure to the language every day, and of being honest with yourself about what you can understand cannot be overstated. I see students waste precious time telling themselves they are learning by listening to something way above their level, watching a video distractedly while doing other demanding work, or by reading a book in which they don't understand most of the words. More challenging material and more time spent are not necessarily better.

If one cannot understand most of the film or chapter, it won't pay off. It's important to admit to yourself that you're not ready for the fast-paced conversation and take a step back, making sure you understand simpler material and giving all your attention to the task at hand. Don't fall into the trap of thinking the supposedly easy material is beneath you. Can you understand the simple questions posed to you during a conversation? Can you reply in a way that makes sense and is mostly accurate? If you can't do that, you do need to return and repeat until it feels easy and natural.

I would add to your point about keeping up your end of the bargain when working with a teacher that it's important not to let classes become an excuse not to do your own work. Most of your results will come from your own efforts, not what the teacher does, though a good teacher can and should make the process easier. I think a common error is to think that classes can replace the work only you can do.
May 30, 2020
Too long Jamie... I quit...
May 30, 2020
Hahaha... You are very kind Jamie.. Actually I didn't quit... I read the entire post.
I agree with most of it but I'm not quite sure if grammar can take the students to the next level quick. Also listening to music can be misleading, you have many bands that don't use standar English but slang or local vocabulary on their lyrics.
May 30, 2020
Useful information, thank you)
May 30, 2020
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Jamie Griffiths
Language Skills
English, French, Japanese, Other, Portuguese, Spanish
Learning Language
French, Japanese, Other, Portuguese, Spanish