As I said in my last progress video in German I didn’t achieve my goal in Germany, which was to reach the B2 level in German. I consider that my level is higher than a B1, but I’m still a little far from being a solid B2.
But what is the difference?
For me, big! At both levels one can talk, but there are differences in the level of conversation. At B1 level, the conversations usually revolve around simpler topics and are more difficult to talk about hypothetical situations. The same thing happens with text, at B2 level one must understand words and more abstract concepts, something that I still have a bit of trouble to do. I don’t aspire to have a perfect German, with no mistakes. But, I desire a fluid German, which I can use without struggle, without constantly searching for words. I want to be able to watch a video or movie without subtitles. By the way, this is how I usually measure my level: how much of a movie can I understand?
The B1 level
According to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, the B1 level is intermediate, who has this level has the following language skills:
- Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
- Can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
- Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
- Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
The B2 level
But the B2 level is described as Vantage or upper intermediate with the following skills:
- Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization.
- 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.
Looking at the description of levels, I can say that I completely dominate the B1 level; I have no problem to talk in German when people speak clearly, without idiomatic expressions or strong accent.
However, I still have some difficulties to understand people when they suddenly change the subject or talk about a little more complex topics, such as politics. I also have difficulty speaking in a detailed manner. And, when watching movies, I have trouble understanding the lines or people with accents. I cannot read complex texts, such as the magazine “Der Spiegel” or a fiction book.
So, I consider myself to be above the B1 level, but far from B2 level.
Why I failed?
In my last month in Germany, I reflected on my German learning process and found some flaws in it.
The first thing was that I was excited with the new materials I’ve found and I wanted to do their reviews on the site, so I diversified the materials and I lost focus.
Another major problem was the distraction. For example, I didn’t pay attention to conversations with more than one person, as that was extremely tiring. In these situations I just got lost in my thoughts. The same happened, sometimes during the classes. When it was very repetitive or boring, I had ended up distracted.
A third factor was the lack of contacts with the Germans. I spoke German only in the classroom with the German teacher and foreign students; or with the family with whom he lived. Out of school or home, I had no contact with Germans.
In relation to school, I did not like it, but it was easy. For me, the pace was slow and very focused on grammar, but I kept going. As a result, when I studied alone, I also focused on grammar, something I’ve never done before. Of course, German is a more complex language to me; I speak three Latin languages and English. My greatest difficulties were getting the sentences order right when speaking and the declension of adjectives when writing. I believe that the study of grammar is secondary, but important when the language has complex rules and a different structure of my native language.
I didn’t immerse myself completely, I know that this sounds incoherent, but it’s possible to not be totally immersed in a country, even when living in it. For example, I just listened to podcasts in French or Spanish, I didn’t fall in love with any German singer, so I listened to music in other languages and I read the news in Portuguese or English. When I was in museums, I chose the audio-guides in English.
Reading was another important issue; I didn’t read a lot in German, except for some children’s books and texts in class. When you don’t read, it is difficult to acquire new vocabulary.
Particularly in my last month, I lost focus completely on the studies. With my return to Brazil scheduled and seeing that it would not reach my goal I got a little discouraged with the studies and evolves slower.
Basically, these were the factors that hindered me to reach my level. None of them was extremely relevant, but added they prevented me from achieving my goal.
Despite being in the mood to start studying a new language, I have to improve my German. I want my level in all the languages I learn to be at least B2.
My new plan is to study at least two hours a day for the next two months. I will go back to using my old methods: Assimil German (not yet finished), try to return to FSI Basic Course, and especially: read in German and study watching movies/videos and native materials that are not made for students.
I will also use alone, the books I used in the school. Thus, hopefully, I’ll finally reach the B2 level.
Do you speak German? What is your level? What are your difficulties in studying a language? Do you have any tips to share that can help me?