How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

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Cavesa
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Re: How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

Postby Cavesa » Wed Jul 17, 2019 2:34 pm

The CEFR is not designed for natives, as Saim correctly says. While you can definitely be better than some natives at some skills (for example, you can definitely write better than a person with low education, or you can have a much richer vocabulary than a person with severe intellect defect due to a neurological condition, or you can have more standard and universally understood pronunciation than an old person from a remove village speaking their own dialect), you cannot be "more native" and they cannot be considered "less native like".

drp9341 wrote:Just so that we're on the same page, could you show me a video of non-native speaking what you consider to be English (or even Spanish / Italian) at right about a C2 level? (Like someone who is barely C2?)


What for? We already are on the same page, if you've got experience with the CEFR. It's not about what I consider to be C2, it's about what is officially considered C2. You think I am just overestimating myself and couldn't have gotten that far without the natives? :-D

My C2 level was proven by a DALF exam a few years ago, I am not making any wild self-assessments. I claim to have achieved C2 only in French, and I got to that level before going on an Erasmus and without any prolonged regular contact with native speakers, nothing fitting your descriptions.
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Re: How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

Postby Cèid Donn » Wed Jul 17, 2019 3:33 pm

In my long and varied experience in language learning, I find immersion with native speakers to be important with:

    1. Building confidence. Just keep in mind that confidence does not equate ability or knowledge--you can be very confidant yet have no idea what you're doing.

    2. Meaningful passive exposure. This is, in my opinion, very important, as it's proven very helpful in my own progress, although most of my passive exposure comes from media and not native speakers. AndyMeg recently posted in her log a video about the Automatic Language Growth approach created by Dr J Marvin Brown, and one of the big things that video touches on was Brown's realization of the importance of learners being able to formulate a good mental image of the language in their head beforehand, like children do as the result from getting lot more meaningful passive exposure as they acquire a language (compared to how most adults study a target language).

    3. Repetition and reiteration. Unless you are using your TL is a specific academic or professional setting that will require you to deal with jargon and specialization, most of your interactions with native speakers will involve relatively ordinary, mundane stuff that will not require a vast, broad understanding of the language. But that repetition is very important in developing fluency. You don't need native speakers to do that, but it is helpful in avoiding the boredom and loneliness that many learners experience when doing the same sort of repetitive practice on their own.

    4. Learning more casual registers. Most language learning methods will teach you the standard language or a more formal register of the language, so there is a lot that you just won't learn in terms of how native speakers use their language in more casual situations. Just remember that knowing the standard language or formal register is very important with the majority of languages, and oftentimes learners don't grasp the full value of that and worry more about sounding unnatural to native speakers. More casual registers, nuances between dialects, slang and the like are things best left for when you already have a solid foundation.

    5. A sense of being connected to a community. This is a very valuable thing, and I've known language learners who simply cannot stick to their studies without it. There's no point to trying to stoic about this--we're all human and thus by our nature, social creatures, and language itself exists to enable us to connect to one another. There are of course other ways to feel connected without connecting with native speakers in person, like with other learners or through social or popular media. But for many learners, just being able to connect with native speakers makes them feel like their work toward learning the language has real, coherent value, and that's completely understandable.

Nonetheless, the nitty-gritty of language learning is you're going to have to do a lot work with learning the language and practicing it, and that's up to you and you alone. No amount of being around native speakers will do that work for you (trust me, I know, because if it did, I'd be incredibly fluent in Spanish by now). So unless you never intend to write, read a book, or meet any legitimate standard of fluency in your target language, immersion with native speakers isn't as central as perhaps some people want to think it is.

Case in point: I study Celtic languages, all of which have very small speaker populations, and the result of that is a good number of learners, like myself, do not live where we can easily be in contact with native speakers. Yet, over the years, I've know of many learners who studied a Celtic language in isolation extensively and when they had the opportunity to travel to the countries where that language is spoken, were able to demonstrate a very high level of proficiency. Myself, I would consider myself an advanced learner of Scottish Gaelic yet I've only once been to one of the two places where Gaelic is spoken as a community language (Cape Breton), while I've never been to the other (Scotland). Would it be easier if I had regular contact with native speakers? Yes, of course it would. Studying a language on my own and falling into negative moments where I wonder if I'll ever get another chance to use it to talk to other people in real life isn't the most encouraging feeling. But if this is your passion, you find a way to work through those negative moments and find joy and satisfaction in learning the language regardless.
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Re: How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

Postby Iversen » Wed Jul 17, 2019 4:34 pm

Just a remark concerning native speakers: yes they are native, but some can't say a complete sentence without errors or backtracking or tons of ahem's, and it's not always a question of belonging to a community with different standards. There are people who simply are rotten speakers, even in their own language.

But do they know it? Maybe, maybe not. And maybe they just don't care.

The big question for us who try to learn foreign languages is whether any judgment about a language from any native speaker should be taken at face value. Sometimes native speakers just repeat what their teacher told them in school, but nobody actually speaks as they were told (maybe forty years ago) - or at least those that do will be seen as weirdos by their compatriots. In other cases they invent generalizations that don't fit reality. When Chomsky canonized the judgements of native speakers as infallible he probably just wanted to let them judge concrete sentences and not invent or quote rules, but even concrete sentences can sometimes lie in a grey zone where you would accept them one day and the next day reject them. Some native speakers are also more picky about differences in meaning and use of expressions than others. One speaker might say there is a difference in meaning and another just declare that two expressions mean the same because he/she doesn't care about the difference in that particular moment.

And then I have not even considered the problems with different dialects and sociolects and idiolects and registers. Who among the native speakers should we follow as learners if they can't even agree among themselves ?

That being said: in an immersion situation I don't expect to be served absolutely correct utterances all day long.
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Re: How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

Postby drp9341 » Wed Jul 17, 2019 5:55 pm

Cavesa wrote:
drp9341 wrote:Just so that we're on the same page, could you show me a video of non-native speaking what you consider to be English (or even Spanish / Italian) at right about a C2 level? (Like someone who is barely C2?)


What for? We already are on the same page, if you've got experience with the CEFR. It's not about what I consider to be C2, it's about what is officially considered C2. You think I am just overestimating myself and couldn't have gotten that far without the natives? :-D

My C2 level was proven by a DALF exam a few years ago, I am not making any wild self-assessments. I claim to have achieved C2 only in French, and I got to that level before going on an Erasmus and without any prolonged regular contact with native speakers, nothing fitting your descriptions.


Cavesa, I'm not doubting or questioning whether or not you have a C2 level in French. Your written English is outstanding, but I see that on your profile you put English is C1, and that your native language is Czech. I'm asking, because I'm growing more and more confused as to what a C2 level actually means. Check out these videos for the speaking portion of C2 exams. The first one is English, the second one is Spanish.


- at 7:06 you can hear the guy speak. Prior to watching this video, I would have never thought that this a C2 level. I would have thought that this would be an example of English at around a B2 level.
- at 9:00 you can hear the girl speak. Prior from watching just this part here, I would have considered this a C2 level.
- at 10:02 you can hear the girl speak again. She makes a few simple mistakes, but nothing big. I would have considered this a C1 level.


I'm not a native Spanish speaker, so I sent these two videos to a bilingual friend of mine.
I asked him to tell me if this guy's Spanish is as good as that girl's English.
I didn't tell him what I thought, but he got the same impression that I did; That guy's Spanish is much better than that girl's English.

The reason I would like to have a clear understanding of what the CEFR levels mean is simple. When someone says they got to X level doing this, or that the best thing that helped them at this level was X, I want to make sure we're all on the same page.
While I understand that the CEFR exams are limited in terms of what knowledge and skills they test, it seems this is the most convenient means of measuring proficiency that's available to us right now.
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Re: How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

Postby Cavesa » Wed Jul 17, 2019 6:43 pm

drp9341 wrote:
Cavesa, I'm not doubting or questioning whether or not you have a C2 level in French. Your written English is outstanding, but I see that on your profile you put English is C1, and that your native language is Czech. I'm asking, because I'm growing more and more confused as to what a C2 level actually means. Check out these videos for the speaking portion of C2 exams. The first one is English, the second one is Spanish.

...

The reason I would like to have a clear understanding of what the CEFR levels mean is simple. When someone says they got to X level doing this, or that the best thing that helped them at this level was X, I want to make sure we're all on the same page.
While I understand that the CEFR exams are limited in terms of what knowledge and skills they test, it seems this is the most convenient means of measuring proficiency that's available to us right now.


Ah, sorry to have suspected you of doubting me. Perhaps too much of a habit.

The main problem with "on the same page" in case of C2 is actually very simple and logical. There is no higher level on the scale. Some of the new papers on the CEFR actually discuss this, but creating a new set of exams for very few people simply doesn't make much sense (let's not forget the business side of the issue). That is not much of a "we can't test every skill" issue, it is more like "we don't have a long enough measure tape" kind of issue.

So, my C2 French is definitely different from a very educated person who has lived in France for twenty years. They should logically be C4 or C5 or something :-) Also, the exams do not require you to be perfect at everything. The person you didn't like may have gotten tons of points in the other sections, balancing out her "barely passed" speaking. Actually, my writing score in the DALF was significantly lower than my speaking score (which I was told was rather unusual. Most people get a rather balanced result, neither too low, nor too high). My CAE writing was actually graded C2 but it was my only skill at that level, with speaking being the weakest. And there are also differences in the exam format. I am 100% convinced that the French exam writing is much more difficult and strictly and more narrowly defined than the English exam writing (a friend of mine with experience in both a French and a British school said the same thing). So, I think we are on the same page, we are just never gonna be on the same line, not unless we narrow the topic severely.

It is only natural that people at the same level vary to some extent (I have recently watched some DELE B2 videos and I would have guessed one of the girls to be C1 and the other B1. Sure, I am not an examiner and that comes into play, but there was clearly a difference between the two candidates that got the same certificate). And at C2, it is simply bound to be a much wider spectrum of ability. From people who are "merely" very good, up to native like speakers, or professional novel writers.

For all practical purposes, we can take the CEFR as the main scale, and you can get to the top even without the direct live immersion that you describe. But whether you can get to the theoretical "C4" like that, I don't know. Perhaps you can't, I have no clue.
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Re: How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

Postby drp9341 » Wed Jul 17, 2019 10:32 pm

Cavesa wrote:
drp9341 wrote:
Cavesa, I'm not doubting or questioning whether or not you have a C2 level in French. Your written English is outstanding, but I see that on your profile you put English is C1, and that your native language is Czech. I'm asking, because I'm growing more and more confused as to what a C2 level actually means. Check out these videos for the speaking portion of C2 exams. The first one is English, the second one is Spanish.

...

The reason I would like to have a clear understanding of what the CEFR levels mean is simple. When someone says they got to X level doing this, or that the best thing that helped them at this level was X, I want to make sure we're all on the same page.
While I understand that the CEFR exams are limited in terms of what knowledge and skills they test, it seems this is the most convenient means of measuring proficiency that's available to us right now.


Ah, sorry to have suspected you of doubting me. Perhaps too much of a habit.

The main problem with "on the same page" in case of C2 is actually very simple and logical. There is no higher level on the scale. Some of the new papers on the CEFR actually discuss this, but creating a new set of exams for very few people simply doesn't make much sense (let's not forget the business side of the issue). That is not much of a "we can't test every skill" issue, it is more like "we don't have a long enough measure tape" kind of issue.

So, my C2 French is definitely different from a very educated person who has lived in France for twenty years. They should logically be C4 or C5 or something :-) Also, the exams do not require you to be perfect at everything. The person you didn't like may have gotten tons of points in the other sections, balancing out her "barely passed" speaking. Actually, my writing score in the DALF was significantly lower than my speaking score (which I was told was rather unusual. Most people get a rather balanced result, neither too low, nor too high). My CAE writing was actually graded C2 but it was my only skill at that level, with speaking being the weakest. And there are also differences in the exam format. I am 100% convinced that the French exam writing is much more difficult and strictly and more narrowly defined than the English exam writing (a friend of mine with experience in both a French and a British school said the same thing). So, I think we are on the same page, we are just never gonna be on the same line, not unless we narrow the topic severely.

It is only natural that people at the same level vary to some extent (I have recently watched some DELE B2 videos and I would have guessed one of the girls to be C1 and the other B1. Sure, I am not an examiner and that comes into play, but there was clearly a difference between the two candidates that got the same certificate). And at C2, it is simply bound to be a much wider spectrum of ability. From people who are "merely" very good, up to native like speakers, or professional novel writers.

For all practical purposes, we can take the CEFR as the main scale, and you can get to the top even without the direct live immersion that you describe. But whether you can get to the theoretical "C4" like that, I don't know. Perhaps you can't, I have no clue.


It's honestly very confusing. Take a look at these two other videos of Spanish C1 oral exams.
https://youtu.be/HyFiAzQTjJk - perfect score on the oral exam.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7M7fCS_5Jk&t=51s - "Ejemplo de examen de expresión oral DELE C1de un candidato APTO, aunque con una puntuación relativamente baja."

The difference between these two speakers is huge.


What lead me to asking this question is the following...
Monday I worked with 2 guys from Ecuador. One of the supers on the job was from Mexico City, and the maintenance people in the building were native Spanish speakers also, if I had to guess where, I'd say central America.
The first hour or so with the Ecuadorians, we we're making small talk about random stuff like the weekend, what the building was gonna be, how Manhattan is changing, etc. I really didn't feel there was any difference between my Spanish and their's but only when we talked about things not physically present - i.e. the kind of language you would use on the phone, or over Skype.
Here are a few examples....

1. I asked the maintenance guy, "¿Aquí hay unas botellas de agua o una taza o algo así?" - this is a very weird sentence. Normally people would just say, "Hay algo para beber aquí?
2. I asked one of the guys if he vacuumed out the dirt from under the sink and said, "has limpiado con la apsiradora ya esa mierda que estaba debajo del lavabo?" - this is a weird sentence, especially in Latin American Spanish. One way which is a little better is "¿Ya pasaste la aspiradora debajo del lavabo?" or even better... "¿Ya quitaste toda la mierda debajo del lavabo?"

With Spanish, I have never had 'some sort of immersion' for a long period of time. What I actually mean I found in an article written by Luca Lampariello. He breaks it down ingeniously into a linguistic macro-environment and micro-environment. I have never had a Spanish micro-environment, with the exception of living with a host family for one summer in rural Perú, but they spoke Spanish worse than I did (they spoke Quechua,) and this was back in 2012.

To give you an example, if I had to take an CEFR like test for Italian and Spanish where they would assign me a level, I would most likely score higher for Spanish. I've read much more, I've watched 1000x more TV and I've studied and know the prescriptive grammar rules; I've had a much stronger Spanish macro-environment.

Despite all this, I would never make those kinds of errors above in Italian. I've already said things like that, and heard them said. I've been in 100's of situations where I didn't know the right way to say something, and I've asked.

How to replicate this with a micro environment / 'some sort of immersion'?
Try to translate your daily conversations into your TL, text a native and ask if that's the right way to say it.
I guess also watching tons of TV, and developing a keen sense of what you would and wouldn't know how to say.
Using TV to figure out the formality / informality of different words and expressions.
Get a really good tutor, or a native speaker of your native language who learned the language to a native level, and have him tutor you. He'll know all the false-cognates, misleading expressions etc. that escape L2 speakers.

That's all I can think of for now!
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Re: How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

Postby galaxyrocker » Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:48 pm

Well, I know two people who have passed C-level tests in Italian without ever visiting Italy. One speaks other languages, but the other only did Italian. They did use online resources, but it wasn't fully immersion, at least as I think of immersion.


http://brianjx.altervista.org/index.html

and

https://www.reddit.com/r/languagelearni ... alian_ama/


for those of you who are interested.
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Re: How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

Postby Adrianslont » Thu Jul 18, 2019 12:03 am

drp9341, i thought your discussion of micro environment and macro environment was really interesting. To me micro environment seems to involve things like casual conversation with family or friends, transactions in stores, or discussion/instructions/questions with a colleague about a task immediately to hand. Macro environment would be university seminars, abstract discussions about things removed in space and time and strategic planning in the workplace. These definitely have different linguistic demands. I think you see this progression in the Cambridge video - Derk and Annick are first asked to talk about themselves, then about pictures, then about more removed abstract topics. I think this deliberate progression reflects an (perceived or real?) increase in difficulty. I think for most native speakers the progression in difficulty is real. For many second language speakers it is probably also the same. However, it really depends on how you have learned the second language, I think. As you have pointed out, your Spanish is probably less capable in micro environments because you learned macro environment Spanish!

Back to the CEFR, I think many people expect too much from it. Language skill is a very broad spectrum with many components. The CEFR breaks it up into six levels only (while acknowledging that proficiency actually goes beyond C2) - so each of those six levels will be a range in itself. I think it would probably be a mistake to break it up into many more levels - it’s not like a ruler that can measure things to within millimetres - so maybe Derk and Annick are both C2. Maybe. In terms of “components” it measures things you can measure on paper or in conversation across a desk so it naturally precludes many contexts that we use language in, for obvious reasons.

Back to the video, maybe Derk and Annick are both C2 - I don’t have an opinion because I haven’t looked properly at the C2 descriptors. I don’t actually see anywhere that says they would both pass at C2 level (I didn’t watch every second of the video, though). The caption of the video says that this is what to expect in the C2 exam ie the format. It doesn’t say Derk and Annick are exemplars of C2 level. Maybe Cambridge is recycling this video from one it uses to train inter-rater reliability in its examiners? Maybe Annick is a C2 and Derk a C1? I did notice that Derk performed better later in the video after the time stamps you pointed us to - so do we judge his best performance or his weakest? And his weakest probably had much to do with nerves?

Back to your OP - I think you are answering your own question in your last post. If you can’t have real immersion, how can you learn how to talk about vacuuming under the sink? Maybe the question shouldn’t be “how far can you progress?” but “where can you go and not go without immersion?”
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Re: How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Thu Jul 18, 2019 5:13 am

Cavesa wrote:
drp9341 wrote:Hello everyone!

I have a question / discussion for everyone here. In your experience, how fluent / close to a native-like level can one achieve without immersion and / or using the language daily in a wide variety of situations?

Please Note: I'm using the phrase, "some sort of immersion" in a very loose and general sense. Think: Regular, Frequent and Meaningful Contact with Native Speakers
Examples of what would "qualify" as some sort of immersion would be
- Living with a boyfriend / girlfriend with whom you primarily speak your TL.
- Spending lots of time doing diverse activities with a group (or at least 2) friends who are natives speakers of your target language.
- The vast majority of coworkers are natives / the primary language at work is your TL, AND you maintain some degree of friendship / informal contact with these natives.

...

*** I'm especially interested in hearing what native speakers of languages other than English have to say about this! ***


C2. My French. For vast majority of the time (like 95-99% of the time it took me to get to C2), I had nobody to talk to and definitely not a group of natives :-D. Contact with living natives is not necessary.

However, if you redefine immersion more widely and closer to the usual meaning of it around here, the answer will be different. Immersion with tons of tv series, movies, books, pc games, blogs,etc. This kind of immersion is in most aspects equal to the few rare situations you describe. And it is much more accessible.

Without the immersion in the wider sense, you can't get that far. Some people get to C1 without it, just with tons of classes. But that is only for the rather rich learners (or with rich enough parents willing to pay for having their kids dragged to C1, that is more common), who are not in a hurry (and they tend to struggle with things more different from their class content). Most people without this "at home immersion" don't get further than B1. However, I wouldn't want to assume the lack of immersion is the only cause in most cases.

TL,DR version: Without immersion with real natives: C2. Without "the canned immersion"? Only as far as your course goes.


Can you give us a summary of how you learned French to C2? How long did it take, what was your approach? As a French student without any immersion in my near future I’m curious how you accomplished it.
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Re: How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

Postby Axon » Thu Jul 18, 2019 1:14 pm

IELTS at least appears to be very strict at the point of B2/C1. I've seen students make great strides in vocabulary, fluidity, and correctness, and still get the same scores as before because they were too hesitant or didn't use long and correct sentences.

MattVsJapan believes in a three-year silent period, at least for a certain set of people that 1) want native-level L2 and 2) don't have any pressing need to learn it fast such as immigration, travel, spouse etc. His reasoning is similar to something touched on in this thread, that with a truly massive amount of input you will hear your own mistakes as you make them and not internalize them. Instead you'll think "Well, I don't really know a good way to say this, and I bet this is wrong, but I'll say it now and get my point across, then find out how to say it naturally."

And unless you spend years and years doing that with TV and actively making flashcards to remind you how to say each thing, I think you're always going to have holes when you use your language for "little things." Some examples from my students, who speak good English already but would like to get IELTS 6.5 in order to study abroad:

splashed me in the water -> sprayed me with water
if the cat squash me with its body I will be afraid of it -> If the cat rubs up against me I will be afraid
The temperature in Thailand is suitable for tourists -> (American English doesn't use "suitable" in the way that Chinese does, so I had the student reformulate the sentence to "Tourists like Thailand because of the weather")
I remember the lake was like a mirror and round with mountains -> surrounded by mountains, ringed with mountains

No matter how much I stress it, my students are reluctant to do extensive listening because they can't see the benefit as much as they can when they have private lessons or study vocabulary. And that's totally reasonable, too, because it's an amazing feeling of accomplishment to learn a bunch of words and then see those words again in a real text. Only one student has really tried several days of extensive listening in a row, and he and I both noticed the difference in natural-sounding phrasing during our next lesson.

I think in-person immersion just challenges you so much. Every single situation is an opportunity to either know how to say something or not. Just the other day I was happily chatting with a taxi driver about how the city had changed, then at the airport I went to the exchange counter and my mind went blank - not once in thousands of hours of Mandarin had I ever learned about or heard anybody talking about changing money!
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