By Georgina Palencia.
“I feel like I’m not moving forward!”
This is an expression that I constantly hear from my Spanish students at levels B1 and B2. On my side, the appreciation is absolutely antagonistic, especially if they have studied with me since the beginning.
When they say it, I smile a bit mischievously and explain why they mean it. I’ll do the same now.
Entering the intermediate level is a breakthrough. Many Spanish learners, in fact, settle for reaching it because it is a functional communication level. They can already communicate on a leisure trip, have a short conversation with colleagues, read forms, make requests … For them, it is enough. But those who are convinced of wanting to be bilingual and take all levels find that these B1 and B2 make little progress, I will explain some of the reasons.
The causes of stagnation while learning Spanish at any level can be several: lack of clarity in the objective, having an unrealistic objective, an inadequate strategy regarding the objective, the impossibility of measuring progress, lack of dedication, being at an inappropriate level, or having made sustained overexertion. But, as is the case that I want to talk to you about, it can also be a perception of the intermediate level.
As a way to reflect with you, I list 5 areas in the process of learning a language, in our case, learning Spanish and I briefly explain them.
At levels A1 and A2 everything you learn is new, absolutely everything, so that every day you are aware of what you are learning. At levels, B1 and B2 intersperse reinforcement with learning. Remember that the three phases of learning a language are acquisition, development, and use. You feel that reinforcing is not important and if you only reinforce it seems that that class does not count. But reinforcement is key to real language learning because acquiring is only the beginning of the process.
At levels B1 and B2, since you speak more and are more exposed to extensive materials, your chances of making mistakes are more constant and you notice with frustration that the teacher corrects you more than before, even what you think is obvious, such as verbs ser and to be. But no, the use of these verbs is now in more complex contexts, even in tenses. So, you know, you will be more correct because you have more material in use.
You feel frustrated when you listen to audios in real contexts because, although you understand the central ideas, you do not access the forms of expression. But you don’t realize that in levels A1 and A2 the audios were artificial and extremely short. Now you understand a real one is a breakthrough.
And yes, it will be very difficult to measure how much more you understand each day, it will only happen, and when you leave this level your understanding will not be absolute, but it will be very satisfactory.
The intermediate level is the conversation level by excellence.
When you were in A1 and A2, although we made you talk, you had few resources to carry on a conversation, now you have enough to not need to change to your mother tongue. However, it happens that now you are much more aware of the mistakes you make. You also notice when you stop to try to remember a linguistic resource, or when you know you need one that you haven’t stored yet.
Now you can be conversing throughout the class with your classmates. You no longer just answer questions in a ping pong game with your teacher, you have become independent of him in your interaction with your classmates. And having that practice every day is not synonymous with being stagnant, it is a sign of progress that deserves
5. COMPLEXITY OF WHAT IS RIGHT AND NATURAL.
At this level, when new learning comes, it is complex. These are the levels of complex and compound sentences, of the subjunctive, of delving into details, of taking care of minor categories in structures, of word derivations, of ̈depende ̈ and exceptions. You will abandon marked and artificial speech and go in search of fluency and the natural.
You can feel great frustration if you feel that sometimes it is more difficult now than in the beginning, and it is natural. In the beginning, everything was fine, even if it was wrong, the important thing was to store moderately concatenated resources, and use them immediately. The correction was reserved for the very relevant.
Now, the search for what is correct and natural makes us make use of certain information that we hid at another time and over which you thought you had control. For example, if before you said: The important thing is that you eat well, now we will ask ourselves if the correct way will be that you eat or that you eat. If you used to say: ayer tomé dos botellas de vino, now we will ask you to say: ayer me tomé dos botellas de vino, although the pronoun does not seem to have any logical grammatical explanation.
What about now? This is just a small review of why you get that strange feeling of stagnation when you’re among the B.
You can review your causes and if they are of the perception that we share with you, do not worry, you are at the correct level and you are learning much more than your consciousness is capable of registering.
I also recommend, to alleviate that feeling of stagnation, to make frequent recounts of what you are learning or reinforcing in each class. Keep a clear agenda not only of content viewed but also of communicative objectives achieved every day. That will give you even more security.
Being at the correct level is very important, if you are at a lower level you will get bored and if you are in a higher one you will get frustrated.
Trust the process and be surprised by your progress.
You can read this article in Spanish