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How to increase your range and accuracy beyond C2

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

I've worked with many learners at C2 and beyond. While I am always in awe of their linguistic prowess (and, if I'm honest, just a tiny bit envious!), I also know that being at this level brings a unique set of challenges. All C2-level clients I have worked with have been both acutely aware of their limitations and often frustrated at how difficult it is to continue to extend their language. This post, then, is another which is dedicated to those at C2-level and beyond and will offer three tips on how you can continue to increase your language range and accuracy.

1. Beware of fossilised mistakes

A fossilised mistake is one that has become deeply embedded in your language production to the point where you don't even realise you are making the mistake. These are surprisingly common at the higher levels and include things like:

  • persistent pronunciation mistakes, such as confusing /i:/ and /I/

  • small but regular grammar mistakes, such as confusing even though and even so

  • playing it safe with vocabulary and relying on the same words and phrases

While I am not advocating that you eradicate all trace of your beautiful first language accent, I also know that these small errors in pronunciation can be a source of frustration and the same goes for those annoying little grammar problems that you can't quite seem to solve.

The key here is lots and lots of very focussed accuracy work, ideally with a teacher who is prepared to mercilessly correct you on these specific points rather than enjoy having deep and meaningful conversations with you (or perhaps a teacher who will offer you both!). The problem with fossilised mistakes is that they happen outside the radar of your consciousness which is why you need a trained and supportive listener to reflect your language back to you.

2. Expand your vocabulary

Pretty much all C2-level English speakers bemoan their lexical limitations and there is some truth to this; because you have already developed sophisticated and natural vocabulary, it's very easy to get comfortable and very difficult to know how to keep expanding your lexical range.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, extensive listening and reading are key for exposing you to new and interesting language. Also important is making a concerted effort to increase your range of synonyms as well as your understanding of the different meanings that a word may have. This is known as extending your breadth and depth of vocabulary and, although it may require work and diligence, you will undoubtedly be repaid in the future with a richer understanding of the uses and meanings of words and phrases.

3. Practice with other high-level speakers of English (fluency!)

It's great if you can speak with your native-speaker colleagues or your American partner's parents. However, as I alluded to in my previous post, there are differences between native and non-native speakers and much of the speaking that happens in an office or family setting (presentations and so on aside) tends to be quite inconsequential. As a result, you may not be getting the practice you need at honing your ability to speak at length, to take turns naturally or to try out that strange idiom you came across.

For this reason, I believe it is important that you seek out other C2-level speakers that you can practice speaking skills with. Working with those at a similar level to you will give you space to experiment with people who understand your situation in a way that native speakers may not. With your C2-level friends, you can create an environment of exploration and experimentation which will be an enormous help to you as you continue to work beyond C2. If you'd like to work with other high-level English speakers in a dedicated space for advanced discussions, I invite you to try Think Positive Speaking for free for a week. Think Positive Speaking is an online speaking club for learners at all levels with a session devoted to those at C1 and beyond. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to get together with people who are in the same boat as you and to participate in discussions that are both enjoyable and challenging. Join Think Positive Speaking now for your free 7-day trial!

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