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How to maintain your learning mojo beyond C2!

Updated: Jul 24, 2022

C2 is seen as the pinnacle of language learning and is a goal that many learners aspire to. With good reason too, as reaching C2 means you can not merely work or study in an English-speaking environment, but also thrive there! However, from working with a great many post C2-level clients, I know that reaching this lofty height can bring new challenges, not least of which is how to maintain your enthusiasm and motivation for learning. In this post, I am going to share three tips for post proficiency-level English speakers who want to continue to learn and grow their language. 1. Extensive Reading and Listening These are absolutely crucial to your continuing growth and language expansion. Extensive reading and listening and important at all levels, but once you have reached Proficiency, in my opinion, they are vital if you want to continue to grow. By C2, you should be able to read complex texts and you can capitalise on this by challenging yourself to develop these skills. For example, a previous client of mine took C2 Proficiency a year ago and is now working as an English teacher, a job that involves teaching Beowulf! Beowulf is a very old English poem and one that I would likely struggle to read and understand, let alone teach. That's a great example of a post C2 learner pushing themselves way beyond their comfort zone! Like this client, I invite you to challenge yourself to go beyond your current range in terms of difficulty, topic and text-type. If you like reading news articles, read a novel instead. If you enjoy listening to podcasts, try listening to current affairs programmes too. If you're a fan of Jane Austin, try reading more contemporary fiction such as Margaret Attwood or Kazuo Ishiguru, a very famous Japanese-English writer (and one of my absolute favourite authors!).

2. Develop your range of idiomatic and colloquial language I've recently found a brilliant webpage which lists lots of British colloquialisms. It's a fantastic resource and one that I intend to use in short videos on my Instagram channel. The phrases there are typically British and would be good ones to learn if you were moving to the UK or were an Anglophile. However, if the US or New Zealand were more your thing, they wouldn't be a lot of good. I don't think Americans use words like hammered after too many beers or geezer to describe an older man! The point is that good use of colloquial language depends on country where you are or want to be. This means that you can be selective about what idiomatic language you choose to learn. Clever use of very idiomatic language is one of the key differences between highly proficient non-native speakers and native speakers so if your goal is to sound more natural, this is a good place to start. It has the added bonus of being fun to learn, too.

3. Facilitate small wins At the lower levels, people experience wins on a very regular basis. Every new word learnt is a triumph, every small task done in English is a wonder. By C2, this is no longer true. Your language is so good already that it can be very hard to notice the incremental changes that you are making. This can lead to a kind of despondency among very proficient learners as they believe, wrongly, that they have stopped making progress. To combat this, try creating tasks that will enable you to notice changes. For example, make voice recordings on a regular basis, choose vocabulary to memorise and test yourself or decide on a specific, possibly obscure, grammar point and work on it until you can understand and use it. By building measurable tasks into your learning, you will be better able to notice how your language is evolving. One final point for you to consider: Many people I have met at C2 compare themselves unfavourably to native speakers and lament the fact that they are not as sophisticated in their language as their native speaker friends and colleagues. If this is you, I wonder if you have ever considered the fact that many native speakers would struggle with the CPE exam, and probably fail, or that native speakers who have to take IELTS for immigration purposes often struggle to reach Band 7! How can this be? Well, essentially, as a proficient non-native speaker, you have been trained to read complex information and to analyse it in a way that many non-native speakers have not. You know how to write a report, an article and an essay, something that a native speaker may not have done since they were at school! In short, the English of a proficient non-native speaker and a native speaker is simply different. One is not better than the other. The native speakers may have the upper hand when it comes to idioms and weird phrases, but it's entirely possible that you are a stronger reader than they are! So, look for the gaps in your language and fill them in by all means, but never forget how much you have accomplished!

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