Automatically speaking in your target language

Many people can speak their target language with a high degree of fluency; however, they put a lot of effort in trying to recall vocabulary and used learned expressions when they have an L2 conversation.

Can you speak your L2 automatically and almost flawlessly? If you do so, do you have any tips to help learners like me reach that level of competence?

I’m currently learning portuguese and reviewing English. I’m not an expert in English but i can express fluently If I focus. I want to stop focusing and just use the language automatically.

PS: I’ve never lived in a foreign language and i don’t intend to do it any time soon. What can I do to reach a C2 level of mastery?

For me, the fluency is there. The “almost flawlessly?” Maybe if we put the emphasis on almost. When I speak to Spanish speakers (about every or every other day at work) for a few minutes at a time, I think it’s flawless and fairly automatic. However, the conversations are generally not about topics of major interest to me and I don’t to put a whole of my 31K words into use. Moreover, because I work in government and this is America, I’ll use only English until they ask or I see them really, really struggling. If I were to talk to you or Francisco or my super-educated Argentinian friend about non-work things (she also works with me), mistakes would likely abound as I really focused, tried to activate more words, and stretched my abilities. But that would be somewhat intentional.

I don’t know if there are any specific tips per se, except time and opportunity. As Steve says, to speak fluently, you have a speak a lot. To speak a lot, you need a lot of words. To get a lot of words, you need a lot of reading and listening. To make it automatic, you just need of it. Just like the translating in your heads while listening lessens as you become more knowlegable, I find the same is true of speaking. For me, I have not traveled to a Spanish speaking country since I found LingQ, done the 90 Day Challenges, and really improved. For three years (other life things getting in the way), I’ve been itching to take a solo trip where I “survive” on my own and have a bit of a daily route in Spanish. This would probably be 7-10 days, be entirely on my own, and exclusively be in Spanish. No friends, no English. I’m confident I can do it, I just need to actually do it.

I think someone can reach fluency B2 or even C1 levels doing it this way. I think I’m in between those now. However, I strongly suspect that to reach C2 and be “absolutely excellent” (in Steve’s words) you have to, as you say, “live in the foreign language.” I suppose you can simulate it with a ton of Skype talk, working with natives all the time, etc, which is probably easier to do in the home country with English than any other. You might also be able to do it with a ton of writing output, but I don’t know. Your writing is rather good, and Francisco’s is excellent. He might be able to chime in since he may have worked or lived in the Anglosphere. His writing is 100% C2, truly top shelf, and I would guess his speaking is there too.

To summarize, and use Steve as an example again, the languages he speaks best are those he has spoken the most and a lot: French, Japanese, Mandarin. A little farther step down for Spanish, and then an even farther for those after that. He (and others) believe the French is C2 (he lived there for 3 years), the Japanese in between C1 and C2 (he lived there for 9 years), and the Chinese at C1 “or a very strong B2” because he used it for work for years, speaking at the Canton trade fairs.

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“…What can I do to reach a C2 level of mastery?..”

Your written English is very good, so I would say you are already getting very close to this goal :slight_smile:

I would suggest extensive reading of challenging texts - maybe some modern classic works of English literature, if that is of interest to you.

Just as a curosity, you can automate a language without speaking it proficently. I know a person who has been speaking English for a few years literally several hours per day, but almost exclusively with non-native speakers. What is more, he rarely reads or listens to native content. The result? He speaks at a native speed, clearly without any effort. However, due to so little input, he developed his own version of English, with lots of mistakes and bizarre structures he is not even aware of. A very interesting phenomenon, C2 speed with perhaps B1 correctness. I have an impression that while he has a limited vocabulary, every single word is an active one :slight_smile:


That is an interesting case of fossilization. Even though he speaks fluently in English, he’s developed defective language in it.
So, yeah. You’re right. You can speak English automatically in that case, too.

A single person creole language if you will :wink:
Very interesting story, thank you!