For much of this year, I have been focused on extensive reading and words read. I took as goals for the year, the B2 line on this chart:
(Credit to whoever posted this chart. Sorry I can’t find the original post to credit you by name. Edit: It appears this was from @noxialisrex, see his disclaimer below!)
These goals seem to line up with the experiences with a number of users on the forum, given what I have read. It makes sense to me the goals represent listening, speaking and reading which in turn represent 3 of the 4 ways we can interface with language.
This does leave the question of the role of writing. To date, I have done very little writing practice. I am considering adding weekly words written target, after which I’d ask chat GPT for corrections, and load the corrected passages as LingQ lessons, lingq’ing and using the SRS to review the specific words and phrases for which I needed corrections. If I struggle with any of them I can look them up or ask tutors.
What do you think about appropriate goals for words written to line up with above chart (i.e.per level)? How do you practice writing? Any recommendations to make writing practice as effective as possible for language learning?
Interesting question, I will focus on writing too in 2024. I had no idea about that chart you published, however, they just seem numbers doubled on each increased level.
It would be interesting to add also a writing figure at this point, why not!
That’s interesting. Thank you! That is a rate of 1 word written to 13 words read.
If proportional, that would mean:
It seems like a lot at the early levels. I’m guessing it was backloaded. (i.e. A higher ratio of writing to reading at more advanced levels). How does this compare with your level and the amount of writing you have done in German?
Others, have you all written at this pace with languages you have learned to B2, C1 +
If you have time, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the following two items.
Your goals from your profile for your intermediate level languages roughly line up with B2 on the chart in this post. You have 50-100k words of writing there as a goal as well. How did you come to this range? Have you tracked this for a language you have learned?
Do you have an opinion or recommendations on how to effectively use writing practice in language learning? How do you do it? In your view, what does writing practice contribute that the other modes of learning (reading, listening, speaking) do not.
BTW, I’m learning Spanish (currently at ~ a B2 level) as a native English speaker, so I don’t have the complication of a different script complicating my current situation.
BTW, your post by pure luck is a very timely post. For the last week or so I have been contemplating about a question at the back of my mind, at what sweet spot of written words, our subconscious mind starts writting error free text or with minimal errors(constant variable: we are still getting daily input through listening and reading). What is the minimum range are we looking for?
By chance, I can test your forcasting or any hypothesis since I am going to write B2 level exam with an official test organiser (in Germany, they are: Goethe, Telc or testDAF). The one I am taking the exam with is TELC : All four skills will be tested including writing, so to speak. Good thing is, I just wrote 2570 until now.
I will write the exam in July 2024. Good thing is, everything is covered by agentur für arbeit which is an agency if somehow you are unemployed they will pay for any job oriented course/language course). So I do not have to pay money out of my pocket. Because of this reason, I am taking this B2 online course. The only prerequiste is I have to attend most of the classes with a Camera ON.
So I visited the langauge school in question. I asked them I wanted to take part in B2 course.
They told me: 1. I must show student salary from the last three months. 2. An official test certificate of B1 level.
I did not have the official test certificate for B1 so they conducted it right on the spot. They tested my reading, listening, grammar, and speaking skills.
Apart from answer sheet, they gave me an additional form to fill out. Mostly questions about my personal details and questions such as when 1. I started learning German. 2. How long have I been in Germany. 3. Did I attend any language school in Germany. 4. Apart from German, what other language can I speak and at what level. 5. What am I currently studying in Germany? 6. What will I do in Future?
I wrote a couple of sentences for each question in German.
There was a teacher who teaches B2 course and there was her secretary. The secretary told me that I passed the B1 exam and our teacher wanted to have a 15 minute conversation with you in German.
She was looking at my filled application form. Asked these questions in German. I replied back in German…
Was my Business informatics degree in German language? (I said No, only in English). She asked like THREE times.
In your work place, did your Boss speak to you in German exclusively?) I said no. Only in English. He is under time pressure to give work related instructions to international students so he can not individually judge the level of German language of each student).
How did you learn English? And how are you learning German at home?
Through mainly reading back in Pakistan. Using internet was my only source of motivation. For German I said, I listened a lot daily and also through reading.)
However, one thing I have noticed was that throughout her speaking she exclusively used C1 level vocabulary and grammar structures. I used to create and read the same story at B1, B2 and C1 level with CHATGPT so I have a fair bit of idea regarding which words with similar meanings are used at different language levels.
Sometimes I feel like CHATGPT is so human like.
In sum, since I have not written much in German. Therefore, give me your exact number based on your forecasting or hunch or hypothesis. I will be writing that many number of words before I write the exam at B2 level officiallly, so to speak.
Attached is the copy of B2 course and test registeration.
Wow. What a cool opportunity for an experiment! I’m struggling to find info on which to base a hypothesis. The numbers in the chart above are crowd sourced reference points. I hope others contribute ideas about a target as well!
We’ve all proven with our L1 that writing is not strictly necessary to learn a language. The info above from @PeterBormann and @bembe suggest a range of 50k-150k for B2. I think we should lean to the lower end of that range for 3 reasons:
I think bembes numbers are likely backloaded,
both may expect more words written earlier in the learning process,
if we do 100k, we won’t know if 50k would have been sufficient.
You have at least 6 months, so you’ll exceed 50k with 300 words per day or even 2000 per week. How does 50k words written sound? Obviously do more or less as you feel necessary!
For me, that pace may be too much. I already do 1 h per day reading, 1 h+ listening, and add speaking and a little Japanese reading/speaking in a 3rd hour when I can. I plan to study a little German in advance of a likely trip there in July as well. I can’t spend a lot more time and I don’t want to reduce my Spanish RWL too much. Also, I still write slowly the ChatGPT corrections / LingQ import take me as long as the writing right now. Hopefully I’ll get more efficient at that. I will start with 4 pomodoros a week for writing, and monitor my results.
Excellent points, @hiptothehop, that deserve thoughtful (and therefore longer) answers!
Unfortunately, I don’t have much time at the moment. So here are just a few hints
(as soon as I find the time, I’ll elaborate further).
I think the chart displayed in your first post is by @noxialisrex (Toby). And Davide is right, he just doubled the numbers in each row.
As there are so many variables involved in this context (the closeness / distance of the L2 to be acquired, the previous SLA experience, the tools / materials being used, the familiarity with L2s from a similar language family, etc.), those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.
That said, I’ve come to similar numbers for not so distant L2s - apart from the C2+ category, which can be interpreted as “(near-)native level proficiency”. And at this level, there is no final threshold in sight. It’s just an endless journey because every natural language constantly evolves (in brief, not even native speakers are ever DONE with their L1 ).
2. The range of 50-100k written words
You have 50-100k words of writing there as a goal as well. How did you come to this range?
It’s simply math based on my writing experience in various languages.
What I’ve observed in academic writing (on a master thesis level and above) in my L1 is that I can produce ca. 3-4 high quality pages per day (= ca. 8-10 hours), which usually involves a lot of rewriting.
For easier, i.e. non-academic topics, I can usually write an A4 page (The A4 paper size | dimensions, usage & alternatives) with ca. 250 words in ca. 1 hour in a closer L2 at a B2 level, which includes some rewriting, error / grammar checking, some online research, etc. as well.
So, if I write for an 1 h a day and 365 days a year, that’s 365 * 250 words = 91250 words a year.
At university, we had to summarize the news in French, which took between 15 and 30 minutes a day for several semesters (I did this on average about 3-5x a week).
Therefore, if I apply the 30 min daily writing practice here, it’s 182.5 h * 250 words = 45625 words = 91250 words / 2 a year.
However, this only applies to low-hanging fruit or close L2s where learners already know the writing system.
If they have to learn one or more writing systems instead, that’s a different matter. And I don’t have a metric for that. I just know after 3 years of learning Japanese that it takes a “loooong time” to master writing in distant L2s
3. Writing practice
Do you have an opinion or recommendations on how to effectively use writing practice in language learning?
For improving our writing in German (and English), “Deepl Write” (DeepL Write: AI-powered writing companion) is probably the best tool at the moment because it’s like an AI-enhanced thesaurus.
Even as a native speaker of German, I sometimes like to test several versions of the same sentence / paragraph with Deepl Write to find the ideal solution in specific (business) contexts (but, of course, I also ask other native speakers of AE / German for their opinions).
So a nice little writing routine (say for German) could look like this in our context:
Write a first draft in your L2.
Use Deepl Write for getting feedback (according to the selected style, i.e.: “academic”, “business”, etc.).
Rewrite the selected Deepl Write version.
Get additional feedback from other genAIs such as ChatGPT, Copilot, whatever.
Rewrite the text again.
If needed, ask the opinion of native speakers as well (e.g. in writing forums).
Rewrite the text again (if necessary).
For Spanish, just drop the “Deepl Write” part.
To be continued…
Happy New Year to you all and CU in 2024!
It also helps for writing in our L2s to apply common “discourse markers”
(therefore / so, in addition, in short, etc.) and resort to specific
text structures (first, second… finally, etc.).
I agree totally on the taking the numbers with a grain of salt and our L2 journeys being without end. I do, however, love having milestones to shoot for, and I guess another way I look at these numbers is how we allocate our L2 learning time amongst the four modes of communication (reading, writing, listening, speaking) along the way. I have done so little writing in Spanish and feel I’ve been neglecting it. I am attempting to determine how much to prioritize it, and found little information on the topic.
Thank you! That is the best information I have!
I also very much appreciate your detailing out the numbers here. In my recent most recent few 25 min. pomodoros I’ve averaged right around 250 words (just stream consciousness journalling), and it takes me essentially a full pomodoro to review, correct, etc., so I end up at 250/h. I thought I was slow, but your numbers reassure me that perhaps I’m not quite as thick (in the British English sense) as I thought.
@asad100101 Perhaps your writing goal should consider these numbers. Peter came up with 45625 words/yr based on a 30 min per day writing practice. For your 6 months, you could consider how much time you can invest in writing. Perhaps a goal of would be a goal of 20,000 words @ 30/min day from now till the test is better. What do you think?
Yes, that one I can certainly relate to! While I was able to handle personal and business correspondence and general magazine style writing within a few years (I had the advantage of an excellent University course and an internship), even after 10 years I struggled greatly to write technical magazine articles in Japanese. It took sooo much time, and in the end I still had to rely on my team to help me mold them into presentable articles. Good luck on your Japanese!
Thanks again Peter for sharing your experience and recommendations! It looks like I may not be too far off in the direction I was leaning. I’m sure others will find this information helpful, too! Happy New Year!
The chart I made is fine as a reference, but everyone’s circumstance is unique to the point that I’ve told people it could differ by as much as +900/-90%! Distance from your L1 to your L2 and effectiveness of your method are the most important factors.
The point of the chart is really to show that it takes thousands of hours to reach a high level in an L2, and that the more you know the more time it takes to improve. Others have suggested it should be 2x cumulative not just the time to reach from* a prior level.
Thanks for your response! Yes, I never took these as absolutes, but more as a loose guide.
As I mentioned above, I’m more interested in them to set study milestones and as a reference point of how to allocate time between the 4 modes of communication. I plan to push forward on all fronts in any case!
What a very interesting topic!
I must correct one misapprehension, which is that asad100101 is far too generous in describing my personal stats on Lingq as those of a “successful learner of a German language”… I rather think we are all unique in the way we acquire any language, and on our personal interests in a target language, so would caution against a mechanistic approach about any “ratios” across the four modes of listening, reading, speaking and writing.
There are plenty of good quotes attributable to Plato and one of them in Greek “To each his own” was later taken over in a typically terse Latin rendition as “Suum cuique”.
That being said I have learned a great deal from fellow Linqers, and particularly Peter Bormann. His early suggestion of DeepL as an aid has been hugely helpful for me.
My own method, which may or may not be helpful for others in their own unique trajectory, is:
A primary focus on reading and listening every day, and often doing both at the same time,
A weekly essay on a topic of my own choosing.
Discussing that essay with an italki tutor once a week. I find that, allowing for some smalltalk at the start and end of that hour long session, and also allowing for being able to “go off piste” from time to time, an essay of 3,000 words is usually about right for me. Hopefully the essays get a bit more sophisticated as time rolls on…
But that is the mathematical basis of my own writing statistics: 3,000 a week. And of course that is simply a personal response to all the Krashen/Kaufmann wisdom of “simply putting in the time”.
One more thought here. It isn’t that I am searching for a magic ratio between the 4 modes. However, whether we like it or not, if we are working with limited time we must prioritize.
If I want to add writing practice, I have to either add hours to my language learning schedule (difficult for me) or determine how much my ca. 16-18 hours /wk of L2 time to dedicate to writing. Whether we call it 30 min/day, 3000 words/week , or 10%, we are still setting a proportion of the L2 study time dedicated to writing, and so a ratio.
I do expect this ratio is quite variable/individual, but as I haven’t been writing, I think it is valuable to hear how others who have learned languages have prioritized writing in their L2 learning, and what they find effective. Especially since there was comparatively little information here or elsewhere on the topic, at least that I could find.
On the note of prioritization, prioritize what you want to write. I would think about that a lot more thoughtfully then trying to find a magic ratio. There is of course a ratio that could be derived based on how much you read vs. how much you write, but this is descriptive rather than prescriptive. I.e., define them absolutely rather than relatively.
The only thing I would caution is that in the beginning you don’t spend too much time writing. You will progress so quickly that it won’t provide much value. But again, do this without regard to a direct relationship between them.
So on prioritizing what you want to write - Do you want to simply journal? Do you want to write academically on a topic? Do you want to write short stories or novels? Do you want to write poetry? Do you want to write casually online (reddit, discord, etc.)? Take the desired goal and work backwards.
I guess I must agree about not writing early because I’ve made it 3 years learning Spanish without having written much at all!
I haven’t really had a desire to write in Spanish. I’ve been more interested in speaking/conversing, and enjoying Spanish language content. Even now, my motivation is to write to learn the L2, rather than to learn to write in the L2, if you follow me.
Still, I take your point. I can tailor my writing practice to achieve what I want to learn/accomplish, and if that takes more or less time, that is OK as long that activity itself is leading me to achieve the goal I have already prioritized.
I have one question with regards to dealing with errors in writing. After getting appropriate feedback from your tutor in connection with your errors. How do you internalise the correct usage in your long term memory? Are you using Anki ? Are you doing sentence mining?
I would say you have to use those previous errors straight away and integrate it in your next writing. In fact, I would ask minimal corrections to your teacher, but very well detailed. In this way, you are learning less things but you can integrate them immediately.
For this reason, you need to invest for an high quality teacher. Imho.
If you are considering writing every day, I think you will have all the opportunity for doing it.
Error correction… another huge topic!
As you will know, the Krashen/Kaufmann view, particularly with the spoken language, is just to plough on regardless! Indeed, Professor Krashen after a lifetime of research commends Steve Kaufmann - “I like Steve Kaufmann’s attitude about mistakes … don’t worry about making mistakes, people listening to you don’t care if you make mistakes, they are interested in WHAT you are saying. If you worry about making mistakes you talk less, and you get less comprehensible input.”
However, you are focussing particularly on writing skills (and possibly coming up to an examination?) where judgements can be harsh. So is there a different path to follow here? In my opinion, yes and no…
The overwhelming point in language learning is, once again, you just need vast amounts of listening and reading of comprehensible input, and preferably as much “compelling” material as possible. As Peter Bormann has just emphasised, that takes a very long time!
Reading in particular can give you an occasional “lightbulb” moment on spelling and grammar. You can be lucky, as “noticing” something unusual, as Steve Kaufmann puts it in his familiar trilogy, may actually only need one instance to remember something for life. For example, in German why is there a different pronunciation for the letter “g” in “Regime” as in “Regierung”? Aha, a French loan word…
But then of course the explanations in style, grammar and spelling you need for accurate, precise and lucid writing get much more complicated, and if you are stretching yourself for “degree level” proficiency then you may need many “corrections” - principally by just massive more reading - but also by other methods such as having your essays talked over or even “marked”, hopefully in a positive manner.
Noticing a particular quirk can be that self-correcting “lightbulb moment” from reading, listening or speaking, but I accept that it can also be a very long continuum here if you are aiming for “near native C2 writing ability”. The US Department of Education cites research that suggests “it could take as many as 17 exposures for a student to learn a new word”.
And for some German grammar rules it might take a lot more “exposures”… Note too that even quite competent native speakers make both oral and certainly written mistakes in their own language.
Taking an analogy from the legal profession which I inhabit it only takes a moment to register that the spelling of “judgement” in general reading is different from a legal “judgment”; or that in British English “to practise law” and the “practice of law” is diametrically opposite the American English spelling of “to practice law” and the “practise of law”. But then of course it probably does take the proverbial “Iifetime in the Law” to get totally at ease with the myriad of terminological and grammatical usages (just as it does with many other specialist areas of knowledge). A classic puzzle for most initial law students is that in a criminal court a defendant is “prosecuted” whereas in a civil court a defendant is “sued”… Getting these usages right as a lawyer clearly demands all the tools of rote drills, mnemonics, glossaries, essay marking, lectures, seminars, classes, courtroom practice of “traditional teaching”, experience, etc - and law teaching is often very traditional in style!
For me, very fortunately, language learning is a hobby. So although I want to write in a coherent and largely correct manner in a target language, and as a powerful enhancement to my listening, reading and speaking skills, I am fortunate not to have to be tested on anything.
As others have suggested, getting a good teacher can be very helpful at pointing out mistakes in any situation, whether orally or in writing.
And then just to more - much more - reading and listening…