More than a million words read on Lingq and on the verge of surpassing known 28000 words and still A2 in German (?)

Hey folks, I’ve been actively using this platform for over a year now, and I believe I’ve made significant strides in my target language. However, just for fun, I recently took a placement test at the Goethe Institut. To my surprise, despite previously completing their B1.1 course, I received an A2 level result! It’s quite baffling and doesn’t seem to align with my expectations.
Am I at the wrong here or this is the reflection of the current system in place at Language Learning Schools?

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„Gut darin zu sein, Prüfungen zu bestehen, bedeutet nicht unbedingt, eine Sprache fließend zu beherrschen.“

Two different trajectories and not always in sync!

To be good at examinations of any sort you need to practise specialised exam technique for those particular exam formats.

To be a fluent German listener, reader, speaker and writer is a different and much wider road, up and down, many turnings and some dead ends too. Don’t despair. Just enjoy the journey! It might take some time.

[And laugh along with Mark Twain when he said he “never knew before what eternity was made for: it is to give some of us a chance to learn German.”]

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1 million words of reading still isn’t much. You have a good base in the language, but not enough repetitions. Probably you haven’t done much output either. Now both should be easier and with that base progress should be good.

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Hi @diogobaptista,

The first question is:
What exactly are your test results in the four language areas, i.e.

  • Reading?
  • Writing?
  • Speaking?
  • Listening?

According to your stats (at least if they’re correct and you didn’t do more speaking, writing, and listening outside of LingQ), you can expect to do well only in reading, but not in the other three language areas:

  • Reading more than 1 million words? Good. You should be on a B1 level.
  • Listening: 116.56 hours (at the moment)? Not sufficient for B1.
  • No writing / speaking? Reading ca. 1 million words alone won’t make you good at writing / speaking.

And I agree with @bembe:
Taking tests is an art in itself (beyond second language acquisition) :slight_smile:

In sum, the results of your placement test aren’t surprising, but to be expected.

The lessons are:

  • In the end, you only get good at what you train for.
  • There are only a few spillover effects from reading while / and listening on speaking / listening if you do much more of it (usually in the range of 2.5 - 6 million words read and more than 1000 h of listening).
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@bembe
Mark Twain is awesome, of course.

However he’s never learned one of the truly difficult L2s.
German is still a Germanic sibling of English… Japanese, Chinese,
Farsi, Arabic, etc. are not :slight_smile:

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Yes I mostly read and listen but still my listening skills are lacking. I dont speak much also but I did it in the past. I can hold basic conversations but I struggle to recall words or to understand spoken German. Well there is a lot of work to do, but at least I can read academic books!

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Thank you for your honesty! I can read a lot of advanced Material already, I read a lot about History and politics. But yes the other areas are lacking. Should I listen and read or just listen to improve my listening skills?

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Dr Gareth Popkins, who has achieved high levels in several languages, refers to this quite common problem as a “wonky four legged table”.

He also uses the aphorism “what gets you here will not get you there!” So the lesson is that on a regular basis you need to take stock of your language development and change the focus if you need to. You cannot always give equal weight to all the four aspects of listening, reading, speaking and writing - nor should you, as this is unrealistic on a daily or weekly basis, and at various stages it is unhelpful. But over the long haul you need to keep in mind those four skills, two of input and two of output.

Peter Bormann has helpfully given you some pointers at your own current stage as to where the “thin ice” might be. A small shift in direction on the four critical areas will pay dividends.

I would recommend Steve Kaufmann’s video on the book by James Clear “Atomic Habits”:

and then Gareth Popkins on the four language skills and his 12 tips to keep going “on all four cylinders”:

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Hi, another thought: 28000 LingQs does not mean, that you understand 28000 words. It just means that you created LingQs. If you know these words, in German that does not mean a lot either. Every verb, noun, adjective, article […] has a lot of different forms. So, if you created a LingQ for every form, in that regard you should maybe devide your LingQ-amount … and you get something like around 7000 words with their variations as your passive vocab… But how many of them are in your ACTIVE vocabulary? In a GeR-test your are testet for both.
(Reading is just one of four skills while learning a language.)

Furthermore the type of texts you are reading are important, too. If you read a lot of Wikipedia articles - which I personally love - or non fiction you will miss a lot of common day-to-day vocab, expressions and these “fillers” that are used in the spoken language. And these are important to pass A2/ B1, too. I remember me being in Australia and not being able to ask for a room in a hostel after learning English for 9 years in school. The vocab for that particular topic was never part of my studies. But it is often in a language course. Have a look at the “Easy German” series. Do you understand people talking about common stuff?

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Do you have access to the test paper? If yes, then you can go through it and work out what was missing in your knowledge. If no, well maybe you can make an estimate based on your memory of the test. If you have the marking, well that’s even better.

It is conceivable you are quite good in one register of German e.g. formal discussions, but poor in day to day languages. Or visa versa, of course. Or maybe one aspect let you down, such as comprehension of spoken German. It is also possible it is a very formal exam. It is quite possible to achieve a good grade in a foreign language in an exam at school in England, and yet be unable to hold a basic conversation. A friend who grew up in England, and whose mother tongue was French, achieved a B grade in his French O level !

For what it’s worth, I can understand discussions in French on French radio, and presentations in French on academic issues, so I have a decent level of comprehension. But German is on another level, it’s a totally different way of expressing oneself. They say that English is a West Germanic language. Well, I think that is misleading, and in reality it is much closer to French, which makes sense if you know the history of England.

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Most likely a lack of listening ability. Recommend listening to a lot more content and that should benefit from all the reading you have done!

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I’m curious about your B1.1 course. Was it supposed to prepare you to pass B!?

My experience with Italian was quite good:

My tests were good, because they were testing comprehension, instead of grammar theory. Not sure, if your test tested such things, but grammar theory is hard to know, if you don’t study it.

Being able to read academic books, as you said, doesn’t really prepare you for being able understand beginner or intermediate texts and conversations. If you want to do better in these lower exams, you need to be familiar with more conversational phrases and beginner vocabulary. Personally, for Italian, I studied lots of beginner content and then YouTube videos.

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@diogobaptista

Well there is a lot of work to do, but at least I can read academic books!

Reading stuff that interests you (history, politics, whatever) is important.
However, you won’t become fluent in everyday conversations that way.

Ultimately, the question is: What are your goals?
And then you have to train explicitly to achieve these goals.

For example:
GOAL: I want to become fluent fast

  • Then don’t read long books and / or listen to long audiobooks (with their slow-paced, clear pronunciation).
    Instead, focus on podcasts / Youtube videos / talk radio with various (fast-paced) native speakers who discuss topics related to everyday life (you could start with “Easy German” on Youtube, for example).

  • You can also resort to TV / Netflix / Amazon Prime, etc. series (ideally with more dialogues and less action). Yes, their word-density is lower than that of podcasts / Youtube videos / talk radio, but they simply have compelling content.

  • Then you should also talk more:
    → Start with ChatGPT3.5 on Memrise (it’s just 24 EUR p.a.), for instance. The conversations with the AI are quite nice (I haven’t tested it with German, but with many other Germanic and Romance languages).
    → You can have written conversations with ChatGPT about everyday topics, which is also helpful.
    → Sooner or later, it’s best to switch to human tutors (on Italki & Co).

  • Other helpful tools / strategies in this context are (Note: Some like them, others don’t):
    → Use LingQ’s export-to-Anki function to drill the conventionalized word groups (“chunks” / “collocations”) or sentences from the media (podcasts, YT vids, etc.) you find useful.
    → Use Glossika decks (on Anki - if available) or go to Glossika to drill sentences.

  • Finally your training cycle for achieving fluency could look like this:
    Practice reading while listening to the podcast, YT vids, etc. (Variations: Read the script first to mark LingQs or listen first without reading to see if you understand the gist of the dialogues, use Language Reactor to focus on subtitles without resorting to LingQ, etc.)
    Re-listen to the dialogues until you feel at ease (2-3 times is often enough)
    Use the sentences / collocations with: Anki (esp. the translation from your L1 into the L2!), the Memrise bot (ChatGPT3.5) for oral conversations, ChatGPT for written conversations, and / or your tutors.

  • Note:
    → In terms of time commitment: You should spend at least 1.5 hours per day (about 5-6 days per week) on these activities to make rapid progress.
    → It will take some time before you feel comfortable in the oral dimension.
    But after a few months you will definitely see the progress you have made.

GOAL: I want to study at a German university (it’s almost free - compared to the US / UK -, so why not? :slight_smile: )
In this case, “reaching fluency fast” is still a good idea, but you have to get used to academic reading / writing in the scientific disciplines you’re interested in.

Tip:
Deepl Write / ChatGPT (if you select “academic” writing as style parameter) are very helpful in this context!

GOAL: I want to pass grammar tests
Then you need to use previous tests to get a feel for what is expected and also do a lot of grammar exercises.

etc. pp.

Good luck!

PS -
If you want to pass official language tests in German, it’s best to combine the strategies mentioned above.

PPS -

Should I listen and read or just listen to improve my listening skills?

Both (see above), but with the right material for achieving your goals.

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Thank you for this insightful reply! Yesterday I started to see more day to day content, more specifically Netflix shows. I noticed that I can have a 90 percent comprehension on an historic series like The Last Kingdom which made me feel relieved but yes I lack day to day expressions that simply doesn’t appear on academic books. My goals is to emigrate to Germany so I really need to speak and understand spoken german. I have one year to do that so I think there is a lot of time to be successful!

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Thank you this is really insightful! I lead to think that simply by being exposed to the language itself would led to fluency. I am fluent in English and I don’t recall being active learning it I was just exposed to it since an young age. But maybe being thought in schools made me learn it in a unconscious way.

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It was an intensive course during the summer, It lasted about 3 weeks and to be honest it was just grammar drilling and not much about conversations or vocabulary. I was shocked because most of my colleagues to be honest were not even in A1 level, they struggled a lot, but they were good at grammar I think. Since that course, I decided to study on my own. I think it was to pass the Prufung B1, so you had a textbook with different chapters, most of them really boring, and you would do one chapter each day.

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It could be a high A2, missing B1 by just a little bit. Do the exam results show specifically in what area you scored lower than the passing score of 60?

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