Reaching an advanced level

I am currently learning Spanish. Based on the self-evaluation table, I would consider myself at a B1 level. My main sources for learning are Lingq and speaking once a week to my exchange partner. If I continue my progress I am confident I can reach B2, but beyond that seems very challenging. Steve says you usually need to live in the country, but Im wondering if any of you have had a different experience. Have any of you reached an advanced level (C1-C2) without living in the country? I realize it would take more time than I am doing and probably reading some literature as well.


I’m not sure what the context of Steve’s comments were in this case, but from experience I say yes, you can definitely reach an advanced level from a B1 if you read and listen a lot and especially if you speak once a week on top of it.

The process will of course be a lot quicker and the results more solid if you happen to live the country – no argument there. But you can do very well without moving there.

One caveat is that people get wrapped on in the whole idea of being a “C2” and I’ve ranted about that before here in on the forum. For the purpose of this post, I’ll just say this: You can definitely get to a C2 level of reading and listening just by sitting at home and doing LingQ – I’ve done that. I did a C2 level reading exam as a test with German a while back and did well enough on it to pass it. Getting to a C2 level speaking is a little trickier. It’s a question of regular speaking practice – don’t ask me how long but I’d say once a week may not be enough for that. But the thing is, to be considered a “C-2” you’d need to write at a C-2 level as well, that’s just a lot of hard core studying and practice that I myself would not be interested in unless I was living in country.

A C-2 level of comprehension is a very useful thing to have, and it’s completely achievable… A C-2 level of speaking is a nice goal to have, but is really only necessity for professional, academic, or in country living needs – and in all three of those scenarios a solid B-2 or C-1 speaker would become a C-2 fairly easily if dropped into the field.

When I say “C-2” speaking, I think it’s a little beyond the regular conversational fluency that we were just discussing on some of the other threads, it would need more finesse and practice.

And another thing I mean to add, you say “probably reading some literature as well.” No, not probably, definitely, you need to read books to do what I described above. I don’t mean “high literature” or classics – those are more for down the line – but I mean contemporary fiction novels. Reading and listening to those will be an absolute necessity if you wanna do this without moving to Spain. ( And you get extra polyglot credits if you do this without reading any of Harry Potter :slight_smile:


I remember Steve saying that I do remember the context. And although I don’t remember where, I’ve nevertheless quoted it and thought abotu it to myself on several occasions. It jives with what t_harangi mentioned here, which I agree with, not only in principle, but even based on my own, though much more limited, experience with Spanish.

That a “C-2 level of comprehension is a very useful thing to have, and it’s completely achievable” make sense becuase, while I consider myself a strong B2 overall based on the self evaluation, at 1500 hours of Spanish, I can feel myself touching C1 in a lot of the reading areas. Online tests, including the DELE diagnostic has me at the C level. And if I keep reading and listening, especially to harder and harder content like fiction, it would make sense for me to keep improving. I think Steve has said this or similiar also.

It’s the output side of things that might “require” you to be in-country. Not necessarily because immersion is needed, but becuase that level of output participation and practice would require lots of opportunites to engage educated native speakers. Granted you can probably watch a lot of movies, listen to a lot of podcasts, and do all of your reading in Spanish, but you’d probably have to seriously rearrange your life simulate immersion for output purposes.

In other words, “that’s just a lot of hard core studying and practice that I myself would not be interested in unless I was living in country.” And since I’ve already reached a level where I can do everything I set out to do in Spanish and then some, I’m confident enough to “finish” Spanish soon and that I “would become a C-2 fairly easily if dropped into the field.”


Wow - you are on a roll. You really understand what it takes to learn a language.
t_harangi, did you take an official exam conducted by Goethe Institute or an online exam in German?

1 Like

I see. If Steve was talking specifically about how “speaking at a C-2 level” would likely require moving to a country, then yes, that’s hard to argue against, and for most people that’s probably the case. But of course there is a difference between “Advanced level” of language usage vs. “speaking at a C-2,” which is a specific skill.

On a side note, I did meet one person who I felt spoke at C-2 level without living in country, it was Sun Hyunwoo the head of Talk To Me In Korean, who I met at a K-Con event a few years ago, and as we were talking he mentioned that was his first time in an English speaking country which surprised me because having watched his videos I could’ve swore that he studied in the US at some point. But of course he’s a language teacher, and he lives in Korea, and the language was English which he was using professionally for YouTube every day, so all that adds up to a perfect storm of speaking at a C-2 without leaving home.


Thanks, Asad. Yeah, the German reading test I took was from an actual C-2 test from the Goethe Institute. I wrote a post about it at the time. Here is a link to that to explain the details and my methodology: My New Experiment Comparing Lingq Levels Vs. Cefr Tests -...


When you passed C2 level reading exam, do you remember at that point how many words did you read on LingQ and what was your word count? You mentioned Advanced 2 level. I know it is already high. I am interested in knowing your reading and word count statistics.

Just a side question, did you use subtitles while watching Television series in German in the beginning and ditch it off later on? You said you could watch TV series without subs?
I am sure listening to audiobooks really helped with that?

I think my German was 45K known words when I did this test. Words read was probably 1.5 million.

Yes, I did use English subtitles for German for quite a while, and then I switched to German subs when I was more comfortable, and then no subs. And yes, audiobooks were a huge help with that. (The people who push for “no subs” or “TL subs only” at the beginning phases are full of it, in my opinion. I watch TV to learn while relaxing, and not as an exercise in linguistic masochism. You can learn a lot at the beginning by watching TV with NL subtitles. And no, I don’t do notebooks while watching or any of that. Books with audio are for learning and TV and movies are for enjoying what I’ve learned. )


Agreed. I can’t imagine starting to watch Spanish Netflix with Spanish subtitles from the very beginning. Granted, that was all I did when I started watching Spanish shows, but that was after I had read over 1 million words, had over 10,000 or so known words, had beenTo Spain, and already had a sizable vocabulary. I was reading the Spanish subtitles and listening to the audio as I was watching the shows merely to allow my listening to “catch up” with my reading/vocabulary abilities.


Thanks. I suppose I wasn’t clear in my original post but it is not my goal to obtain C2. I’d be very happy with B2, and maybe go for C1. For example, I imigrated to Israel about 14 years ago and I would consider myself C1 in Hebrew. C2 is a level higher than the less educated native speakers, but I was curious.

I think a good technique when watching something is first time with NL subs, then again with TL subs, and try a third time with no subs. I think if you are at least at B1 level, one can handle this

1 Like