What are the differences between B1, B2 and C1?

B1 B2 C1 Progress

You’re an intermediate learner.  What now?

It is clear that to move from one language level to the next, learners need to expand their vocabulary. They also need to be able to apply increasingly difficult grammar rules correctly to progress from one level to the next. 

But what are these specific differences?  How can we know when we have finally progressed to the next level without taking an official exam? 

There are two main ways in which I would like to address this issue.

First, by showing specific examples of different vocabulary and grammar levels. 

And secondlythrough giving examples of communication skills learners can achieve through their ongoing process of gaining knowledge of the language. 

 Firstly, let’s look at the smallest elements to every language: vocabulary and grammar and see how these relate to the 4 skills: the “passive or comprehension skills” of reading and listening and the “active skills” of speaking and writing where learners apply their knowledge to express themselves. 

 VOCABULARY: Which words are B1, B2 or C1? 

For vocabulary level, there is a convenient online tool that uses AI to quickly assess the vocabulary level of each word of a text.   Let me show it to you here: (http://englishprofile.org/index.php/wordlists/text-inspector

It’s called English Profile Text Inspector, developed by the University of Cambridge, Cambridge University Press and Cambridge English Language Assessment.  

 We’ll analyse the text found in the first 2 paragraphs of “Crisis Communication Tips for Customer Service Teams” written by Matthew Patterson and referenced in a previous blog on The Boston School website, demonstrating the power of this AI tool. 

English Profile Inspector : Sample Input 

English Profile Inspector Screenshot
 

Overview of Word Analysis by CEFR level 

Text Inspector CEFR Analysis

Here, you can see the categorizing of each word by level: 

Text Inspector Analysis per Word

Conclusion

Based on this instant analysis of vocabulary level of each word, we can see that it should be relatively easy for a reader with a B2 vocabulary should be able to understand this text without much effort but could be a slight challenge for a B1 level learner.  And a great challenge for an A2 level learner.

 So we can say that vocabulary level of knowledge is an important factor in determining a learner’s reading comprehension level.   

 But at what level would the learner need to be to be able to write such a text as this?  

If you answered C1 or above.  I agree with you!  One’s writing level is not just about comprehension but being able to apply what has been learned to one’s own communication needs.  This requires critical thinking and not just memorization techniques.   

And what about grammar?

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 GRAMMAR: Which points are B1, B2 or C1? 

There are many grammar points that students need to learn to progress from one level to the next. However, I would like to focus on 3 key grammar topics that seem to stand out amongst them all as progress indicators: 

  • Verb tenses and voices 
  • Conjunctions and connectors  
  • Sentence structure complexity 

What learners need to be aware of is that being able to use more complex forms when writing and speaker requires a much higher level than when talking about reading or listening comprehension skills. 

Just as a child needs to understand words before they begin to speak, so does anyone learning a new language.  One must follow the natural process: 

The Natural Law of Learning – 3 Steps

1: Comprehend:  understanding when listening or reading 

2: Learn:  studying and exposing oneself to the language in context repetitively so that learners turn understanding from short-term to long-term memory 

3: Know:  when you apply knowledge actively through speaking and writing, only then can the outside world know we understand and can use our knowledge properly 

Therefore, it is very common that someone with a B2 level knowledge of vocabulary and grammar, can speak and/or write at a B1 level only.  if they have not had the chance to use words and grammar points to express themselves, then their comprehension skills may never turn into proven active knowledge

How to build your vocabulary in 5 steps

Reach the next level: build your vocabulary

You’re an intermediate.  So now what? 

Have you heard of the plateau that happens in learning a language? It’s the zone of intermediates. You can understand and be understood. Can follow basic directions and give them.  And with over dependency on online translators, you just may remain in the “Intermediate Valley” forever. You know enough to get by and it works. 
 
And that’s the problem.  You start to feel comfortable.  You stop trying to push your limits. You’re no longer feeling put on the spot.  And you may know how to avoid situations that no longer require you to step out of your comfort zone.  

So how do we keep pushing ourselves? 

New goals can work like magic. And especially those that have more at stake.  The two that come to mind?  1) a better job 2) attending university.  Both require higher level writing skills.  And to write better, we’ve just got to read more.  One doesn’t come without the other. 
 
I would like to share with you my 5-step learning cycle I use with my students to increase their vocabulary one topic at a time.   (FYI – I am using this for myself to improve my German.)
 

 1) Choose reading material that you’re interested in learning about. 

Pick an article where you will be slightly challenged.  For example: with 10-20 unknown words to learn

      2) Create a vocabulary list based on the text. Save it where it works!

Looking up new words and writing them down is time consuming.  But it is a crucial step.  Writing them on flashcards or even better yet adding them to an online app like Quizlet, will turn learning new words into a game.  And later, this is going to come in handy!

      3) Read through the text again to ensure you can summarize it yourself

Often words have several meanings.  It is important to read through the text again to make sure you’ve chosen the right definition that fits its context. 

Be sure to make any necessary corrections to your wordlist before you start memorizing them.  Write down a summary of the text.  It’ll do wonders for your confidence!

For those at a pre-fluency level learning English (B1 or lower) – feel free to do this in your own language.  For those at a B2 level, you should be able to learn new English words through definitions in English. 

In our blog posts, we create links to a bilingual dictionary such as linguee to help you comprehend the text.

     4) Play memory games repeatedly to help you learn new words 

Now that you are sure you have the write definitions for the words – start memorizing.  Quizlet will mix them up for you, keep track of which words you still need to focus on and create fun games and quizzes. When you can recall them to Quizlet’s satisfaction, you are doing well!

      5) Find another article in English about the same subject and summarize!

To reinforce your learning, it is important you see the same words again in context.  The best way to do this is to choose an article with the same subject.  Google is great for that.  Identify which words from your list have reappeared.

Can you understand the text without looking up the words?  If not – go look them up again.  And if you can understand the text without that step – then bravo! 

You’re ready to write a summary about this article using the words you’ve been studying to help you.

The Boston School would be happy to help you with this 5th and final step. It’s where a teacher’s feedback can really come in handy.

We are currently in the process of creating interactive mini-lessons connected to our blogs. Would you like to know when we will be ready to launch?  If so, please be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay informed. 

 

 

US Election 2020: The Stakes are High

The election of our lifetime

It is soon time for US citizens to vote – not just for who will lead the country for the next 4 years as President and Vice President but those responsible in Congress.   In fact, there are 33 out of 100 senators seeking re-election for another 6-year term. The Senate, the upper house of Congress, is currently controlled by the Republican Party by a close margin.  

It may feel like eons ago but can you remember? Trump had been convicted on impeachment charges passed by the lower house: the House of Representatives, led by a majority of Democrats. There was plenty of powerful evidence of his abuse of power and the Republicans didn’t deny it in the end. Yet they continued to back Trump to keep a united front. In their point of view, Democrats represented the enemy.  Not the Russians.  Not corrupt politicians.  Not Donald Trump.  So they acquitted him.

When will enough be enough?

And then came the mismanagement of the pandemic, the authoritarian use of power during the racial protests ignited by George Floyd’s broadcasted murder.  Along with the unresponsiveness of politicians to seize the moment to pass a law banning the choke hold used by police officers.  It could have been a positive step forward in fighting police brutality, which could have satisfied the emboldened protestors.  But it didn’t happen. And let’s not forget, the tictoc debacle and Trump’s humiliating drop in the polls.  

You would think you were asking Yankee fans to root for the Red Sox in the final inning of a World Series!  But treating political parties like rival sport teams is very dangerous, indeed. It’s really okay to switch sides.  From sports we should keep in mind: “It’s not winning or losing but how you play the game that counts”.  

Small cracks, which had begun forming prior to all those events, have been growing much larger within the Republican party itself: between Republican conservatives and right-wing Trump supporters. So large in fact that lifelong Republicans are stating publicly and on social media that they will vote Democrat for the first time in their lives. 

But will it be enough?  The stakes are so very high.  And it’s not just all about Trump.  It’s about the average American – Democrats and Republicans, who have drawn a line in the sand, who refuse to speak to their neighbor because they side with “the other team”. 

Will Americans reconcile with each other?

Reconciliation between parties not only has to happen between elected officials but between the people they represent. Family members, neighbors and co-workers have to do their part. Can Americans, who have been trolling and throwing ugly insults at each other for years now, finally say “enough is enough”? Can those who refuse to speak to one another pick up the phone and start with a clean slate?

Whether Trump wins or loses this coming election, there will still be a need for Americans themselves to change their tone and make every effort to unite.   If Trump convinces “his base” that the Democrats cheated to win or the Democrats have proof that Trump abused he helped rig the election, who will believe whom?  

Will there be a peaceful transfer of power in America? 

This is what everyone fears to say out loud but we’re all thinking it. But basically, unless people stop blaming Trump, the Clintons, the supposed Deep State, the FBI, CIA, the US Postal Office or whatever other institute: real or made up, the problems that plague the country will continue to mount.  The promise of a more united union will be harder to deliver on if regular everyday people don’t start to have real conversations with each other. 

Freedom vs. liberty – there is a difference

Will it be Americans desire for individual freedom to not wear a mask, eat as much junk food as they please and buy as many guns as they wish that will trump all? Individual freedom to do whatever you want could win over a deeper sense of duty to one another as a country whose Constitution values liberty and justice for all. What kind of lessons will children be learning from that?

If there is no sense of duty to do right for one’s neighbor – whether they love them or not, then it looks like after all these years, the Communists will be proven right.  The USA may be on its way to becoming yet another country ruled by a large authoritarian figure head and not “for the people, by the people”, after all. 

Ironically, the Republicans call Democrats often “Socialists”.  Yet, it will be the acts of the Republicans that may turn the USA into a country run by a dictator: by Donald Trump, who may never leave office.  Or perhaps spur on a second civil war.

America these days seem to be addicted to drama.  But let’s hope they still are seeking a “they lived happily ever after” ending, too. One not just for the cameras but in real life.  Their own lives.

 

A Personal Story during Lockdown

This article is written for the B1-B2 level student. The hyperlinks lead to English-German translations. After clicking on the links, you can easily change the language to French or another language from within the online translator used: linguee.com.
A PERSONAL STORY DURING LOCKDOWN TIME
Introduction

How are all of you doing?  Are you starting to get used to the lockdown? I feel very fortunate.  Losing over 80% of expected income for the year within a few days was swiftly and effectively counterbalanced by the meaningful financial support the Swiss government and banks provided.  I think for the first time ever during an economic crisis, interest free loans and unemployment benefits in the form of short-time working insurance have been granted to self-employed business owners like me.  So thanks to the Swiss government authorities, I am able to remain calm and focused during these uncertain times!

But I’d like to back up a little and share a personal story with you. Let me tell you how it started…

It was early March and I was feeling pretty good.  I had just recovered from a month-long flu.  Who knows?  Maybe from “the virus” and I started feeling a natural urge to reach out to family and friends that I had lost touch with.   My best friend from home, Ellen, had been on my mind recently.  The last we spoke was about 13 years ago.  

This crisis woke me up by perhaps instilling fear of an unknown future.  The thought of loved ones coming down with the virus was working away at me.  So I began reaching out and in a way that felt easy and natural.  Ellen’s birthday was in March and so I sent a happy birthday message to her. 

I was so delighted to receive a response.  We started sending simple texts back and forth.  Being a bit nervous about talking over the phone, I had asked her in my first message if it would be okay if we kept to writing first. Her answer to me?  “Time is on our side.”

Then Easter time came.  I had hesitated to respond to her last message as it had innocently stirred up some painful times that she wasn’t aware of.  I got stuck.  I wanted to explain why it took me so long to answer without going into too much detail.  On Good Friday, I finally sent a vague message to her. I thought to myself how silly it was that I hadn’t called her yet.  I agreed to myself that it exactly what I needed to do upon receiving her next reply.

And then it happened.

PART 2

Being connected to her niece via facebook, I received an announcement that Ellen had gotten into a serious car accident with a friend on Friday and had been rushed to the hospital with multiple broken bones.  Ellen had been driving.

In a split second, not only had Ellen’s life changed, it seemed mine had, too.  No longer was I basking in the warm feelings of having gotten back in touch or the feeling of relief  or the grateful feeling that I would not be experiencing financial distress any time soon.  All of that went out the window and meant absolutely nothing. 

Instead feelings of fear, guilt and regret consumed me.  Why hadn’t I just called Ellen from the start? Why did I take so long to get back in touch with her in the first place?  So much time wasted. 

Ellen was brought to a reputable hospital in Boston and I even managed to get through to speaking to her nurse.  I’m not even sure she found out about that.  I didn’t feel I had the right to suddenly get all involved.  She had a life that I wasn’t a part of any more and wanted to respect that. 

I found out she was in great pain. Nothing more.  Later, I wrote to her niece who explained that her mom and Ellen’s older sister had created a facebook group to communicate with friends and family about how things were proceeding.  Pam accepted me into the group quickly and so felt grateful.

In the next few days, I was to learn that Ellen had a broken, dislocated neck.  She decided to risk an operation.  She made the right decision.  Afterwards, she could feel her hands and feet again. And by the way, more good news: she had tested negative for COVID-19.  Then, a double surgery came next.  Two surgical teams worked at the same time: one to put in a metal plate by her broken cervical bone (collarbone) and the other to place another metal plate to stabilize her broken wrist.

I had no idea if more surgeries awaited her.  Thankfully, the medical team had finally found the right way to relieve her pain.  I can’t imagine what she must have gone through for nearly a week without proper pain relief.  It was an Easter story that seemed very close to the original one.  

PART 3

In the meantime, I continued to write short questions to Ellen’s niece and sister via facebook.  I was excited to find out about a blog Ellen and Pam started in early 2019.  It is dedicated to telling memorable stories of their past to honor their family history.  It brings to life those family members and good friends they miss who have sadly passed away.  At the same time, it is a gift for future generations who may be curious to learn more about their ancestors.  It’s a family record created in a personal, unique way.

Both of them are great storytellers.  It is something in their blood.  Ellen has always liked to read and keep a diary.  And I can remember Pam telling some really hysterical stories after coming home from work.  I can’t tell you how reading their newsletter and watching their videos caused many sentimental tears to fall.  I laughed out loud reminiscing over the childhood stories they shared.  Most of the stories were new to me but I could vividly imagine them playing out in my mind since I not only knew the people and places so well but also because I, too, hold them so dear.

The feeling of relief for Ellen would be finally come when she had the courage to share a smiling face of herself in her neck brace.  Phew! There she was. She was alive and somehow she looked so calm.  The expression she conveyed to the nearly 200 people worried about her was: I got this!  That was the first night that I could finally sleep. 

After the two surgeries, things began to move quickly.  Within about 2 days or so, she could stand up and the decision to transport her to a rehabilitation clinic was made.  She was on her way.  She had passed the first painful stage and now she was going to the next.  It’s certainly not over yet.  Not by far.  It’s just the beginning.  But I do hope to be back in her life in a big way now so I can accompany and support her along the way.

In honor of Ellen and her family, I would like to share the” Leaving a Life Legacy” blog with you.  I find it very relevant in these times.  Not all of us may be lucky enough to survive this pandemic unscathed.  Writing or sharing our stories may be the key to helping us through any losses we may experience now or in the future. I hope you may be inspired by their stories to do your own thing.  Warning: it could awaken strong feelings in you!

ENDING

Finally, I have to say Ellen has always been able to bring out the sentimental side in me.  I miss that very much.  I haven’t found many people like that lately. With so many shared childhood experiences, she can do it the best!  So in honor of her poetic sentimentality, and my hidden one, I’d like to leave you with this important message that she gave to me as a gift many moons ago.  I still have it today and it remains in my living room to this day.  It’s the picture of the cushion you see at the top of this post. “A friend is a gift you give yourself”. As I now look forward to renewing my friendship with Ellen, a woman that helped shaped me as a person, I hope you can learn from my mistakes.  Give yourself the gift of friendship. And remember everyone: Time may not always be on our side. So, let’s make the most of it.

For those who may have been inspired to write their own personal lockdown story or reminiscent story of days gone by, I would be so pleased to read them. 

Writing about emotions taps into a completely different writing style from business letters.  But it is when we share emotions in another language that the language truly becomes our own. That I know from my own experience.

I’ve got to go now.  It’s time for me to call Ellen!  Wishing you all well.  Keep safe, strong and hope if there’s a story in you, you find time to write it!