I'm signed up to run the Berlin Marathon on September 25th next year, and will spend a bit of time in Germany before and after. I love that this trip is planned, because it's a huge motivator to round out my German-language skills. So, I want to set a goal of reaching the CEFR B2 level in German before this trip.
Where I'm currently at
I've been studying German since 2015, but the total number of hours I've spent so far is impossible to ballpark. I go through crests and troughs of motivation that last months at a time. I'm in what a lot of language learners refer to as the "intermediate plateau". Essentially, I know the high-frequency vocabulary well enough to get the gist of a lot of content and say simple things. But the long tail of words and grammatical structures that I'm unfamiliar with keep me from relaxed comprehension — what most people would think of as "fluency".
If I had to guess my current CEFR level, I'd say I'm B1 in reading + listening and A2 in speaking + writing. Most of my practice to date has been focused on input (e.g. reading newspaper articles or watching TV shows in German) instead of output (e.g. writing a journal entry or speaking to someone in German).
Why take a test?
I'm planning to take the Goethe-Zertifkat B2 exam. I have a few reasons why:
- To give myself a clear goal. I think the lack of a concrete goal is part of the reason why my motivation has ebbed and flowed over the years.
- To have some proof-of-work that I know German. Even though I'm not planning on working or studying in Germany, a B2 certificate would allow me to in some cases (depending on the role, it might require C1 or C2 instead).
While I love the idea of trying to pass C1 or C2 on my first try, B2 seems like a more approachable goal. If B2 goes well, I might try to pass the C2 eventually. But my current plan is to put German on the back-burner after this and shift my efforts to French.
From the Goethe Insitut, passing the B2 exam demonstrates that you can:
1) Understand the main contents of complex texts on concrete and abstract topics, as well as technical discussions in your own area of specialization.
2) Communicate so spontaneously and fluently that a normal conversation with native speakers is readily possible without a great deal of effort on either side.
3) Express your opinion on current issues in a clear and detailed manner, explain your position on a current issue and state the benefits and drawbacks of various options.
What am I going to do to study?
- Complete the Lingvist German deck (~5000 words).
- Practice speaking with iTalki. I'll likely start this at the beginning of next year, and ramp up towards the exam. I think 2-3 sessions per week would be ideal.
- Journaling in German. When I can, I'll try to take my daily notes in German. Later on, I'll try to write a few practice essays in German.
- Take the Goethe B2 practice exam.