Novice to Intermediate in Languages: Going from A to B

Welcome to the Five-Week Linguist Show! Today, we will discuss how to move from Novice A to Intermediate B in terms of your language fluency, improving your language fluency, and the tools you can utilize.

This post contains affiliate links.

Welcome to The Five-Week Linguist Show!

If you’re someone interested in learning a new language or teaching one, you’ve come to the right place. In this show, hosted by Janina, we’ll provide you with tips, resources, and advice to make language learning engaging and accessible anytime, anywhere.

Today, let’s dive into the topic of language proficiency levels A and B, specifically focusing on transitioning from novice low (A level) to intermediate (B level). But before we delve into that, let’s start with a quick review of the path to fluency.

Years ago, I underwent language proficiency rating training, which proved to be invaluable as a language teacher. I received excellent training from the Center for Applied Linguistics, and I believe they offer similar training online now. During the training, we would listen to various samples of tasks in the target language, ranging from simple greetings to more complex interactions like discussing health issues or childhood memories. These tasks are designated at different proficiency levels (A, B, or C) based on the Common European Framework for Reference (CEFR) or the ACTFL scale.

At the A/novice level, learners start from scratch, gradually building their vocabulary and mastering phrases. As they progress to the B/intermediate level, their phrases evolve into more cohesive and structured sentences resembling paragraphs. This progression continues through the advanced levels until reaching superior and distinguished levels. I personally appreciate the detailed proficiency levels provided by the ACTFL scale, as it offers a clear assessment of one’s language skills.

To visualize the path to fluency, I created a graphic representation of my training notes using speech bubbles, which I’ve shared for years. It helps me and others understand the language learning journey better. I’ll include the graphic in this blog post so you can check it out too.

Now, let’s focus on the specific goal of transitioning from novice to the intermediate level (A to B). This is a common goal for many language learners, as it signifies the ability to construct meaningful sentences and communicate effectively. However, it’s essential to recognize yourself as a language speaker throughout the entire proficiency continuum, rather than just at the higher levels. Embracing your current language abilities boosts confidence and encourages consistent practice.

To progress from novice to constructing your own sentences, the key lies in learning words and phrases. It’s crucial to emphasize the importance of learning chunks of language rather than isolated words. Start by considering the tasks you would typically encounter at the beginner level. There are numerous possibilities, such as greeting others, shopping interactions, discussing health concerns, or reminiscing about your childhood. Choose tasks that resonate with your goals and find language resources that provide relevant phrases and vocabulary for those specific tasks.

One excellent resource to kickstart your language learning journey is language for travel and beginners. I’ve been passionate about this resource for years and have published it on my blog in multiple languages. It’s designed to help learners communicate quickly and effectively by presenting language in chunks specifically tailored for practical tasks. You can access audio materials for free on my blog or even create your own phrase book based on the tasks and chunks you want to learn.

To reinforce your language learning, I highly recommend using notebooks. One effective activity I enjoy is called “vocabulary columns.” In this exercise, you write down chunks of language in your target language, draw a line, and then write their translations in your native language. This method allows you to study the chunks extensively, test your recall by covering the target language side, and rewrite the chunks using the translations as prompts. I’ll include a picture of this vocabulary columns technique in the blog post for reference.

Another popular method for self-study is the Gold List Method. It involves writing out approximately 20 words and phrases, reviewing them, and revisiting the ones you don’t easily recall the next day. This method helps reinforce your vocabulary retention over time.

If you have limited time for language learning, a great option is Pimsleur. They offer a fantastic app with 30-lesson courses available in multiple languages. Their method aligns with the chunk-based approach I mentioned earlier, allowing you to learn and practice in meaningful contexts. Additionally, they provide prompts and review activities to help you reinforce your learning. If you have more time, you can explore platforms like Yabla or iTalki. Yabla offers immersive language learning through engaging video content, while iTalki connects you with language tutors who are supportive and understanding, especially at the A level.

If you’re feeling hesitant about speaking with tutors, you can set aside some time each week to record yourself speaking the language. Use the phrases and tasks from your notebooks or create dialogues and conversations to practice. Recording yourself provides an opportunity for self-reflection and improvement.

Ultimately, whether you choose natural language acquisition through reading and deep comprehension or opt for a more structured approach, understanding the research behind language acquisition can accelerate your progress. Combine comprehensive input with focused activities to reach your desired proficiency level.

Remember, even at the novice level, you can quickly move toward constructing your own sentences. It can take just a few hundred hours, depending on the language’s similarity to your native tongue. However, be cautious not to overload yourself. Spending more than 30 minutes a day at this level can be mentally taxing. Find a routine that realistically fits your schedule and maintains your motivation. Switching up activities every five weeks helps combat boredom and keeps your language learning fresh and exciting.

In next week’s episode, we’ll discuss progressing through the intermediate level. I’ll also provide a book of tasks that can be applied to any language, helping you build fluency faster.

Some links to resources:

I am a proud affiliate. You can check it via these links:

Language for Travel and Beginners:

Travel Italian: 5-week Course

Learn German for Travel and Beginners

Learn Brazilian Portuguese for Travel and Beginners

Plan Travelling in Spanish

Language Teaching

Leave a Comment