Proficiency holders and proficient learners


The recognition of proficient acquisition of the English as a Foreign Language is officially assessed and distinguished into as set of specific pillars. Proficient acquisition reflects eloquent, confident and multileveled command of English. C2 instruction covers the ground of linguistic and metalinguistic comprehension of the English language.

By Marina Siskou


In terms of listening skills, proficient learners, by the time they are dispatched to the examination hall, are expected to:

  • Exhibit unhindered ability to understand virtually everything spoken regardless of the delivery rate.
  • Understand both formal and informal authentic conversations in a comprehensive range of situations and recognize subtly conveyed attitude, feelings, opinions and arguments.
  • Understand sophisticated eloquence, such as narratives.
  • Naturally recognize idiomatic and colloquial English.
  • Observe conversations of academic, professional nature and function, announcements, media broadcasts, presentations, lectures on abstract and concrete topics, manifesting the prowess to identify the gist and the skill to distinguish between fact and opinion.
  • Distinguish the impact of phonological features, range, and register of the spoken utterance.

With regard to reading, proficiently-prepared learners of EFL are anticipated to:

  • Understand unobstructively all genres of authentic written language; process and navigate into extended, abstract, structurally and/or linguistically complex texts, highly idiomatic, literary and non-literary writing on a wide range of topics: professional, academic, social texts.
  • Comprehend subtle textual effects.
  • Identify the finer points of attitude and implied opinions; observe complex reasoning in a wide spectrum, hardly impeded by lexical features.
  • Successfully comprehend subtleties in the use of different register, text structure and discourse markers.


The prescribed writing skills of a proficiency examinee profess that the learners:

  • Have developed familiarity with generating well-structured texts discussing complex, abstract topic.
  • Produce clear, natural, complex formal written deliverance of a wide range of genres (including letters, essays, narratives, reports, articles, descriptions, simple arguments). Learners are expected to perform written discourse that is fully appropriate to the purpose of the genre and omnipresent acknowledgement of the target readership.
  • Maintain the elevated language and register throughout the writing.
  • Develop cogent, natural argumentation that is governed by cohesion and coherence.
  • Use punctuation accurately and effectively to invigorate the outcome.
  • Maintain consistent control of complex grammatical-syntactical structure.
  • Implement a variety of vocabulary; distinguish between finer shades of meaning.
  • Adopt idioms naturally and effectively.
  • Adopt the appropriate register in a wide range of contexts.


In terms of proficient speaking skills, learners are anticipated to have internalized the ability to:

  • Communicate naturally personal information and intended messages on a wide spectrum of topics and functions.
  • Engage in lengthy and sophisticated conversations. Elicit viewpoints, read paralinguistic features of spoken interlocution, express and convey standpoints, develop, support challenged opinions, manifest persuasion ability, skills to reach agreements/ conclusions, the ability to disambiguate obscurity, in a range of register, style and topics of discussion.
  • Integrate sub-themes, convey subtleties of meaning.
  • Retrieve instances of communication breakdown, without disruption of the flow of deliverance.
  • Articulate correctly, using stress and intonation patterns naturally to highlight, emphasize and modify the meaning.
  • Maintain consistent grammatical control of linguistically complex utterances.
  • Manifest high command of colloquial and idiomatic language in awareness of the connotative levels of differences in meaning.
  • Generate consistent and cohesive spoken discourse, activating knowledge of the appropriate linguistic devices and connectors.
  • Manifest the ability of backtracking, reformulating summarizing the meaning confidently and seamlessly.
  • Effectively and skillfully interact, having internalized the maxims of spoken communication, listen actively, ask for clarification, rephrase, reference, natural turn-taking, allusion-making and address according to the intended audience.

It is counterintuitive for teachers not to self reflect whether the increasing population of C2 certification holders does in reality preserve the expected command of English, fulfilling the afore-mentioned specifications.


For the first time in the history of EFL teaching professionals witness the present plethora of C2 certifications. So extensive is the spectrum, that certificates are tailored to fit the individual needs of the examinee, rather the reverse.
C2 examination mindset and reality is revolutionized. It seems that the threshold of C2 preparatory instruction is individualized, sometimes to the scale of compromise.


Times change and teachers still strive to take their stride. A major indicator of the transitory phase is that seemingly, a considerable number of learners who have acquired the B2 certification are merely preoccupied with one problem: which certificate to opt for and based on what criteria.


Inherently, this reality manifests the leap of C1 that is already naturalized. The learning stage of C1 flickers as a redundant one before the eyes of both educators and students. This reality though, does not entail the progress of the test-takers. Rather, it verifies that a large number of C2 certifications are adulterated. Certificates that grant C2 proficiency hardly reach the threshold of standard C2 linguistic content, being in essence a C1 examination. In effect, their exercises are composed of C1 grammatical- syntactical content and a symbolic use of C2 lexical items.


Educators and learners strive to perform C2 language acquisition, mainly under the misconception the directives of the job market impose on them. Maybe the designing of certificates that are of questionable quality are the hasty product of those needs and qualifications. It is with reviewing the necessity of any need that forces a human mind to undergo C2 preparation within a restricted time span.


Little evaluation is being exercised before an EFL instructor is confident about the readiness of a candidate to enter a C2 preparation class. The gap that distances B2 EFL language acquisition and C2 EFL language acquisition is significant. The leap of C1 advanced class might turn out to be a traumatic experience to an ambitious learner that resumes English courses following his/her B2 success.


The IELTS preparation and examination outcome:


The challenging case of the instruction and preparation for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) certification is singular. One could define the IELTS instruction as a pressure cooker to the C2 language acquisition.
The IELTS measures the language proficiency of people who wish to study or work where English is used as a dominant language of communication. It uses a nine-band scale to clearly identify levels of proficiency, rating them from non-user (band score 1) through to expert (band score 9).


The IELTS is available in two test versions:


Academic-addressing people applying for higher education or professional registration and General -addressing people who migrate for secondary education or applying for a training program and work experience in an English speaking environment.

By default, possibility for success in the IELTS examinations increases as the examinees are either already fluent in English and they wish to corroborate their skills by obtaining the official qualifications (several working organizations and academic institutions demand and acknowledge only the IELTS, irrespective of the of other C2 certifications). With regard to that part of learning population, proficiency instruction is focused upon the instruction of the modus operandi of the certificate. IELTS candidates are required to demonstrate the ability to verbalize percentages, charts and numerals as well as the skill to write and speak in comprehensive and efficient fashion. It abstains from encountering topics of abstract and complex nature, as is the case with the rest of C2 examination. The factor of unpredictability in this examination is virtually absent. Additionally, participation in the IELTS eliminates the risk of failure. This also might act as an encouraging factor, as the learner is open to language learning free of the fear of abject failure. For the IELTS, the interest and the learning effort is shifted towards the acquisition of specific communicative skills and register. Moreover, when people are pressured to perform for life and psychological needs, such as being accepted in a college, being selected by a firm or establishment, then learning motivation is boosted; positive feelings towards learning invigorate the connections that are formed into the mind of the learner during language input. Working memory transforms into long-term memory more concretely if feelings of interest are involved during the learning process.

 


Academic performance is closely connected with motivational orientation and basic psychological needs of the learner. “[Despite being] a complicated definition, language motivation has a crucial role in language learning and it is an important determiner of the learner’s role to participate in the learning process in an active and positive way” (Oxford and Shearin, 1994).


It is likely that the elements of socio-educational model of language learning, that are defined as integrative motivation, instrumental motivation, attitude and interest towards a foreign language are effectively activated (Gardner, 2008; Dorneyei, 2003, Gardner and Lambert, 1972). The aforementioned social, psychological and individual features facilitate –and comprise reliable predictors- of successful English language achievement.


The core of the question “to C2 or not to C2” is too precarious to address in a definite and homogeneous fashion. As educators we could though, monitor the circumstances in which the instruction is effectuated. A safe response would narrow down to the:

  • Time, amount and quality of level and goal-appropriate C2 education
  • Investment of a considerable budget intended for the completion of the C2 courses
  • Resilience, willingness, decisiveness, grit and nonchalant focus on the procedure of rendering the candidate a proficient learner of English. •


References:


1. www.languagecert.org/en/Documents/C2-SYLLABUS.pdf.
2. http://dergipark.gov.tr/download/article-file/90265.
3. www.ielts.org/what-is-ielts-introduction.

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