In general, it takes at least 18 years for a native speaker to reach C1 level in their own language. Therefore, it's reasonable to expect that a teenage or adult foreigner would take at least a decade to approach that level.
The CEFR framework quantitatively indicates a set of complex social skills that can be acquired, practiced, reinforced, or forgotten at various rates. Achieving C1 and C2 levels would require staying in the country for several months and actively engaging in social and intellectual activities. Additionally, one would need to become familiar with the local jargon and expressions of the moment.
The most challenging skill to acquire is fully understanding spoken vernacular because it involves interpreting complex social interactions in a foreign society. This knowledge and awareness cannot be formally taught and often take years of effort to develop. On the other hand, skills related to standard script and speech are relatively faster and easier to acquire. However, it’s important to note that true fluency is rarely achieved outside of an in-country immersion.
Text by: Anastasia Spyropoulou
Estimating the number of hours required to complete a given level merely provides an indication of the difficulty. For example, CEFR suggests that 180-200 tuition hours are required for A2 Level -TUITION HOURS NOT STUDY HOURS.
Under normal circumstances, students need to devote approximately three times more hours for self-study to absorb the material, making it around 600 hours. Progressing to higher levels becomes increasingly lengthy and challenging.
Going from A1 to C1 would likely take a decade, and the proficiency attained can diminish without regular practice.
To follow university courses in a target language, one should be at least at B2 level. At C1 level, a person should be as fluent and literate as a university-educated native in Standard English, though this level may not be attainable if not achieved in one’s native language.
The skills needed at C1 level:
If you are not at this level in your native language, you can hardly expect to attain it in another language.
- Listening to speech in a common vernacular but mostly standard speech as on television programmes and in films, documentaries, political speeches, and announcements in public spaces (airports, train stations).
- You can read long, complex literary and technical texts even outside of your field of expertise.
- You can converse fluently and spontaneously without hesitating or searching for expressions. You can operate in most social and professional situations. You can relate your opinions to those expressed by others. Your pronunciation is perfectly understandable.
- You can formulate highly structured speech, organizing ideas, making deductions and conclusions and defend them e.g. presenting a business plan.
Writing/Composition - Literacy
- You can write a thesis or other complex, highly structured compositions.
Near native in understanding speech, reading and writing, formal or vernacular, and capable of standard pronunciation. If you have reached this level, you are either taken as a native speaker or a long-term resident (if your pronunciation is somewhat ‘foreign’) in standard professional and educated social settings.
Skills needed to understand a language as well as any native speaker, are: formal or vernacular, regional dialects, social slang and to implicitly understand unspoken or non-explicit inference.
You will be familiar, and use common body language and intonation; the musicality of language.
You shouldn’t need to have expressions explained to you. You will have understood the context of events, history, politics, attitudes and mentalities.
You will have understood how the local society works; the informal networks, the prejudices, and drawbacks, the advantages and pleasures.
What you may not ever be able to do is master in great subtlety the pronunciation and formulation of specific sub-dialects. It would take a herculean effort or linguistic talent to come to grips with the dozens of most common regional and social group dialects in the UK.