Going from beginner to intermediate

I see a lot of videos of how to go from intermediate to advance level in a language (B2 to C1 or C2). But I don’t see a lot of videos on how to go from A2 to B1 or B2.

Part of the reason is that we are still deficient in everything. We don’t have a large vocabulary, we don’t know all the grammar rules, we can’t enjoy a movie without subtitles, and certainly we are self conscious and apologetic when we try to do anything. So everything we do will still improve our language ability.

But what area do you work on first? What area will help you gain confidence and competence in the other areas?

For example, do you stick with watching Youtube videos with subtitles to be able to understand people better? Do you practice verb conjugations so you don’t have to think about them when you speak? Or do you practice by writing to people on a forum?


I can speak to a few things that helped me make the jump from A1 to A2 and that I’m doing right now to work up to B1 in my Irish…

1st, last January, before Covid hit us here, my Irish teacher made a push for a few of us to attend the Daltai.com Immersion Weekend in downstate NY. I was scared to death but I went and also prepared in advance for it by doing some vocab drills. Then, our teacher encouraged me and another student to move up to a more advanced class and now it’s been the READING that we’re doing that has been eye opening for me.

Plus I took two other online “immersion” weeks this summer, one with a school in Ireland, and one with a school in Canada, and they were both just a bit beyond my level, so I it was enough of a challenge but yet still fun. Now, I’m mostly trying to listen to podcasts more, and working on my first full adult novel in Irish, “Aiséiri” - totally beyond me in so many ways, but yet I’m having breakthroughs in reading comprehension every week. And it’s a really interesting book.


I do A LOT of listening input and transcribe small episodes or sections of a show to verify or challenge my comprehension. Watching a show I’ve seen before in English helps with the context, and then the gaps become study material.


I think you need a similar approach as when going from intermediate to advanced, but at an easier level. For example, you can do listening practice, but with short excerpts and a slow rate, repeated multiple times. You can do speaking practice with a native speaker or someone else learning the language. You can do reading/writing with smaller passages. And you should continue your lessons on grammar and vocabulary to tie it all together. It sounds like a lot, but one of these activities per day would probably help you get there.


I agree completely. The majority of the language learning industry is really focused on the absolute beginner market because that’s the biggest market. Everyone wants to start to learn a language but how many people continue to learn it after their first few attempts - so moving from the A2 to B1/B2 market really isn’t that big.

For italki we get a lot of people who want to take that next step after beginners. I’ve completed my Duolingo course! Now what? Or I think I’ll acually speak to a real person now. One of the best resouces that I’ve found on YouTube was this series for learning Japanese and he created this channel specifically to address the vacuum of A2 to B1/B2 content that exists out there. Benjiro basically records himself talking to various Japanese italki teachers in very simple A2/B1 conversations and while he’s having the conversations he writes in Romanji the words or phrases that A1 level Japanese users probably don’t know.

It’s still one of my go-to channels for learning Japanese because it’s how real people talk. The conversations are also interesting as it’s just two people talking about normal everyday stuff. But I do agree that there isn’t a lot of great stuff out there for A2 to B1/B2.

Then when you get to the B2 to C1/C2 side - you don’t need any learning materials as you’re just dealing with native content in your target language.

I wish there was more content that addressed the Basic to Intermediate market. For italki it is kind of our sweet spot though - you have a good grasp of the language and now you want to be able to speak with a real person who will be really focused and help correct any mistakes you have.


For me, I think the best way to get from a beginner level to intermediate is by
1.expanding the range of your reading and listening materials
2. increasing the quantity and frequency of reading and listening practices
3. starting to “immerse” yourself in the language gradually
(writing your shopping lists and doing your online searches in your target language, changing your phone language etc; i.e. try to make your target language part of your daily routine)
The key here is exposure, the more you get exposed to using the language, the more familiar you will get with the language and that sort of help to ease you into the upper beginner - lower intermediate range


What I did in Italian from A2 to B1 was I watched a TV series (Baby) with subtitles and took notes. I wrote a plot summary using as much vocabulary I had learned from the show, then used it to converse with my teacher.

I also went to meet up once or twice a month. I think I spent 3-6 months with this focus before I had my first long conversation with someone without having to apologize every sentence. I remember some of my frustrations, but somehow they never seemed overwhelming.

On the other hand, there’s Russian. I pushed myself to improve my A2 in Russian by watching Youtube videos, taking notes, trying to memorize vocab, and talking with a teacher. After 3 months the frustration got to me and have since taken a pause. Hopefully I can get back in the groove with a more positive attitude when I go back to it.

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