C2 exam results and analysis

C2 exam results and analysis


After slightly more than two weeks since sitting my third CEFRL exam (German this time), I have just gotten the results of it today! I have to say, I am very pleased with the results and happy to share them with you all! :)

One unique thing about my language learning projects is complete transparency of the good and the bad aspects of how these missions pan out, so I will continue that in this post and share full details of my results, what I did right and what I did wrong. I know several readers are considering sitting a similar exam, so hopefully my recommendations will come in useful.

Overall result

There were five different aspects to the exam. Based on four of these aspects I “passed” the exam and have a C2 level in German in these parts, doing better in certain sections than I originally thought I would! :D

However, I did not pass one aspect: Listening comprehension. Because you must pass all of the five sections, the overall result is not a pass and I will not be awarded the C2 diploma.

If I needed this diploma for professional reasons or to study then this would be a huge disappointment, but my purpose for sitting this test was always to do my best and to aim ‘impossibly‘ high in the very tight deadline of three months. When you see the results I got in individual parts, you will understand why I am very proud of how I did. I have also learned a lot about improving my study approach and this will be crucial in future missions (when combined with the priority of social-based learning).

I’ll give the results of each section and elaborate more on it below. There are 5 different possible grades: sehr gut (very good), gut (good), befriedigend (satisfactory), ausgleichbar durch mindestens “gut”…. (pass pending gut or higher mark in certain other sections) and nicht bestanden (not passed). I will also mention what I remember as a comparison in my Spanish DELE from several years ago.

One difference with the Spanish C2, for example, is that the overall pass is way less complex than in German. There are also 5 sections, but (when I did it) you need 80% or more in each section to pass. There are no levels – just a pass or fail. I did pass that and can mention why I did better than the equivalent in German in certain cases.

The results are presented in marks per section (marks achieved / (slash) total possible marks), followed by a representing percentage and the actual grade.

Oral exam

Result: 60/80 (75%: ‘good’ grade)

Believe it or not, this was the one I was most nervous about.

I have been way less social in Berlin than usual, so I have not had the chance to focus on constantly improving my conversational level as I normally would. Despite this, even with way less conversational time, I have plenty of language hacks to improve spoken level under tight conditions. So not only did I pass, but I got the good grade!

This was even more of a challenge when I saw the theme I had to discuss (for 5 minutes before the theme I had prepared in advance): deforestation! I can’t even discuss this in English, so I’m glad I have lots of tricks up my sleeve (yes, the language hacks I wrote about work great in oral exams) that eventually got me into a nice flowing conversation and ultimately gave me a grade to be proud of.

Having said that, the grade I got in my Spanish oral was a much more impressive 96%. You may think that this was due to simply having put more time into immersion in Spanish (about a year before exam compared to three months in German), but I am sure that it is actually because I focused on speaking Spanish first and then worked on more academic study methods that make up the rest of the exam. I didn’t really focus on the DELE exam until the weeks before it, when I was already speaking Spanish confidently.

I still remember that Spanish oral exam and how I immediately abandoned the “usted” form, used lots of casual language, and even flirted with the madrileña examiner a little. While German requires you to use Sie in such a situation (Spanish from Spain is way more restrictive), I still “worked the room” to keep the atmosphere informal in the exam and I am sure this worked to my advantage.

I never say people shouldn’t study to speak a language well (for example, I always have grammar and vocabulary books to help me in each mission), but as you can tell by the theme in certain posts recently, study must be put in its place and the focus must be on what a language exists for: communication. I am absolutely convinced that I would have gotten a similar result to my Spanish exam (95% or more) in the German oral if I studied less during those three months and focused entirely on speaking, using the techniques that I know work well but full time instead of just occasionally.

From a purely oral perspective I will always recommend people make studying a minor focus of their time to improve their level, and spend more time conversing. The only reason I did indeed study so much in Berlin was because I was sitting an examination, with other aspects as outlined below. Study works for examinations, but it’s a mistake making it the priority for real life. This also applies to oral exams, which are as close to the real life use of languages as you can get.

In future I will (of course) not be studying so much, but I will also only aim for sitting another C2 (or similar) exam when I already speak the language fluently. I will not likely be doing this again any time soon though.

Written exercise

Result: 52/70 (74%: ‘good’ grade)

This nice result was a bit of a surprise as writing is usually not something I focus much on. However, I had some tricks up my sleeve (read: not cheating, it was just me, a pen and no “bathroom breaks”) that I will discuss at a later time.

Apart from my usual hacks for spoken production that can be somewhat transferred to written production, I’d simply recommend that people write as much as possible for similar themes as in the target exam and have a very critical native correct them.

I don’t remember exactly what I got in the Spanish DELE for this, but it would have been 80-90%. If you can speak confidently and correctly, then you simply transfer it to written format. This is easy in phonetic languages like Spanish and German. To me its logical that my oral and written results were pretty much the same. The only difference is that I removed casual empty-softeners (like, you know, isn’t it?) and conversational connectors, which would make speech sound more natural, but not work in written form.

The only aspect of this that was hard for me was the actual writing - I had a cramp in my wrist as I haven’t used a pen to do more than fill out forms, sign my name, or write a quick postcard since… well since the Spanish DELE exam in 2006! This to me is a dark-ages aspect of CEFRL exams and I wish they would just let me use a computer (obviously with spell-check and Internet etc. disabled), or at least give me a feather to dip in ink so I can do this backward “writing” thing with some style.


Result: 43/70 (61%: ‘satisfactory’ grade)

I just barely got within the safe pass grade both in German and in Spanish. I still remember the Spanish result was precisely 80%. One tiny slip up and I would have failed the entire exam!

I don’t like to focus so much on grammar and the rules of a language: speaking ‘perfectly’ is definitely way less important than speaking confidently. People who focus on this perfection will never actually reach it since they still aren’t confident enough to speak. When you do speak, improvements come naturally: as I said I got 96% in the Spanish oral by simply applying what works for improving spoken level.

So, it’s no surprise that I didn’t ace this section. I don’t like this part as it presents the questions sometimes in a way I feel is quite artificial for how you would need to apply the rules in real life. However, they do indeed test your understanding of the technical aspects of the language. It’s not my place to tell the Goethe Institut or Instituto de Cervantes how to run their exams, but I would personally do it differently.

Another frustrating thing is that you have to study for the exam layout. The way I passed this was to simply look at pass papers, see what they asked and study as many possible iterations of the answers that could come up as my main non-vocabulary SRS based study. I definitely improved my actual grammar in doing this, but I still think it’s restrictive.

I actually initially thought that I may have failed the exam because of this section. Rather than language abilities, I think just recognising patterns and studying those patterns gave me a pass in this part and it doesn’t (in my opinion) particularly reflect much on my actual language skills.


Result: 25/50 (50%: would just be ‘pass’ grade due to ‘good’ in written)

This part was the only surprise for me, as I thought I had passed it safely, but I actually did quite poorly.

After a text with questions (that I believe I answered satisfactorily, but not perfectly), there was a part to check your level of vocabulary by giving synonyms to words in the text. Precise synonyms are required (there are only one or two right answers), so I think mine were too general and I may have gotten no points at all in this part because of that. There is no half-points system – you are either right or wrong.

What I would have done differently: more focus on vocabulary study, to be more precise. My answers were likely ‘correct’, but not good enough. Also, I would recommend answering more questions on texts and running answers through a native. It’s likely that I wasn’t phrasing the answers in a satisfactory way, or presumed I gave enough information but didn’t.

What I wouldn’t have done differently: Despite the title, reading a lot does not necessarily help. I read enough for the purposes of this exam and I wouldn’t have increased my focus on reading if I were to resit it. Even ‘passive’ exam sections like reading and listening (see below) are actually active in these exams in that they require you to prove your deep understanding. This is not required of people who normally listen to podcasts/radio or read a lot. See more on this below in the same tune, but for listening.

If you enjoy reading in a foreign language, then go for it. But this section in a C2 exam requires you to rephrase answers, extrapolate slightly, search through text for certain information and be able to produce vocabulary – not just recognise it. This is not the same as generally summarising a chapter of a book for example. You need to answer questions on texts for sample exams, not just read a lot.

Despite this, I did (just about) pass the reading section due to the higher marks elsewhere bringing me up. In the Spanish exam I got 80-90% in this, and that was likely simply due to more exposure to the language.

Listening comprehension

Result: 15/40 (37%: not a pass)

The listening part is what determined the overall result. This result wasn’t a surprise and I had said that this section may determine if I pass or fail. It’s actually comforting that I failed by several points, as I would have hated being a point away from the entire exam counting as a pass. Although I’m frustrated with this result, unlike in the grammar part, I think this was very fairly tested. I would not change this part of the exam if I was designing it myself and I deserved the result I was given.

There’s no use (other than for ego) being a cry baby and blaming the questions I was asked or saying this particular audio was too hard etc. I was tested fairly and I am not currently at the level required to pass this part of the test at C2 level.

My biggest mistake here was (as mentioned above), presuming that to prepare for the listening exam, I simply had to listen to a lot of German. Ever since I arrived, I have had the radio on almost constantly, mostly on news and discussion stations. I somewhat paid attention and definitely got the general gist most of the time, and all of the time in the last month.

This did not actually help me for my listening exam.

Other learners swear by passive listening all day long as a means of learning a language. I was already sceptical about it, but now I’m convinced that it’s not a practical use of time (at least for me). If you like listening to the foreign language, then listen away, but don’t think that you are actually learning much. Listening while washing the dishes or driving a car will give you important exposure, and this is important to get a ‘feel’ for the language to make it sound less strange. But it is not necessarily improving your actual level of the language; definitely not your ability to produce, and not even so much for your ability to understand.

Unless you are actively involved in the audio, you can only improve your level if you give it all of your attention, or if you have the ability to efficiently split your attention so that it is getting crucial focus. I cannot do this myself.

What I would do differently if I were to sit this again: be 100% focused on listening when preparing (not doing anything else at the same time) and try my best to get as many details as possible out of the audio, rather than just feeling good about myself that I got the ‘gist’ of it.

I definitely understood the text read to me, and could summarise it satisfactorily if requested, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to give very specific information that you only pick up if you are focused and making notes. I realised just a few days before the exam that I was very much unprepared for the aural part after doing an example exercise. My main mistake was presuming that this part of the exam would be easy because listening is easy.

It’s a pity because my ability to understand German is good, but in conversations (which is always my ultimate end-goal) you do not have to remember very specific details. For example, talking to a friend and knowing that they went to Spain for the summer is easy, but remembering exactly how many days they spent in each town and listing what they had for dinner each evening requires a level of focus I usually don’t give (even in English). In these exams you can listen to the audio twice, but efficient and fast note taking is crucial and something I would have to work on if I did a similar exam in future.

Despite this I got 85-90% in my Spanish exam – this was likely simply due to greater exposure. With greater exposure you would naturally improve your abilities to pass all parts of these exams, but the point of my experiment was to see which ones I could hack in three months.


With a different approach, and taking what I said here into consideration, I still think it’s possible in three months from my starting point (vague familiarity). However it has been a stressful and anti-social three months for me so I won’t be doing it this way in future and I’d recommend people give themselves more time because of that :)

The point of this experiment was never the end goal of definitely passing the exam. It was always to try my best, force myself to improve the academic side of my German in a short time and investigate and improve my study/learning approach. In all of these aspects the mission has been a success for me!

As well as this, I fully passed 3/5 of the exam (and could theoretically pass 1/5 from the balance points), 2 of these parts by a very safe margin. This is not something people would usually achieve in three months, so I will be very happy to refer back to this in future as another success.

What about the accent part of the mission? Well, since I was focused so much on the exam, my spoken German suffered and, despite speaking very well, I still definitely have an accent. I could actually eliminate the main foreign aspects of my accent in my last two weeks with some intensive work, but I have worked very hard recently and need a break – so I will not be pursuing the accent reduction part of the mission. In future I will aim for just one crazy 3-month objective at a time!

Either passing the C2 exam or passing off as a German is definitely possible, but trying both at the same time requires focusing on unrelated parts of the language and I’m glad that I focused mostly on just one in the end.

Having said that, my German level is now fluent, and I will officially add it to my list of fluent languages spoken! I have not added a language to my permanent list for a while (I just reached pretty good level of Czech, dabbled in Thai and otherwise have just been improving my other languages for a few years) so this is a great achievement and I will continue to improve my German over time.


Although I will officially begin the next mission later this week, I will still be in Berlin for a few weeks, so I will continue to improve my German here and will be making an interesting video or two entirely in German too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed joining me in another exciting mission! Many more on the way of course :D

Let me know what you think of the final results of these exams in the comments below!

After slightly more than two weeks since sitting my third CEFRL exam (German this time), I have just gotten the results of it today! I have to say, I am very pleased with the results and happy to share them with you all! One unique thing about my language learning projects is complete transparency of […]


  • Louis!

    Well done Uncle Benny.

  • David Winters

    Congratulations! Great job overall, although I expect some of the usual suspects to pooh-pooh your results.

    Listening can be the toughest part of an exam like that. When I got my C2 for French, that was my worst mark. And a friend of mine who passed the JLPT level 2 said that the listening portion was the toughest. I get the feeling that they make it a bit harder than it should be.

    But the real test is whether or not your listening comprehension in real life — conversations, TV/radio/movies/music — is any good. I wouldn’t doubt that it is.

    Good luck in Hungary.

  • mariposa :)

    Honestly, I think you’ve done your best!! It’s a really good result! Thank you for this article. It’s very helpful when preparing for a language exam ;)
    But could I ask you a question? Describe how looked like your day during that mission. You woke up and ? Listening, learning vocabulary or going out to find someone to talk to? :) I’m curious :)

  • Jan

    Oha, wirklich nicht schlecht! Meinen Respekt Benny! :) Ich war schon beeindruckt von den paar deutschen Sätzen im Language Hacking Guide Promo Video. Vielleicht kaufe ich den mal bei Gelegenheit und schaue mir ein paar von deinen Tricks ab.Falls du auch mal nach Hamburg kommst solange du noch in Deutschland bist, schreib mir! [Edit: Facebook link removed for privacy reasons]

  • http://twitter.com/clairecanning Claire Canning

    Maith thú!! I really enjoyed the journey. Good luck in Hungary.

  • http://twitter.com/czyzykowski Łukasz Czyżykowski

    Congratulations! It's way better than I was expecting ;)

  • http://twitter.com/RobertChwedczuk Robert Ch

    Congratulations! I waiting for the next challenge:)

  • WC


    As for the passive listening, I agree. I did an audio language course in Japanese and that made it so that Japanese didn't sound like gibberish and actually was something I felt more at home with. Since then, a lot of passive (and quite a bit of active, too) listening has brought Japanese to the point where unless I think about it, I don't notice that it's not English. Both languages have totally acquired a 'natural' sound to me.

    The passive listening didn't help me a bit when it came to actually understanding, though.

  • http://twitter.com/marcinsamsel Marcin Samsel

    Wow that's really impressive Benny! It was a success indeed. Good luck with Hungarian mission!

  • Hanalila

    Overall, you did pretty awesome! Way to go… you inspire me! :)

  • Nicibond007

    wow! Gratuliere!! Und hey, man kann absolut darüber streiten, ob diese Tests wirklich aussagen, ob du in einem bestimmten Part, wie Listening oder Reading, alltagstauglich bist oder nicht. Ich hab vor einen Jahr meinen IELTS gemacht und mit viel gezielter Vorbereitung 7 von 9 Punkten bekommen. Diese 7 Punkte haben mir erlaubt an einer englischsprachigen Uni zu studieren. Aber ich kann definitiv nicht fluent sprechen und von Schreiben möchten wir garnicht reden.
    Meiner Meinung nach, kannst du dich gezielt auf einen Test vorbereiten und diesen dann auch bestehen – das Resultat gibt dann nur wieder, wie gut du dich auf den Test vorbereitet hast. Ich hatte mir sehr gut vorbereitet, gutes Resultat, aber im Alltag versag ich.

    Von daher, solange du für dich dein Ziel erreicht hast, scheiß auf das Listening Resultat :P

    Mir hat übrigens nur wirklich aktives Listening (TV, Podcasts, etc.) geholfen, wobei passives Listening (für mich) gut für den Rhytmus (etc.) einer Sprache ist.

    Ist für dein eBook eigentlich auch noch eine Audio Ausgabe geplant? :-)

  • Caio

    I am really impressed. I've been studying German for 2 years and half here at Goethe Institut in Sao Paulo and I am WAY far from C2. You DID a great job, congratulations.

    I am going to Berlin on July 28th to stay 3 months and I hope I can get this level of German when I come back to Brazil.

    This blog is really inspiring!



  • http://twitter.com/tomfrompoland Tom from Poland

    Wow, your result is very impressive :-) Pass four of five aspects of exam in only three months is great. You prove that it is possible pass. Good luck in future missions.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Louis! Great to see you can write already at your age :P

    • Elmbank_carrie

      maybe he could take the exam too?

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Claire :D

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6ZUI5ZZHRKCLFGHEUZDR4HHX2I Aniko

      hey, you’re next mission is Hungarian? for real?

      do you think your methods can be used by little kids too? (5 and 7 years old)
      not for exam preparation, but for general purposes. (My 2 boys were born in the US and they don’t speak Hungarian yet. We moved here 4 months ago and I want them to remove the language barriers that keep them from socializing with their local friends…

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

        Yes, I was an English teacher for several years and taught many kids the communicative approach to English – it’s pretty standard in TEFL circles.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Cheers Łukasz! :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Yeah, they'll be here any minute to rain on my parade I'm sure :P They'd be wasting their time though ;)
    I agree that real life comprehension is different. It doesn't require the level of focus on specific details as these audio tests. This aspect of the test is one that even native speakers might have trouble with.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6ZUI5ZZHRKCLFGHEUZDR4HHX2I Aniko

      that is so weird, in my whole exam (although I only have a C1, so it might be a little different) the listening was the part where I got 100%…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Robert! It's coming on Thursday ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Passive listening is something I wasn't a big fan of anyway, but this is just giving me more ammunition that it wouldn't work well for me.

    • russ

      I also find passive listening seems way over-rated, at least for me. (Which means I need to do more active focused listening. Probably like many people, I find it too easy to get distracted while listening, especially if listening to something on the computer.)

      Congrats on the 4/5 good results, and also thanks very much for the post-mortem analysis. Very interesting!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Marcin :D

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    You can definitely improve your German quickly – but don't forget to take away the most important message of this blog: SPEAK IT!! Speak it often and confidently! There is a temptation to speak English (or Portuguese) in Berlin and you have to resist it if you want to improve quickly ;)
    Best of luck!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Tom :D

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    No last minute rushes the day of the exam. That may work for fact-based exams (history etc.) but I just studied the SRS I mentioned about grammar on the metro and then met the other examinees. I chatted to them for the entire time before the exam and during the breaks. That helped me to relax a lot.
    Between two parts of the exam I got the phone number of the Romanian girl sitting next to me, so my focus wasn't *entirely* on passing that day :P

  • mariposa

    ohh my comment haven't appeared.
    well, I just wanted to say that I'm impressed with your result! Well done Benny! And thank you for this article! It's very useful when preparing for a language exam.
    I'd like to ask you one thing. How did your day look like during this mission? You woke up and..? Listened to a radio, learnt some vocabulary or went out to find someone to talk to? :) I'm curious. It'd help me with organising my studying :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    I have to approve comments before they appear. This is to cut down on spam and trolls getting through. You can see my answer above ;)

  • mariposa

    ok, but I mean an everyday routine during these 3 months :)

    Hehe, that explains everything ;)

  • Polly

    That's great! Congratulations!

    I remember when we had all those listening “exercises”/tests in college and my favorite way to study was to dedicate at least a week in advance to watching Disney movies in the target language (thank you European DVDs) and listening to music and sing along. My mom would walk in and ask why I was watching TV all day. “Well, mom, I'm studying!”

    I'm very interested in taking an exam like this in German, English and Danish in the near future and your pointers are very helpful and I'll keep them in mind when the time comes to prepare! And good luck on your next mission! :)

  • Goŝka

    you did show 'impossible is nothing' ;).
    I have an impression that you immersed too much in the exam atmosphere, as I had more problems with understanding long sentences and words you used, than I usually do

  • http://www.MyBeautifulAdventures.com/ GlobalButterfly

    CONGRATS for kicking ass!!!!!! Proud of ya. :)

  • http://www.mydailycuppa.com MDC

    congratulations on passing the exam. I learned German and haven't spoken it for about 10 years now (a real shame).

    Now I am focusing on learning Spanish, first with evening classes and then with a trip to Cuba.

    I found your site ages ago but have only just rediscovered it. You have certainly achieved lots since I was last here.

    I look forward to hearing what your next mission will be.

    Good Luck.

  • M.C.

    I'm working on German myself right now, Benny, so this is quite an inspiration. Congratulations!! Viel Glück with Hungarian…

  • Phocke

    Simply amazing :)
    Hope people will stumble upon this …
    Once again – amazing result
    All the best to you :)

  • M.C.

    Your analysis is so helpful…thanks for taking so much time to break it down for us.

  • Annette

    Hi Benny,

    Congratulations on your results! Your blog really is inspiring. Since your post about the CEFRL, I have been thinking about trying the C1 test for German. I noticed that I could take it in Vancouver. I don't know when I will do it but I'm already preparing. Once I get my feet wet with that test and successfully pass it, I'd like to spend some time in Germany and take the C2. Anyway, we'll see :)

    Some days I am very happy with my German and get comments like this one on Lang-8:

    >>Du hast dir ein wunderschönes, umgangssprachliches Deutsch angeeignet! Es hört sich nicht nach diesen Lehrbuch Sätzen an, wie bei manch andren, sondern tatsächlich so als würdest du dich mit einem auf der Strasse unterhalten.<<

    Sometimes… I really think my German sucks! I guess it depends on what the subject matter is. Anyway, I'll keep working on it.

    Thanks for all your tips and all the best in your next mission!

  • Christof Wollenhaupt

    Herzlichen Glückwunsch! Bei den Prüfungen würden vermutlich auch viele Deutsche kaum besser abschneiden, gerade wenn es um genaues Zuhören geht…

  • Andy

    Well done. A fantastic achievment. I'm mega-impressed!

  • http://rhinospike.com Thomas

    Awesome dude. I just took a Japanese exam (JLPT 1) but am still waiting for the results. I expect that the grammar section will pull me under passing. Was fun to read your impressions of the German test. I’d like to see a more in depth post about how you worked the oral tests (both Spanish and German).

  • Edwin

    Hey Benny, great work. I always love your updates, good luck for your next language mission!

  • Sctld

    Congratulations Benny, you’ve done really well and should be extremely proud.

    I use listening to maintain the immersion. I can’t study or interact in my target language all the time, since I have other commitments (work is the biggest one), so having the radio on whilst working decreases the amount of “dead time” I have away from the language. It’s also a good tool for people who think that they don’t have time to learn a language, or aren’t yet confident enough to interact or make mistakes, since you can listen to the radio (or other content) wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing.

  • http://52languages.blogspot.com J

    Congratulations, Benny!

    You had one serious doubter at the beginning of this mission (I think you know who I'm talking about!). Any reaction from him on your impressive results?

  • Jackie

    Congratulations Benny! That’s a fantastic result. I find the listening comprehension stuff difficult for exactly the same reasons you listed. They swamp you with so much info it’s really hard to remember it all and writing notes that fast is a real struggle. In normal conversation you can focus on one or two details at a time if they warrant further attention. A totally different skill set is needed. I would recommend adding shorthand to your list of languages but there’s no chance of you SPEAKING that in 3 months! ;)
    I hope you take the time to enjoy your last few weeks in Berlin and revel in the satisfaction of a job well done.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    My day routine wouldn't have been so interesting and similar to most study routines. I think it would be better to share my daily routine when I'm focused on a speaking-mission ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Singing along definitely makes a hugely positive impact! I'll be writing something about that soon probably.

    Glad my tips help! ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    It's probably more the German influence than the exam influence. In German you have to be very precise with your wording, so it's probably infecting my English :P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks! :)

  • http://corcaighist.blogspot.com Corcaighist

    That's a great achievement! Nár lagaí Dia do lámh!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Danke Jan!! :)
    Ich bleibe noch 2 Wochen in Berlin und dann gehe ich nach Budapest. Leider kann ich dich dieses Mal nicht besuchen!
    Hoffentlich wird mein LHG dir gefallen! Danke nochmal :D

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks and welcome back to the comments ;)

  • TropicalMBA

    Too cool Benny! Great work I'm blown away by what you are able to get done.

  • http://eldonreeves.wordpress.com/ Eldon

    Fantastisch! I guess you've proven once and for all, with a standard exam, that you can be fluent in a language in just three months (and that while writing a book in English!). Super kudos to you ;)

  • http://twitter.com/bertrigby Catherine

    συγχαρητήρια – congratulations! :D your result is fantastic after just three months.

  • AdventureRob

    Congratulations Benny, that's a great achievement for anyone. Can't expect to pass it all!

  • http://www.inspirationpalace.com Mario

    Benny I've been learning German for about two years und ich weiss wie schwierig ist, um in nur DREI Monaten die Deutsche Sprache zu lernen. Es ist verruckt, aber noch CASI pudiste pasar el C2… Sos un fenomeno! All the best, you are a great inspiration!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks! I think I may have to start a war against passive listening and get people to move towards active listening. It seems like another lazy excuse to learn a language with no work that will never give people real results.
    Great to see you liked the detail I gave on results!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks! Let's see how far I get in Hungarian – it will DEFINITELY be way more fun than spending 3 months indoors ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    C1 is a great stepping stone for sure! It will also look great on your resume and let you know if you'd be ready for the C2 when you get here.

    That's a pretty ego-boosting comment to get – great work! :D

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Es stimmt! haha :P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Andy! I'm mega-exhausted :P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Hanalila – I hope people aim higher when they see other mere mortals can achieve such things ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    haha Danke Nici :D
    Ich habe noch keine Audio Ausgabe geplant… vielleicht wenn man den LHG auf Amazon finden kann :P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Phocke :D

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    In-depth explanation: I used all the techniques of the 33,000 word e-book I wrote at once ;)
    Quick explanation: Irish charm, not being nervous and chatting up the Spanish examiner got me through!

    Best of luck with your JLPT!!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Edwin! Hope the next one is as much fun to read :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Haha, he'll claim to have been right from the start. I believe he comes from a black-and-white world. So we both get a moment of glory :P :P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot


  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Any mere mortal could do the same ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for the comment!
    Once you already SPEAK a language, then listening can help maintain your exposure. However, using it to bring you to fluency is a mistake I intend to mention in later posts! I feel it's only use at that stage is to get used to the musicality of a language, if you aren't giving it your full attention. Interested to see people's reactions when I write about that!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Haha, yeah people seem to forget that for the first 6 months of this mission I barely did ANY work with my German after the first week so that I could write the book!
    I didn't mention that because I did have more free time to focus on studying for the last 6 weeks – almost full time.
    Thanks for the kudos :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    In a normal conversation you can ask people to repeat important details too. This seems like something people avoid at all costs, but asking is quite alright ;)
    Shorthand haha, that will be out of my possible skillsets to learn for a while :P
    More fun updates from Berlin coming soon!! ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks!! :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Rob – although I'd disagree – you CAN expect to pass it all ;) I explained why I didn't, so someone with a similar mission in mind and lots of determination could certainly do it if they took my advice into account ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Mario! Appreciated the retweet :)

  • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

    Wow, I'm kind of surprised that you did so well on the speaking and had the exact opposite result with the listening, that seems so counterintuitive, but in my opinion it just goes to show how geared the test is towards a very specific format that you have to study for (“teaching to the test” syndrome results in classrooms the world over thanks to this) which doesn't really test any actual practical skills.

    I wonder if a native German speaker, who hadn't studied for the test at all and had no clue as to its format, would have done if you had just thrown them in there? Do you think they'd pass? I suspect that it's actually possible, depending on the person and their level of education, that they may not. I think that says a lot (not necessarily good) about the test itself.

    Anyway, that's an UNBELIEVABLE result for 3 months' study, huge accomplishment, congratulations.


  • djc463

    So Hungary is your next mission??? Awesome!

  • Ammon

    Congratulations Benny! Thanks for sharing your results with everyone. I've never taken a CEFRL exam, but I have taken several FLATS (Foreign Language Achievement Tests) through which I was able to secure some language credits for college without taking any language classes. As I read your post, I was reminded of the feeling that I had after engaging in the 'listening' portion of these tests. I remember thinking; “it would have been easy to screw that up, even in English!” Well done Benny. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm! I look forward to following your Hungarian mission.

  • Lucas Pereira

    Olá, Benny! Sou um carioca e gostei bastante do seu blog. Em especial, o post sobre as gírias do Rio foi bem divertido.

    I am sort of trying to become a polyglot also, as I can read pretty well in english, french, spanish, italian and a little bit of german. My talking skills are not that good, but as im not a “people person” its somewhat difficult to me to aproach foreigners.

    However, my main trouble now in learning german is going from basic vocabulary to being able to read newspapers for instance. Every other language I studied has a strong Latin influence, but thats not the case with German, and it makes it hard to learn non-trivial vocabulary.

    Would your method help me whith that?

    Thank you.

    Lucas Pereira

    Geral deve achá: “pô, neguinho maó caozero”. Mas na real, to sacando que dá pra aprender as parada voado mermo, se tu mete a cara no bagulho. Aí é sinistraço, mas depois que tu fala que nem os alemão, ai é show de bola. Sacoé? :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Intelligent Germans and definitely those into languages (the kind who would read this blog for example) would have no problem with it. However, it's the kind of thing an average Joe couldn't be guaranteed to pass. The same goes for the Cambridge C2 exam in English.

    Thanks for the congrats :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for the comment Ammon! :)

  • Barry

    To get to that level in 3 months is kinda crazy. Been here a month now learning in the local volkshochschule. Been trying to speak with my german girlfriend every day but putting together exactly what i want to say im finding really tough. Just got your language hacking guide though so hopefully il get a few good tips and with the right work ethic im sure il start improving my german in no time ;).

    My girlfriend teaches the DSH preparation course at the local university and she said that there was no hope of you even getting close to a C2 level in 3 months. She was amazed when she was proven wrong!!

  • BJ

    Benny, there's one thing I don't understand: you seem to conclude from your failure to pass the listening part of the test, that it must have been a waste of time for you to listen to the radio (etc) in German while preparing for the exam.

    Surely that is a complete no-brainer?

    If listening proved to be your weak point in the exam, then that can only mean that you needed EVEN MORE training in this area – not less!?

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    I agree that it's a no-brainer, but for the opposite reason you gave.

    If I listened as I was doing for 6, 9, 12 or 120 months the same way I was listening for those 3 months my result would probably not have improved at all.

    Passive listening with no focus is useless for comprehension. It will help you understand the rhythm of a language, and if you augment it with active listening and interacting by answering questions to prove your level of understanding, it can augment and build on that.

    But purely listening is a waste of time for the purposes of this exam. LESS lazy passive listening and more active interaction with the audio would have improved my result.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Then I'd recommend you stop trying to put together “exactly what” you want to say and approximate. The language flows a lot easier if you stop thinking too much about it and let it happen ;)

    You'll read more about that in the guide. I hope you enjoy it!

    Glad to have proven your GF wrong :D

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    My advice is independent of language families. You'll notice I'm trying to learn Hungarian for the next 3 months. German and Portuguese have thousands of similarities compared to Hungarian with none.

    I'll write more soon specifically about German, but in general what I say will work just as well with it. It's all about attitude and approach ;)

    Gostei do carioquês :D

  • http://language-tetsu.blogspot.com Asktetsu

    What I really enjoy about your style is what you stressed: Transparency. You are brave in showing things exactly as they are, both good and bad. Your sharing of your experience for ALL to learn is a great gesture.

    Good luck in all your future endeavors Benny.


  • William

    I hate to say this but I'm going to for my own amusement: I wonder what Mr. Kaufmann would say about this, haha.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    One of his minions left me a message to say that there was a post about it in the LingQ forum (something with “comprehension” in the title). I think he wrote me to edge me on to join in for another soap opera episode.

    I checked it out and wasn't surprised to read that Steve's fantastic negative filter has only read parts of this post. The 3 high results I got don't seem to count, he invents some ridiculous reason that I already spoke German when I arrived – exaggerating the worthless level I had after high school, and he draws his own conclusions based on the lower results that I should read and listen more, when I clearly said these issues were NOT my problem in this exam. Reading and listening more seems to be the solution to every single possible language problem in the world…

    There was no point in responding because it's like talking to a brick wall with that crowd. I'll have more posts soon that will discuss my annoyance with passive learning and I'm sure the Kaufmänner will give me headaches about it!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks! :) It's important for everyone to see my own struggles and realisations. I'm on a journey too – still learning as all my readers are ;)

  • David Winters

    The Kaufmänner … like that one! There are people in this world who find fault in everything, no matter what. It's more a reflection on them, their mindset, and their insecurities than anything else.

    Dude, you have the right attitude — water + the duck's back. Let people like you-know-who sit around all day watching DVDs and listening to podcasts (not that there's anything wrong with that) instead of getting out there and doing something and actually having fun while using the language.

    BTW, it's funny how Herr Kaufmann seems to have a hate on for academic linguists (and a lot of others, too) but praises one particular linguist (Stephen Krashen) because that his ideas mesh with Kaufmann's own. Strange that you can't find any information about the languages that Krashen learned with his own method …

  • KK J

    “It's more a reflection on them, their mindset, and their insecurities than anything else. “

    “BTW, it's funny how Herr Kaufmann seems to have a hate on for academic linguists”
    Well, he has to, otherwise he'll have to change the names of his company: the “LINGUIST” institute, his blog: the “LINGUIST” on language. WHAT linguist? If he's a linguist then I'm no less than an astronaut! He's no linguist and it's silly to try to negate the whole science of linguistics instead of recognizing his own little mistake. To me it looks like trying to paint all donkeys in the world to prove they are zebras. What a ludicrous old man.

    “but praises one particular linguist (Stephen Krashen) because that his ideas mesh with Kaufmann's own”
    Pardon me, but you're SO wrong. He just MAKES his ideas look similar to Krashen's hypothesis by misinterpreting them. You can present them to the professor by yourself if you want to, I'm sure that he'll have a good laugh.

    “Strange that you can't find any information about the languages that Krashen learned with his own method … “
    Actually he did, French and German (very good), but that's completely irrelevant. As a linguist his mission is research and popularizing language acquisition. You can find evidence about whole classes and even schools who did it that way in his research papers.

  • Cainntear

    The usual suspects… should I be including myself in that…?

    Cos, like, I agree with *everything* you say about how these exams work (as previously discussed).

    A good result anyway… well done.

  • Jane

    Congrats! :) That was certainly a tough goal and your attempt is really inspiring.
    Although I have to disagree with you on your opinion about passive listening..
    I think even without giving the audio (whether that is radio, or tv, or music, etc) in the foreign language which you are learning your complete attention, and without engaging in it, you are still improving your level in the language significantly. This is because as you listen, your ear becomes more adapted to recognizing certain sounds and picking up the speech patterns, and the overall tone of the language becomes more familiar to your ear. This has been my experience with learning those languages which have sounds that aren't even present in Western languages.. sort of like the “r” in the romanized Japanese language. It's like a mix of “r” and “l”. But I learned to form that sound by listening to CD's in Japanese, actually every night just as I was going to sleep. So I think I can safely say that my attention was not fully engaged when I was listening to the language :) And yet I still improved my level in Japanese, just by learning how to pronounce the language better. So this is just my opinion, but overall I do agree with you on all your language hacks and I enjoy following your language-learning adventures.. ;)

  • Wirtshaus Im Spessart

    Benny, when do you show us that you have become a real “Berliner”? I doubt it, but I am happy to believe if you do a nice video with a few conversations in Deutsch!
    I think you worked too much on your book, wrote too many English blog articles, etc, etc. So you failed in your C2 exam because you listened not enough, spoke not enough Deutsch.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    I already said in this article that I am happy I focused on the exam part of the mission. It would have been too hard to do that AND try to eliminate my accent since they involve focusing on opposite aspects of learning (social and antisocial).
    I'll upload a video soon that I made myself entirely in German, and I think I'm getting interviewed in German next week and I can link to that video too.
    I'll always write blog articles. That will have no reflection on the success of my missions. I'm trying to support myself from this blog at the moment. Unless you have a trust fund you are willing to give me, I plan to continue writing regularly here (in English) no matter what language mission I may have ;)

  • http://brewdocinhaiti.blogspot.com brianfrommaine


    That is really impressive Benny, even though you didn't “pass”. I think most people that study German for years never get to the level you achieved in 3 months!!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6ZUI5ZZHRKCLFGHEUZDR4HHX2I Aniko

      that is so true! and let’s not forget that we are talking about the C2 exam (that would be the highest level available in Euro exams = “Mastery”) … not just some “alibi” B level…

      Congrats Benny!!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Please read my blog posts from now (October) on. I’ll be talking about maintaining languages when not in the country since that is my current mission.

  • Great teacher Steve

    The winner is….
    Steve Kaufmann!!!!
    Ah Ah Ah

  • Great teacher Steve

    The winner is….
    Steve Kaufmann!!!!
    Ah Ah Ah

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6ZUI5ZZHRKCLFGHEUZDR4HHX2I Aniko

    I have a question. Have you ever tried C1 exams? or you don’t bother with those? :D

    the reason I’m asking is that I have a C1 in English and I want to know how does the C1 compare to the C2. Thanks for your reply in advance.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      My first experience with tests like these was the French B2. I found it too easy, so I’ll only do C2s in future. Keep in mind that I don’t need these for employment, whereas if you need a C1 to enter university or whatever, it’s better to do that rather than the C2.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6ZUI5ZZHRKCLFGHEUZDR4HHX2I Aniko

    I have a question. Have you ever tried C1 exams? or you don’t bother with those? :D

    the reason I’m asking is that I have a C1 in English and I want to know how does the C1 compare to the C2. Thanks for your reply in advance.

  • http://twitter.com/aliascrazy aliascrazy

    Being a fluent speaker of German myself (and not being a native) I am really proud of you! And I’m definitely agreeing with your conclusion of passive listening not being enough… I tutored two San Francisco State German 101 students a few years back, specifically on pronunciation techniques. One of them did really well because she actually spoke German outside of class, outside of our tutoring sessions – and she would playback the audio files her class used and take notes on any words or phrases she didn’t understand. She was constantly listening to things actively. Of course, she would also recognize when she was getting tired of it & take a break. Active listening is a skill, a muscle you have to exercise. But not all day every day! —Liz in SF

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    I’ve written in great detail about getting over issues with German grammar here: http://fi3m.com/why-german-is-easy/
    Otherwise you really have to keep at it. A negative attitude accompanied with those frowny faces is probably a big contributor to you not being able to speak!!
    I’ll get to Chinese some time soon.

  • montmorency

    Hello Benny,
    I’m a bit late coming to the party, but just want to congratulate you on your 3-month C2 challenge. You achieved an awful lot. I was particularly interested, as I’ve been studying German for a lot longer than 3 months, and I’m nowhere near C2! Who knows what you could have achieved in a further 3 months, say?

    I admire you, whether or not your style works for other people, because you are independent-minded, and go your own way. There is enough dull conformity in the world. You bring some spirit and originality, and you do inspire others, so good luck in your future work.

  • Matt

    I admire your language learning efforts, but would like to say that there’s a new format for the C2 as of November 2011. I believe it is much more difficult than the old format, because it is made to more precisely follow the guidelines set by the MCER system.

    I myself am not confident enough to take the C2 and I will have lived in Spain for about two years by the time my test date would have come. I am, however taking the C1.

    Anyway, I’m leaving the comment because it may be possible that the version of the C2 test that you took does not actually correspond to a C2 level. I know that the French language tests had an overhaul of levels recently as well. This is all due to the efforts to standardize skill levels across all European languages; they’re getting even more demanding to the point where native speakers cannot pass the C2 without studying beforehand.

    I hope you take this as a challenge and continue to deepen the knowledge of your foreign languages.

    Best wishes!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Yes, that’s what they always say. The test I did was “way harder” than the previous incarnation a couple of years before. I’m doubtful.

      But I’m quite sick of C2 tests to be honest, and am taking a bit of a break after this intensive and stressful experience! It was a good goal to work towards, but I prefer to focus my energy more on the spoken aspect.

  • http://mintieindeutschland.wordpress.com/ Mintie

    Congrats on the result, I’m working towards my c1 exam as well and you have been a great inspiration!

  • Kater

    Hey Benny ich finde es richtig cool, dass du Deutsch gelernt hast. Ich wünschte mehr Leute hätten dieselbe Einstellung gegenüber Sprachen wie du. Ich habe deinen Blog heute entdeckt und finde es echt toll, dass du ein derart begeisterter Polyglotter bist. Dazu hätte ich auch mal eine Frage: Glaubst du, dass es Dialekte bzw Akzente im Englischen gibt die es einem einfacher machen manche (europäischen) Fremdsprachen auszusprechen? Zum Beispiel der schottische Akzent mit seinem gerollten “R”?

  • Rowland Goodbody

    I found that just watching a ton of anime without subtitles for Japanese increased my listening level a lot while preparing for JLPT 1. When I started doing practice tests I was surprised at how much easier I found it than before. I think the key difference was that I was actively focussing while watching, and I would read the episode summary of each episode after watching it to see how much I had understood. Animation and TV shows can be fairly abstract and complicated, so it’s not too far off from listening without pictures.

  • Dirk Schriner

    For the C2 , Goethe-Zertifikat C2
    In each module, a maximum of 100 points is possible.
    A minimum of 60 points [60%] is required to pass a given module.
    Scores translate as follows:Points / percentage grade 100 – 90 ,very good , 89 – 80 good, 79 – 70 satisfactory ,69 – 60 adequate

    Your grading does not appear to be as per the official Goethe marking?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I took this test in 2010. It’s possible that they changed the points system since then, but it was definitely not marked out of 100 points when I took it. The minimum of 60% still applied, but they had a means of compensating if you got 50% in one part and high in another (but you can only do this once).