Key issues at the advanced level
Beginner level English is easy. Students need to know basic vocabulary and grammar. Once you get up to upper-intermediate and advanced levels (B2 - C1 - C2), though, it gets difficult! There really isn't much consensus about what we should teach at advanced level, but evidence from corpus can help us decide.
Once you get beyond the 2000 or so most common words, vocabulary becomes a vast catalogue of low-frequency items, so how do we know which words to teach? Grammar loses its sense of progression and tends to be a rag-bag of difficult and arcane items. How do we bring a sense of usefulness to the grammar at this level?
Assessment targets become more difficult to distinguish at higher levels. For example, fluency:
- B2 - fluent
- C1 - very fluent
- C2 - extremely fluent
- New or not typically taught functions for known forms. For example, we can teach the uses of present perfect that we haven't had time to cover at lower levels.
- Low-frequency patterns - structures that are still used by native or proficient speakers, but not often.
- Patterns that underlie academic success - grammatical structures that help students to score well in exams.
Analysis of success at higher levels indicates that the use of adverbs after modal verbs is good!
The corpus is relevant and current - results from it can be put straight into teaching materials.
- What is it that remains to be learned at higher levels?
- How can the corpus help us to decide what must be taught and how to teach it?