Why learn a language to B1?


How y’all doing?

I’m lying on the floor, listening to the torrential rain currently drenching my part of the west country while Max Gazze plays Sotto Casa in the background.

My evening has been for want of a better turn off phrase, well spent, firstly by watching Vintage Tran, secondly by cooking a mushroom risotto and thirdly by learning some Croatian.

And before continuing, I have to tell you that my risotto was cooked properly, with none of that pouring in all the stock onto the rice in one go rubbish. Believe it or not, some people in these ungodly times ACTUALLY do that.


Anyway, that’s enough about me.

How are you?

Are you sitting comfortably listening to the torrential rain somewhere? Or maybe sitting in the sun?

Are you also listening to Max Gazze? Statistically someone else should be.

Anyway, I digress, I wanted to remind myself (and you dear reader lying oh so comfortably on the floor), as to why I am attempting to learn five or six languages to a B1 level.

If you have followed by periodic ramblings you will know by now, that I have (had in the past) a woeful tendency to flit from language to language and learn more or less nothing.

This was becoming tiresome.

And so I made a change to my mindset (or chip as the Spanish sometimes say), and this was to reach a level of B1 in a language before moving on.

Why B1?

Why not say A2 or maybe to reach the dizzy heights of B2 or gasp C1/C2?

In essence, the time required.

I don’t have a lot of free time, but it is quite possible to learn a language to a B1 standard over two years (or so I believe), with quite a modest time investment – let’s say about half an hour a day of active learning.

Oh. Did I hear that?

Are you telling me that with my current rate of progress of learning Croatian I will need more than another year?

I don’t think so.

But you might be correct. It might take me two and a half years to reach a B1 level in Croatian (instead of two). So? Does that make a material difference?

I think not.

Half an hour? It’s not much is it? If this was one of those self blogs, I’d now write:

“now read on and discover how to free up half an hour each and every day …”

But it’s not.

How you find the extra time is up to you, but I’d suggest turning of the TV/Youtube/stop reading the news and so on and so forth.

So now you have the half an hour a day spend on learning a new language. Brilliant.

But …

… you don’t want to forget those other languages that you have already learnt (to B1) do you now?

You need to maintain a them – in your free time!

My Spanish and Italian is considerably higher than B1 and I don’t want to forget these, so I do language exchanges to maintain (and improve) them.

I like talking and I like getting to know people so this works for me. I also listen to audio books or music in French/Spanish/Italian on the way to and from work. I don’t maintain my spoken French, but will book a *lot* of iTalki lessons before my next visit.

The point I am getting at, is that maintenance can fit into your daily life. i.e. you don’t need to set aside extra time for it.

Thirty minutes a day (plus a bit of listening and chatting) is enough for me to scratch the language itch, make progress and generally feel more sophis and European.

I can say sacre bleu, boh, mama mia and joder with aplomb and dare I say it with panache and elan;)

I can also bust out a few handy Croatian phrases such as pada kiša as and when required.

I am, as we say in English (or rather as we used to say in the twenties in some specific cirlces) on the road to becoming an all round good egg in a chic multilingual european sort of way.

And thirty minutes is just not very long.

Thirty minutes doesn’t require a massive lifestyle change.

And so, you too, who I envisage lying on the floor listening to Max Gazze and the rain can do the same.

Besos and baci.



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2 Responses to Why learn a language to B1?

  1. Mark says:

    Hi Duncan,

    Just seen your blog on aiming to reach B1 level in your language learning programme before moving on to learn another language, which could take up to two years at some half hour study per day.

    How long do you think it would take to learn a language with a different script such as Modern Greek and reach B1c level?

    B1c ‘Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of a personal nature’.


    Yours, Mark

    • moonface says:

      I’m no expert but I don’t think the script makes much difference in terms of time. It seems to me that the time taken on an individual level will depend very much on how different the language is from similar ones that you know.

      I picked the level B1 as I know what it feels like to communicate at that level, but of course this could vary from just above A2 to just below B2 – so there is a lot of wriggle room and I don’t know exactly where B1c fits within this continuum.

      I’d guess between two and two and a half years at thirty minutes a day which is about 450 hours (give or take).

      I’d imagine that Croatian and Greek are similar in terms of complexity, so I’ll be able to answer your question (empirically) in a year to eighteen months:)

      D. AKA MF.

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