The Goal
The foremost goal of many beginning language learners is conversational fluency. Educators are often approached by students with questions such as: "How can I take what I have learned in the classroom and apply it to real-life situations?" Similar concerns are how to go beyond using simple phrases to having meaningful conversations with native speakers.

The ideal reply to such inquiries is both simple and complex. Simple, because the answer ulti-mately boils down to the old adage, "practice makes perfect.” Complex because of the wide range of instructional approaches used for Second Language Acquisition (SLA).

Most individuals who have had grammar based instruction in high school, online language courses or limited travel abroad experience find themselves perpetually at the advanced begin-ner level (A2). They have an ability to deal with simple, straightforward information and begin to express themselves in familiar contexts in the target language. Although this level of competen-cy is a great accomplishment requiring considerable effort, moving into the intermediate level of oral competency (the threshold or gateway level), allows for much more meaningful and reward-ing communication.

There in lies the challenge.

How to get beyond the A2 level and resolutely join the target language conversation.

The beginning intermediate threshold level (B1) allows the learner to manage most situations that come up when traveling in a region where the language is spoken. Making the jump between the A2 level and B1 is challenging. Traditional vocabulary drills and grammar exercises are limited in achieving the desired results.

Research points to several approaches that in combination, effectively take language learners towards meeting their oral language proficiency goals.

Although there are many ways to peel the proverbial potato, i.e. learn a second language, the most effective methods toward oral language proficiency combine comprehensible input and frequent aural repetitions of high frequency words. These methodologies are used in the devel-opment of stories in the target language with the objective of maintaining student interest. These factors are requisite when implementing the interactive language learning approaches espoused by SLA theorists such as Stephen Krashen, Blaine Ray and others.

Krashen cites low anxiety and high motivation as factors that positively affect SLA. He maintains that second language learners acquire a command of the language via the communicative act itself, not from formal aspects such as a conscious use of grammar rules.

Ray takes a similar approach toward SLA by engaging students in the target language and em-phasizing comprehension that eventually leads to oral production. In addition, he advocates the use of storytelling and creative dramatization in the classroom. Ray’s method involves the asking of questions based on those stories so that students receive the needed repetitions of targeted material (a technique referred to as Circling). Students are encouraged to participate in the development of the story which builds interest and is known as personalization.

Time and Expectations
The average length of time required to achieve threshold level competence depends on various factors. The first is the student's beginning competency level. Also important are the amount of hours per week that a student is willing and able to apply toward his or her goals, and the stu-dent's access to educational resources.

Reaching threshold level competence as a beginner can realistically take approximately 300 hours of study. However, if an individual has had previous exposure with the target language and is already at the A2 level, the time required to attain and/or surpass the threshold level would be substantially lessened assuming the effective utilization of the above cited approaches.

The key to success in bridging the gap between A2 and B1 level competence lies in forming re-alistic expectations. Students often give up too soon, falsely believing they must master many of the formal aspects of the language before they are able to communicate effectively. When lan-guage learners continue to communicate freely in an interactive environment, knowledge of the formal aspects will come naturally.

Challenges and Opportunities
Taking too much time off can be an individual’s pitfall, given that language learners tend to forget learned information. This leads to decreased self-confidence and increased anxiety. The only way to mitigate this problem is to regard second-language acquisition as a continuous process.

Consistency, albeit challenging, is key for success.

An undeniable opportunity is the phenomena referred to as recall in memory. This refers to the mental process of retrieving information from the past which allows the learner, with previous exposure in the target language, to reactivate that knowledge base. Recall in memory, in con-junction with the renewed target language practice, promotes faster and more in depth language learning gains.

The benefits of achieving the threshold level of competence are most evident when using the language in unfamiliar situations. These include visiting a foreign country or conversing with a native speaker of the target language. Conversations become multifaceted, allowing learners to navigate around unexpected inquiries and problems, making the communicative process more positive.

Learners acquire the ability to take initiative in discourse, giving them the opportunity to take conversations in new directions, and communicate about the causes and concerns that interest them in diverse settings. This leaves learners feeling accomplished and empowered. They are ready to take on greater challenges personally, professionally, and socially, and to travel more independently.

Author's Bio: 

Brandon Leibowitz is here to help you learn SEO and social media marketing