Everybody experiences this at some point or other during their language journey. People who don’t experience this are obviously lying. It starts off with making a lot of progress in the language from being at the absolute beginner stages to the lower intermediate stage. It may feel like there isn’t much more to learn. Where did the momentum go? Why are you not making progress like before? Let’s find out!
This might be incredibly obvious for you but, you might be able to see where you can improve in an area you haven’t had thought of before. When you have a conversation with a native speaker how confident are you went you practise with them? Do you often use pause or use filler words when you speak? Are there still a lot of words and phrases that you still cannot say yet? Is there something you would absolutely love to discuss but you can’t seem to make yourself understood? You might need to reference a specific grammatical pattern if you are continuing to make the same mistake over and over again. You might be exposed to a certain word enough to have it stick in your head. Whatever you struggle with write it down. You may need a second opinion from a fellow learner (fluent speaker) or a native speaker as to what the problem is.
Are You Being Honest With Yourself?
This seems obvious enough, right? But what exactly have you been doing to improve your abilities? Have you gotten enough input (reading and listening) or output (speaking and writing) yet? If not, you may need to devote more time to strengthening those abilities. This could include having a regular schedule devoted having conversations with native speakers, listening and reading audiobooks or niche articles and writing down words and phrases that you don’t understand. Maybe you need to review what you already learned before moving on to learning more. This will help you realise how much you actually understand. Compared to what you still need to work on. How much time are you ACTUALLY spending on learning your target language? Have you taken time off from learning your target language? Did you lose motivation? Think about what you is standing in your way and how you can move forward. Is your accent too strong? Or too obvious that you don’t speak your target language natively? Are you going to be okay with that? If not, what are you willing to change in order to reduce your accent?
Discover what you’re doing that’s no longer serving your language learning goals or just life in general? What needs to go? Make a list of what needs to be corrected in order to accelerate language goals.
Why Is The Beginner-Low Intermediate Levels Allow You To Make More Progress Quickly Than Going From Intermediate-Advanced?
That’s a question that’s probably went through our heads as soon as the progress slows or comes to a grinding halt. The challenge is being able to look for new ways to learn new words and phrases despite being able to understand the context given. Acknowledge the progress you’ve already made and what you CAN express. You may come to the acceptance that progress won’t be as rapid as it was from the beginning stages were. That’s okay. It just means you need to commit more time to learning and immersing yourself in the language. Focus more on what is vital to learn for you.
Example: If you’re planning on living abroad, you may considering words and phrases concerning immigration, how to write a CV/Résumé, rent a flat/apartment, how to pay rent and utilities, how and where to meet up with people (ex: making friends, going to events with like-minded people who share the same hobbies, etc) and so on and so forth.
Setting one’s sight’s on what is going to be the most beneficial and useful for their own situations is ultimately going to help you pass these barriers that stand in your way. Don’t give up when the going get’s tough. Easier said then done. Trust me. I know it all too well. But I noticed that if I keep pushing myself to go further, things eventually work out. Maybe not as originially planned but it definitely gets you that much closer to being fluent.
Is Your Definition of Fluency Too Broad?
This is a common trap that the vast majority of language learners fall into. I have fallen for it multiple times throughout my language journey and it did NOT serve me whatsoever. It was often what ended up discouraging me or the cause of completely burning out and not wanting to learn languages. Which is quite detrimental to progressing further. However, what is fluency to you? That’s something you need to not only clearly define but also, be able to break it down to where you can actually see yourself doing it. If you can’t even see yourself doing it at all then what are you doing that’s wasting your time? Break down your fluency goals into specific tasks to aim toward.
For example: Be able to have a conversation in Czech about the Harry Potter books after 6 months.
So from this example we see that we have made a specific goal to be able to discuss a book (regardless if it’s your favourite book or not. Although it does help to choose a book that interests you.) and have given it a tangible deadline to go off of. What this will do is make it so you have something to go off of and work toward doing. Just having “fluency” as the ultimate goal is simply not enough. Why? Because there’s no set ending in mind. Without an ending, you’re going to go on forever and forever not going anywhere. Consider what you want to accomplish in the next few months when it comes to your goals. Is this going to be commencing with a new language and seeing how far you progress in 3 month? Is this being able to carry out specific tasks in a new language as it relates to a job requirement? Is this simply being able to discuss your hobbies and passions with like-minded people who speak your target language natively?
Whatever it happens to be. Go for it. Don’t let anything hold you back from reaching greatness. You can do anything you set your mind to when it comes to your new language.
What do you do to move off of language learning plateaus? How are you able to obliterate these challenges? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!