Do you ever feel that despite your best efforts, you’re struggling to make progress? Does it seem like your language learning journey has ground to a halt? A range of factors can impact on our ability to push forward with learning a language, such as our level of internal and external motivation, our degree of exposure to the target language or culture, our reasons for wanting or needing to improve in the target language and the time and resources that we have at our disposal.
Not all learners may necessarily want to overcome such a plateau, particularly when working with multiple languages. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with stopping at a level that you’re already happy with or that you feel is enough for you. But what if we do want to move past this tricky sticking point? Here are five tips that can help you on your way:
1. Be creative
Try to make use of as many different resources as you can, so that you can maximize your level of language exposure. If you don’t have a chance to immerse yourself in the language through the company of other people, try using online resources such as Netflix to familiarize yourself with a wide variety of registers and dialects.
2. Be practical
If you can, look for an opportunity to use your language skills in a practical context, whether this is a social or work-related situation. Many language users describe a different type of plateau, where they reach a high level of written expression but still struggle to comfortably speak to people. Because of this, it’s helpful to aim at placing yourself in situations where you can use the language naturally.
3. Be kind to yourself
Trust that if you are working hard then you will inevitably move forward, even if you don’t feel like you’re aware of this. Try to find a way of objectively measuring your progress, since it’s very hard for us to evaluate our own command of a foreign language. Most importantly, celebrate the successes without being too overwhelmed by any disasters.
4. Be courageous
It takes a huge amount of bravery to learn and use a foreign language, but the fact that you have come so far already proves that you have what it takes to go even further. Try not to get disheartened if people are dismissive of your efforts or insist that you switch to English (or another alternative language) when speaking to them. At the end of the day, this says more about them than it does about you.
5. Be open-minded
Most of all, try to enjoy the process. Learning a foreign language is an amazing thing to do and the fact that you’ve come far enough that you feel you’ve peaked, if only temporarily before climbing even higher, shows that you’ve already accomplished a great deal. We always achieve more when we’re doing something that we love.
What are your thoughts about reaching, and overcoming, plateaus in language-learning? Do you have any other tips that are not included on this list? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments!