How to break free from the dreaded language learning plateau

Author Bobby van Houten

Posted Feb 23, 2023

Reads 4.3K

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Learning a new language can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it's not always easy. Many learners find themselves hitting a plateau in their progress, where they no longer seem to be making any significant advancements in their ability to speak or understand the language. These so-called "language learning plateaus" can be frustrating and demotivating, but there are ways to overcome them and continue your language journey.

Whether you're learning a second language for personal or professional reasons, hitting a plateau is a common occurrence that many learners experience. It can happen at any level of proficiency and may be caused by various factors such as lack of practice, limited exposure to native speakers, or simply feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of the language. However, with some strategic planning and effective techniques, it's possible to break free from this stagnant phase and make progress once again.

Every learner experiences the language learning plateau at some stage. Here are 6 ways to overcome it, and bonus tips from experienced polyglots.

Language learning is an exciting journey full of rewarding joys, but every learner eventually reaches a point where progress seems to come to a screeching halt. This is known as the language learning plateau, and it's a completely normal phenomenon read by skilled language learners. The plateau can be frustrating and demotivating, but it doesn't have to mean the end of your language learning journey.

There are several common signs that you may have hit a language plateau: you find yourself parrot repeating phrases without truly understanding them, you feel shame or embarrassment when speaking with native speakers, and you lose patience with yourself or your teacher. It's easy to get stuck in this icy purgatory and stop learning altogether, but there are ways to overcome the plateau.

Here are six tips from experienced polyglots for pushing past the language plateau: 1) Change up your routine by trying new study methods or materials; 2) immerse yourself in the language by watching movies or TV shows in the target language; 3) practice speaking with native speakers or classmates; 4) set achievable goals for yourself; 5) take a break and come back to studying later with fresh eyes; and 6) don't be too hard on yourself – remember that hitting a language plateau exists for everyone.

Why Do Language Learning Plateaus Occur?

If you're an intermediate learner, you've met the infamous language learning plateau. You know the feeling of being stuck and unable to make progress beyond basic conversation. But why do these plateaus occur? Some learners set goals without a clear idea of their target language or a clear direction for focused study. Without previous objectives to build on, they naturally pause and halt language learning progress.

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Another thing you're likely to encounter is that you've milked all the worth you'll get from your current learning goals. You haven't set new objectives, so it's natural to experience a lack of confidence and diminish confidence in your abilities as an intermediate learner. It's a fun truth that language learning plateaus aren't solely responsible for your current rut.

The natural slowdown is a part of any learning journey, but it also highlights the importance of setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) learning goals. A lack of such clearly defined objectives can cause burnout or frustration among learners who may have unrealistic expectations of what they can achieve within a particular timeframe. So take some time to re-evaluate your previous objectives and come up with new ones that are tailored to your current level and interests!

1. Set clear goals.

One big part of overcoming language learning plateaus is to set clear goals for yourself. When you've plateaued, it can be difficult to find the motivation to keep going, but having specific benchmarks to reach can help you surge ahead. Instead of feeling stuck at your current language level, set realistic goals with a specific timeline in mind. Avoid setting overly ambitious goals that may lead to failure - set realistic goals that challenge you but are achievable.

For example, instead of aiming to memorize all irregular verb conjugations in one week, focus on mastering a certain number of vocabulary words each day or becoming proficient in one particular grammatical concept at a time. By setting clear benchmarks for yourself and working towards them consistently, you'll start seeing progress and break through your plateau.

2. Use authentic material.

Using authentic material is a fantastic way to take your language studies to the next level. Authentic learning material includes real stories, target language news articles, TV shows and anything else that reflects the real-world language usage you'll encounter when speaking with native speakers. These materials allow you to immerse yourself in the underlying structure of the language you're learning, and start consuming grammatical structures and vocabulary that you may not have learned through traditional language learning programs.

Jumping into authentic content can feel like diving into the deep end, but learners manage any overwhelming feelings by taking it one step at a time. Authentic materials provide dynamic providing fantastic learning and review opportunities, helping to create a well-rounded learning routine. By using real-world examples of wild language usage, learners can better understand how to apply their skills in conversation and answer speaking questions with confidence. So if you want to break through your language learning plateaus, start incorporating authentic materials into your studies today!

3. Try new methods.

Language learning plateaus can be frustrating, but they also present a perfect opportunity to try new and creative language learning methods. The main goal of language education is to build your language skills and vocabulary, so don't be afraid to change up your learning process if you feel like you're not progressing. One method to try is double translation, where you translate both from your native language into the target language and vice versa. Another option is immersion language learning software or language learning apps that offer interactive exercises in your target language.

If you're looking for more structured courses, Coursera offers courses taught by real university-level instructors in French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and other languages. On the left-hand side of the website, you'll find a search box where you can type in your target language or browse courses by topic, such as art or math. Udemy also offers self-paced courses accessible through a drop-down menu under "Browse Courses." And on edX, which is affiliated with MIT, on the left-hand side you'll see "Courses broken down by Subject" where you can narrow down the search for the right course for you.

If you've relied on one way of learning for too long and feel stuck at a plateau, now is a good time to consider changing things up. Try different methods that vary based on what languages you are finding difficult or where your weak points lie - whether it's building writing skills or understanding underlying grammar rules. With so many options out there for improving your language skills - from apps to online courses - there's no excuse not to keep pushing yourself towards fluency!

4. Focus on problem areas.

Focus on Problem Areas

Have you ever reached a plateau level in your language learning journey? It can be frustrating to feel like you're not making progress, even after putting time and effort into studying. The good news is that there are ways to break through these plateaus and continue improving your language skills.

One of the most important things you can do is to focus on your weak points. This means identifying the areas where you struggle the most, whether it's grammar rules, listening exercises, or speaking find opportunities. Once you've identified these problem areas, you can start working on them specifically. For example, taking proficiency tests can help you pinpoint which skills need improvement and then test multiple skills individually. A free online proficiency test or a public speaking club in your target language can also give you valuable feedback from native speakers.

By focusing on these previously overlooked areas, you'll be able to make progress in a way that feels more tangible and rewarding. You might start by tackling your weaker listening skills or finally nailing a tricky grammar rule. As you improve in these areas, your confidence will skyrocket, and you'll feel more comfortable hearing and responding to native speakers.

Don't be discouraged if mistakes start cropping up again as you work on improving your weaker skills - this is natural! But by putting time into problem areas improve yourself over time towards an intermediate level or beyond. Remember that the obvious steps aren't always the best ones for everyone; we all have different strengths and weaknesses, so take some time to figure out what works for YOU!

5. Learn more vocabulary.

One of the main hurdles for language learners is reaching a plateau phase where they feel like they aren't progressing anymore. Intermediate learners, in particular, can get stuck because their limited vocabulary lacks the variety needed to express more complex ideas. But fear not! There are ways to overcome this obstacle and boost your learning.

A good place to start is by choosing vocabulary sets that relate to your academic interests or hobbies. For instance, if you're studying academic Spanish, you'll find plenty of user-created lists with words related to science, literature, or history. Another helpful place is to study thematic vocabulary sets such as key words for travel or business. Additionally, there are many learning tools available online such as flashcards allowing you to play games with free software and important flashcard apps. By expanding your vocabulary through these methods, you can ensure that your plateau learning vocabulary won't hold you back anymore!

6. Interact with native speakers.

Interacting with native speakers is an essential step in overcoming language learning plateaus. Many language students focus on learning the generic form of the target language early on, but when you've plateaued, it's time to take the logical step of native interacting. Speaking practice, listening practice, vocabulary building and pronunciation improvement are all benefits of interacting with native speakers in your target language.

Luckily, conversation exchange is an awesome tool for finding a language exchange partner to practice your target language with. With a wide variety of online resources and conversation exchange sites that offer estimated skill levels, even those at an intermediate skill level can find a suitable native speaker to practice with. For instance, conversation exchange or penpal correspondence through TalkAbroad or scheduling online video conversations with a native speaker are great ways to start speaking and practicing your target language with native speakers. Don't let yourself stay stuck in language learning plateau stage – reach out and start practicing with native speakers today!

7. Build confidence with other learners.

We've mentioned confidence before, but it's worth repeating that building confidence with other learners is crucial when dealing with language learning plateaus. Don't be afraid to speak up and listen to others in your target language. By actively using the language, you'll continue forward on your learning progress and eventually acquire native-level skills.

Joining supportive context such as language learning communities is an excellent way to make friends with people at a similar stage of their learning journey. These groups provide a safe space for everyone to discuss the difficulties they're facing and offer valuable practice through reading, writing alongside other learners in your target language. With this kind of support, you'll be well on your way to achieving full fluency in no time!

8. Nip discouragement in the bud.

Nip discouragement in the bud when it comes to language learning plateaus. It's common for language learning to slow down or even come to a halt at times, but don't let discouragement weigh you down. Instead of giving up, try different methods to move quickly through the plateau and towards the finish line of language fluency.

It's important not to let discouragement stop your progress when you hit a language learning plateau. Remember that everyone experiences flat ground at some point in their learning journey. To keep pushing forward, try new techniques like using a portable PDF or copy download of language materials. With continual rise and consistent practice, you'll move faster and achieve your language goals without regretting you've given up.

9. Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

Hitting a language learning plateau is frustrating. You're putting in the effort but not seeing any progress. That's why we created a free PDF guide to help you overcome these roadblocks and take your language skills to the next level.

Simply enter your email address to receive your copy, and don't worry, we hate spam too. Your email address is safe with us. So take the first step towards breaking through those frustrating plateaus and achieving fluency in your target language!

What is a language learning plateau?

Have you ever felt like you're putting in the effort to learn a new language but not seeing any progress? This could be a sign that you've hit a language learning plateau. A language learning plateau is when your learning pace slows down or even stops completely after experiencing rapid progress. It's normal to begin learning with an all-time high, but at some point, you might start feeling like you're stuck in one place.

Young lady learning sign language during online lesson with female tutor

Reaching a language plateau can make your long journey towards language mastery feel like a towering improbable task. The challenge begins when small wins become more challenging to achieve, and language activities begin to feel monotonous physically and mentally. As a result, it's common to start feeling frustrated and discouraged about continuing to learn the language. However, understanding that a language plateau is part of the journey can help push through this difficult phase and emerge as a stronger language learner on the other side.

Is the Language Plateau a Common Struggle Among Learners?

Many proficient language learners have experienced the language plateau. This is a point in skill acquisition where one's progress seems to slow down or even halt. According to the CEFR framework, this usually happens at the intermediate and advanced levels. In his book "Peak Secrets," expertise Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool describe how after 50 hours of practice, most people reach proficiency in a skill. However, to achieve expertise, it takes longer and more fully focused effort.

Yellow Tassel

Language learning is no different. When learners hit plateaus, it can be discouraging and frustrating. One of the biggest reasons for starting is often not enough motivation to keep going once the initial excitement wears off. Life gets in the way as well; a new job leaves less time for studying, or moving countries can cause one's language ability to drop considerably.

One of the biggest reasons people give up on learning a foreign language is that it becomes too difficult or time-consuming. But sticking with it can lead to incredibly rewarding heights. To overcome a language plateau, learners need to step out of their comfort zone by trying new methods or embracing discomfort when practicing speaking and listening skills regularly. By doing so, they will eventually break through and continue their journey towards fluency.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do people feel like they have reached a plateau?

People feel like they have reached a plateau because they have hit a point where their progress or improvement has slowed down or stopped altogether. This can be due to various factors such as lack of challenge, burnout, or not utilizing effective strategies to overcome obstacles.

Is the “plateau” a difficult stretch on your road to language mastery?

The plateau is a challenging stage in language learning where progress may seem slow or nonexistent, but it is a natural part of the process and can be overcome with persistence and innovative study techniques.

How do I push past a plateau?

To push past a plateau, try changing up your routine by adding new exercises or increasing weight/intensity. Also, make sure you are giving your body enough rest and fuel through proper nutrition and sleep.

How do I get past the language-learning Plateau?

To get past the language-learning plateau, try to immerse yourself in the language by watching movies, reading books, and speaking with native speakers. Also, focus on learning new vocabulary and grammar structures to challenge yourself and keep progressing.

What is a language learning Plateau?

A language learning plateau is a period where you feel like you're not making progress in your language learning journey. It can be frustrating, but it's completely normal and even experienced learners go through it.

Bobby van Houten

Bobby van Houten

Writer at English Quest

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Bobby van Houten is a seasoned blogger with over 10 years of experience in the industry. He has a passion for writing about technology and its impact on society, as well as reviewing new gadgets and software. In addition to his blogging work, Bobby is also an avid traveler and has visited over 20 countries around the world.

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