Language plateaus happen to all of us. We go merrily along just soaking up new words and phrases and then one day, we stop. We hit a plateau that we just can’t get over it. We struggle, we give more effort, but still we are stuck. In economics, they call this a diminishing return, the more you invest, the smaller your returns on your investment. When applied to language learning it means the more effort you put into language learning over time, the smaller your increases in fluency become. Learning plateaus are very common especially when developing a new skill. A major reason for learning plateaus is routine. Language routines are a great way to learn languages, but when you find yourself struggling to learn something new and you’ve been trying to learn it the same way, it is time to shake up your routine and try a new way.
Take a moment to reevaluate the way you practice the target language. Ask yourself questions:
- Do I find myself bored with this activity or does it keep me engaged?
- Do I “zone-out” during this activity?
- Am I passively going through the motions or am I really involved in my learning?
- Am I too tired or have other things on my mind at this time of day?
- Is this the best time of day for me to study?
- Are you dreading studying?
- Do you have to muster up energy to study?
If you said yes to any of these questions you might be at a language learning plateau, but don’t fret there are ways to overcome it. So, don’t despair, just change what you are doing.
- Set new goals to keep yourself on track.
- Analyze your weaknesses. Take a look at what you do poorly, then work on them using mini-goals. If it is something you don’t enjoy studying, because it is difficult, study it in short spurts. Mini goals will help you stay focus and will give you a sense of accomplishment when you reach them as they will come more frequently.
- Time to use authentic language materials in your target language.
- Read current events.
- Fictional materials
- Comics and cartoons
- Music videos
- Try writing to move past your plateau and on to the next level.
- Try Lang-8 and LingQ. Here you can have your writing corrected by a native speaker.
- Writing allows you to walk away and then return to self-edit. You will be able to self-correct your mistakes.
- Find something your passionate about and learn the target language to describe it.
- Identify a real-world application that you can learn about and learn the language in order that you may be able to discuss it.
- Challenge yourself. Find something that you’re interested in and push yourself to learn the language.
- Get up and exercise.
- Working out can boost memory and cognitive ability.
- Get a language instructor to help you move past your goals.
- Add variety to your routine. Don’t just do the same thing every day it can get booooorrrring!
- If something isn’t working then don’t use it, get rid of it.
The last tip I have for you is to get rid of your emotional baggage, that is to say, when we reach a plateau, we all tend to get frustrated and even a little angry at ourselves. It is important that we push those emotions aside and start our learning with a fresh new attitude.
What tips do you have to move past a language plateau?