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  • Writer's pictureGwen

Your Perfect Plateau - or how to deal with the inevitable English learning slump


angry girl trying to tear up her English textbook

Your English learning had been going so well for 3 months, six months, two years, or five years and then, bam! You hit a wall and came to a halt or a least a drastic slow down. So, what’s that all about? you might ask.


It’s very common if not unavoidable. Sometimes we call it an English learning plateau. It’s like you level out with your English acquisition and can’t seem to gain much for a while. It is very frustrating and discouraging.


The good news is that you can move past it. The ‘other’ news is that it will probably be challenging, and you may have to move out of your comfort zone. You may have to make some changes. Here’s how to do it:


1. SET GOALS

You need GOALS – new, small, achievable goals. An example would be learning a short list of vocabulary words or phrases in a week. You will need lots of spaced repetition and speaking out loud to reinforce the new material. It’s important to put vocabulary words into sentences or phrases to remember the context and grammatical use of the word. If you can learn just those few vocabulary words and phrases well during that week, you will realize that you are not really on an English learning plateau because you have just gained a little. Seeing some progress is motivating.

happy girl listening to English on headset

Taking an English proficiency test will let you know where you need to focus your efforts. Dialang offers a free online test that will also help in tracking your progress if you test every few months.


2. RECORD YOUR PROGRESS

Keep good records of what you learn. Track every little bit of progress! You might try VTrain which is a free online vocabulary trainer. The idea is short, easy goals. Then celebrate small wins. It’s very important to track and measure your progress. So, keep a notebook or journal and don’t base your progress on a single ‘bad’ day. Using spaced-repetition software like Anki will measure some progress for you. Lock in your study schedule. Track the time you spend. It will help keep you accountable for the time you study. Carefully log the things you learn in your essential notebook. They are proof of progress.


3. MOVE BEYOND YOUR TEXTBOOK

You probably need to switch up your English learning methods. You might give your textbook a rest. Start consuming authentic English material like enjoyable movies, movie trailers, news, TV shows, Youtube videos, or Vlogs. Use hashtags in Instagram to find all the cool stuff you love, like #funnycats, #whales, etc. As you listen or read, jot down a few words or grammar structures that are new to you and ask your teacher or English-speaking friend about them. Talk to your dog or cat or parrot in English. A bi-lingual pet would be amazing! Listen to English music with printed lyrics. Then start singing your way off of the English learning plateau. You must get English coming out of your mouth and not just sitting in your head.


4. HAVE YOU REALLY PLATEAUED?

Although the depressing plateau is often a necessary milestone along the fluency journey, it’s possible that you haven’t really plateaued. It’s common for English students to feel like they have come to a complete standstill when, in actuality, they have not. However, you may be learning more slowly than you did in the beginning. If so, just go with it. Your pace may change from time to time, but if you just keep trying, you will keep learning and improving.


5. TALK, TALK, TALK

I can’t overemphasize the practice of speaking English in conversation. This can be accomplished with an English-speaking friend or your English teacher. An hour of conversation with an English speaker (who is better than you) will get you farther than an hour watching Netflix. Think about the question you hear the most. Is it “Do you read English?” “Do you listen to English?” or is it “Do you speak English?” It’s that last one for sure!


Here are some online sites which are free and great for immersing your ears in English. First, change your Youtube language to English and try these:


TED talks - Youtube videos of all lengths and topics

The Moth - Storytelling - They say they're all true!

Peppa Pig - For short attention spans and an easier level


Here are some other platforms where you can use subtitles:

Storytelling - “S-Town” - A seven-chapter mystery

Psychology - Hidden Brain - News, culture, music podcasts and shows of differing lengths

Business Inspiration - How I Built This - News, culture, music podcasts

Self-improvement -The Tim Ferriss Show - Top business podcast with renown special guests

Keeping it understandable - News for Kids - Covers world news, science, sports, and arts


You can always do a session with Duolingo - Free language learning app.

I hope you can make use of some of these resources. You can get past the English learning plateau. Remember how far you’ve come. Acknowledge every tiny bit of progress.

You’ve got this!


Cheers, Gwen


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