4 Ways To Overcome The Language Learning Plateau

4 Ways To Overcome The Language Learning Plateau

Learning a language is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your lifetime. Nevertheless, it is still a challenging task, and sooner or later everybody hits the language learning plateau. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and just like puberty- everybody has to go through it.

What is a Plateau?

Are you familiar with the straight line ridge on a mountain or rock formation? Its usually right before the mountain begins to rise again. It looks something like this /————————————————————/. Well, that’s a plateau, and in language learning, it usually symbolizes stagnancy of progress.


Language Plateau
This is probably a better example than a line and a slash.

How To Know When You’ve Plateaued


  • You feel like you’re not making any progress
  • You feel like you should be light years ahead than your current level
  • Your motivation plummets
  • If you’ve screamed aloud to yourself “NOTHINGS WORKING!!!!”

It’s almost like a disease, isn’t it? Don’t worry though unlike looking up your symptoms on google this one has a cure.

Do you have a case of the plateau?
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1. Set Realistic Goals

If you’ve plateaued that means your goals are no longer enough to get you through your journey. What I’m saying here is that you’ve already reached where you wanted to go in your journey. So subconsciously you’ve managed to trap yourself in a limbo. You have two options in this scenario:

  • Expand your goals.
  • Change your goals completely

Example 1

If I wanted to learn Japanese to be able to read the “Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure” comic series, then that’s exactly what I would do. I wouldn’t learn vocabulary or grammar to read another series, because that would be outside my goal.



Don’t bite off bits bigger than you can chew. Keep the content you expose yourself to slightly outside of your skillset. You’ll be able to maintain what you’ve learned and what you are currently learning.


Example 2

“I learned Japanese to be able to read fairytales.” If this was your motive, but you’ve realized that you want to expand your understanding of the language to more than just fairy tales, you would need something slightly more advanced than “The Ginger Bread House”. In this case, your next book should be something like “Japanese Mythology “, rather than “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

2. Don’t Underestimate Native SpeakersAdobeStock_64840949_Preview

Immersion i.e speaking to native speakers will always be number one in language learning. Think about this, you’re learning a language that you weren’t born with, but somebody else was. That means in order to learn the language in a fluent manner. Keeping silent will do more damage than good in the long run. Textbooks, audio recordings and YouTube singalongs will only get you to a certain point. If you lack communication, then you lack the language. If you can try taking a leap of faith and travel to your target language’s country – that could be just the motivation you need. Not to mention you’ll have the time of your life, culture shock is one hell of an experience.

3. Increase Vocabulary Ten-Fold!

Learn More Vocabulary
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Words are the building blocks to a language, they create everything. How many words are you aware of in your first language? You probably can’t even give me an accurate number. This should be the mindset you have when learning a foreign language. Keep stacking vocabulary, the more the better. Vocabulary acquisition in our native language is unconscious in most cases. If we see something we aren’t familiar with, we don’t take out a notepad and attempt to memorize its origin, spelling and definition. Rather we incorporate its existence into our own.


“The firefighter is using the fire hydrant for his supply of water.” The trick here is that you have no idea what a fire hydrant is. What do you do? You look around to see what the firefighter is using as a source of water.


Categorize your vocabulary

What if one day you studied business-related words, the next day you did science etc. This way you won’t become easily confused when managing massive lists of vocabulary (not that you should be counting anyway).


Learn to incorporate vocabulary into your thought patterns. If you see a TREE that is not just a tree, that my friend is an ARBO. If you see an ARBO, that is not just any arbo, that’s a 木。

This is not JUST a tree
Is this really JUST a tree?

4. Change method and routine – Consistency

Routine is very important in language learning, but it is a double-edged blade. If you stick to one routine and method for too long your brain will go on autopilot. Thus meaning, the enormous amount of information needed to learn a language will not stick.  If you’re accustomed to using software, start writing more often vice versa. Language learning is not a stagnant process by any means so plateauing means you’ve been stagnant for too long.  Changing your routine can give you fresh ideas, restore your focus and re-motivate your agenda.

Final Piece Of Advice

Don’t let the plateau intimidate you! Believe it or not, although the plateau may symbolize a state of stagnancy, you’ve actually made tremendous progress to even get to that point in the first place. Stay creative, be consistent and always remember your motivations!

Language Learning: Classroom vs Solo Study

Classroom Vs Independent Study

There are advantages and disadvantages regarding learning a language in a classroom versus attempting to pick up a language on your own with independent study. To ensure that you choose the most efficient process for language learning, here are some pointers!

Classroom experience:

With a classroom experience, you can get the same type of structure that you might be used to from school. There is also a dedicated time slot focused on language learning. If you tend to have problems staying motivated, organized and focused this may prove to be a worthwhile investment. The classroom experience can also make sure that you have the assistance of a teacher. Classroom experiences can often be a more expensive way to learn the language. On the other hand, if you are someone that prefers solo learning or learning at your own pace, it may not be the best idea.

Solo learning:

With a solo learning experience, you can use a variety of free materials and applications. These same applications may mimic a classroom experience. Independent study is also incredibly flexible and you can take on a language whenever you have time. There’s no need to wait for a particular language to come up with a course offering at a local college or attend a specific session each week. You can also pick a learning strategy that works best for your mind. For individuals that have problems dedicating time regularly, this may not be the ideal strategy for picking up a new language.

Remember some of these top ideas when you are picking out the ideal way to learn a language for your needs.


Is It Better to Learn a Language in a Class or on Your Own? http://www.omniglot.com/language/articles/languageclassornot.ht

Learning Japanese and Chinese Simultaneously : 3 Observations

My goal in this lifetime is to become multilingual…I am talking about learning as much as I can before my time on this conflicted planet ends…Chinese is the second language on my list of global competence. I decided this after taking multiple Chinese history courses and the result was wanting to expand my knowledge on a nation that had went through some millennia of geographical, social, and political change. (Also, the fact that I’m an Asian Studies major)

However, having studied Japanese for four years now there are some common misconceptions I would like to address.

  1. Japanese does not equal Chinese: PEOPLE… These are two completely different languages – yes Japan did borrow China’s hanzi writing system, converting it into kanji but other than that these two languages virtually have nothing in common linguistically. However, culturally the two nations do share some of the same cultural facets. Just to name a few: filial piety, tea, Buddhism.   I constantly find myself blurting out the Japanese pronunciation of Chinese characters in class, while it is a bit frustrating it’s thrilling in its own way.

2. Japanese = Syllabary, Chinese= Tones: Mandarin Chinese has four tones you need to be aware of always. These tones will make or break a word in an instant, and training your mouth to say them correctly is a workout. However, you do have a bit of wiggle room in Japanese because it uses something called pitch accent rather than tones. Meaning, you can alternate your voice in a variety of ways and still be understood, because of Japanese being a contextual language – Chinese can also be contextual, but not to the extent of the Japanese language. To be honest I have been completely underestimating my tones in Chinese class, I think everyone has – it’s as if we know they are there and realize their importance but we just cannot deal with them…yet.

3. Hiragana…where are you?: For those of you unfamiliar with the Japanese language there are essentially 3 alphabets: Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. Hiragana can be mixed with kanji to form a word or it can just be written by itself to form the phonetic composition of a word. However, in Mandarin Chinese or any dialect of Chinese for that matter fillers like hiragana don’t exist. It’s like you’re thrown into the lion’s den in a violent carnage of hanzi. You cannot rely on the little curvy script you know and love when you forget a character. Funny story is though, although we are learning simplified script in Chinese class – the moment I forget the traditional, I am writing that **** in Japanese (the traditional form). While I do feel guilty sometimes doing that, its life saving on tests because I still manage to mark up 3/4ths of the points. Sense- I mean Laoshi says that it will take some time for me to get adjusted but I am just cruising at this point in a world of words *float* float*


4 Tips for Learning Japanese Through Audio

Language exists in the world of sound, we perceive sound as a means of communication. We use it to receive information and distribute the proper response. Regarding language learning, sound is the first building block to solidify an individual’s language core . Here are four tips to help you learn Japanese by audio.

  1. Actually Listen: I know it can be difficult to actually focus when you are listening to your favorite J-pop band or watching your #1 anime, but the truth is…passive listening doesn’t work. Certainly, in the beginning of any language learning journey, the sound of a language has not yet registered with your brain— its simply noise. However that doesn’t grant you the excuse to be lazy and throw on a pair of headphones and go to sleep hoping you will magically absorb the word for “phantom” or “heartbreak”. Paying attention to the audio is 80% of the battle.
  1. Find Interesting Content: Imagine a lecture in your native tongue on a topic that you have ZERO interest in- naturally you will lose focus and maybe even fall asleep. You need to find engaging content to keep your attention. This can be anything from politics, morality, human nature, space, the fishing industry…keep your options broad, because language is not stagnant. The broader the topics, the better the exposure you have to the outside world. Furthermore, the more interested you are in what you are listening to, the better the chances of retention.
  1. Listen to yourself: This is disturbing to say in the least, because when you hear a Japanese native speak and then compare your subpar nothing of a voice to theirs you question why you even started to learn the language in the first. The trick here is to listen to your failure of an accent so many times, that your brain gets sick of hearing you, Literally, tick yourself off with your own voice and see how much better your pronunciation will improve.
    • Record yourself on a smartphone app.
    • Listen to yourself speak about a topic of interest for a few hours or so.
    • Record that same topic AGAIN but after you’ve listened to yourself and note the differences.
  1. Music Videos: Often, our eyes snag our attention away from the world before our ears do- lets be honest, in music videos are you watching the video or listening to the music? If you answered both then you are on the right track! Music videos don’t only provide audio, but they provide a story to go with the audio. Meaning you can pair certain audio to their actions in the music video (a bit harder if you are watching an anime op), but regardless you will be picking up on certain things you didn’t even know was in the lyrics. This passive recognition of the language is an essential key to fluency. In a conversation between two native speakers even, the key content is held in their mind even after being blasted with a barrage of context. For example,  if you watch a music video about a relationship struggle and the lyrics are going light-speed, chances are you can assume the vocabulary is going to be based around betrayal, loyalty, caring, heartbreak etc … if you actually manage to stick to #1 mentioned earlier.
Three Wise Monkeys- See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil

Some of my favorite Japanese Artists are :

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