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.
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.
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
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.
“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 Speakers
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!
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。
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!