How to overcome the intermediate plateau and continue your progress toward fluency

How to overcome the intermediate plateau and continue your progress towards fluency

We all at some point in time feel stuck in our language learning. It makes one wonder that attaining fluency is fruitless, not possible, too slow and isn’t worth the effort you put in. We may be thinking of the valuable things we might be doing instead of learning our target language. Language learning is a precious thing which everyone should subscribe too.

This unusual feeling of being stuck is known as the “language plateau.” or “intermediate Plateau” It is observed that language learners most often reach the plateau at the intermediate or advanced stage of their language learning. This is a period or learning when, the enjoyable learning progress experienced by the learner as a beginner, begin to slow, getting harder to achieve. The student begins to feel that it is not going to end. The communication skills are decent but fluency is still very difficult to attain. The learner can grab about 60-80% of the language, but the other 20-40% appears insurmountable.

Jack Richards, a renowned linguist, identifies some problems connected to this plateau: limited vocabulary, unnatural speech, gaps between input (reading, listening) and output (writing, speaking) activities, and being short of complex grammar usage. In other words, the language learner still has a long way to go. The problem here is that language learners most often have complexity monitoring and appreciating their progress at this learning stage.

Find below some suggestions on how to overcome the intermediate plateau and attain fluency:

Learn and Practice complex grammar

Make up your mind and be out of your comfort zone and start forcing yourself to learn and also use new forms correctly. Jack Richards notes that the “development of fluency may mean greater ease of known language forms but does not necessarily imply growth in the complexity of the learner’s language.”

If you find it difficult to understand any sentence, but you know all the words, think about trying to diagram it while observing any gap in your understanding of how the sentence works. It is recommended that you buy a comprehensive grammar workbook in your target language and always work through it.

Set Standard and practical vocabulary goals

Richards noted that learners at the stage of intermediate plateau tend to overuse simple vocabulary while still failing to master more advanced and nuanced vocabulary. Try always to learn new vocabulary by topic and also set a goal for how many new words you should learn daily. Richards believes that a vocabulary of about 5000-6000 words should equip you through to the next level.

Language Learners Journal recommends looking at the variations of each word you learn. For instance, If you are learning a noun, does it has have a verb form? Adverb? , An adjective? You can find these derivative terms on Wiktionary or via any other online dictionary in your target language.

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The Mindful Language Learner

Trisha, is the founder of Language Learners An award-winning blog dedicated to empowering and promoting a more mindful approach to independent language learning and teaching across the UK and beyond. Trisha has a professional and academic background in psychology and well-being. She has been practicing mindfulness for over 20 years and has professionally taught CBT-based mindfulness for the past 7 years. You can follow Trisha on her official Facebook Page, Instagram or Twitter accounts to discover how to apply simply mindfulness practices and scientifically proven strategies to your language learning...

8 thoughts on “How to overcome the intermediate plateau and continue your progress towards fluency

  1. This is really good advice. May I ask what do you think about the 10,000 hour rule when it comes to mastery of a language?

    1. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I think it takes time and perseverance to learn a language. We are all different and learn at our own pace depending on a number of factors. I would agree that it takes around 10,000 hours to reach mastery, depending on the language. A language within your native branch may only be half this time.

  2. One of good practice is actually to speak often. I recently finds it helps both grammar and vocabulary, and helps them to flow out more naturally and fluently. Which language are you learning BTW?

  3. This is a great for anyone who wants to improve their daily vernacular. The daily use of the English language here in Nth. America is quite limited. There are so many words that should be used. Excellent points in this post for improving your own language bank.

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