Ah, the dreaded language learning plateau. It’s a familiar story: you’ve been steadily progressing in your target language, picking up new vocab left, right and centre, mastering those grammar rules, and suddenly: boom, all of your progress comes to a screeching halt. Your momentum vanishes, and try as you might, you just can’t seem to reignite it.
You’re in the plateau—and not the fun one with Schwartz’s and all the murals. The language learning plateau is an inevitable part of the learning process for many (if not most) students, and it can be a huge motivation suck. If you’re still putting in just as much time and effort as ever, why isn’t your brain following suit?
Plateaus often occur at intermediate and advanced levels when the paths to improvement seem fewer and farther between than at the lower levels. At this point, students may find themselves asking what next?
This is especially true when you've settled into a rigid routine. It's important to remember that you’ve already come such a long way—language learning is all about communication, and you shouldn’t let a lack of perfection trip you up. If fear of the plateau still keeps you up at night, though, check out these ideas for breaking free and shaking things up!
You’ve probably been spending a fair amount of time speaking, listening, reading and writing in your target language, but how much of your communication has involved materials designed for native speakers? Ditch the grammar books and language apps for a while and switch over to newspapers, magazines, TV shows or films created in your target language. You’ll have a lot more fun and pick up tons of new idioms while you’re at it!
Time to challenge yourself. Now that you’re consuming materials in your target language, why not pick up a novel you don’t think you can (easily) read and work through it (taking note of all new vocab and expressions) until it makes sense. If you're based in Montreal, check out one of the several Montreal bookstores doing curbside pickup and delivery, or sign up for a library card to access access a vast database of digital books, magazines and more.
We’re lucky in Montreal to have a range of activities and general interest classes available in both French and English, and while in-person activities may be on hiatus for the time being, recent events have made online classes and group activities more accessible than ever. Join a virtual workout or other virtual classes and workshops (writing, cooking, jewellery-making and more) or search for Youtube tutorials in your target language.
Like we said in our post on language learning-related New Year’s resolutions, your goals can hurt rather than help you if they’re too large or vague. Set goals that are realistic, but which also excite you; goals related to future travel (like becoming conversational in a language before a future trip to a place where that language is spoken) are especially motivating. If you're learning a language out of necessity, you may need to create your own excitement: come up with rewards for different milestones. Refine those goals and get to work!