We’re always very excited when we start learning a new language, and we want to achieve our goals as quickly as possible. However, there comes a time — often known as the ‘intermediate plateau’ — when we stop learning as fast as before and feel nervous about new lessons. We feel somehow blocked and discouraged. Why does that happen? Here are five top tips to overcome some of the roadblocks people often face while learning.
1. Not every method is for everyone
How often do you hear that you need to ace your grammar in order to speak correctly? Or that conversations are the only way to go when you want to learn a new language? Well, there are tons of language learning methods and none of them is universal. Which approach you should take, then? It depends on your current level of experience, on your learning predispositions, on your past experiences, on the amount of time you would like to dedicate to learning and, last but not least, on the goal you would like to achieve.
Maybe you need to understand grammar to feel confident speaking. Or maybe you don’t mind making mistakes, and just want to have a conversation. Sometimes you need some trial and error to see which method suits you best. And sometimes you need to change your approach.
2. Sometimes you need a push from someone
There’s nothing better than a big, big motivation. If you have a scientific conference coming up and it’s entirely in English and you feel so nervous that you want to run away – that’s your motivation. Fear can either mobilize or paralyze us. It’s up to you what to do about that. It also helps when you have someone who supports you. It can either be a teacher or anyone who can give you that one needed push.
If you learn with no urgent motivation, but simply to up your level, your motivation usually comes from within. We can’t mobilize ourselves constantly on the same level. Our mind gets tire eventually. Let’s face it – sometimes we just need an (imaginary!) driver, some kind of outside motivation that can help us overcome the weaker times. So focus on some upcoming event, like a trip, or a meeting, and tell yourself you need to have made big improvements by then.
3. Exercises are not enough – try not to memorize everything
This is the case when we prepare for some kind of exam. And because we want to get the best result possible, we try to memorize the exercises and go over the trial exams 17 times a day. This is the easy path to forget why you even decided to take this exam! You still want it to mean something, right? Memorizing possible questions and answers isn’t exactly the right method. Here’s why:
- There is simply no way for our brain to memorize it all.
- There is also no way to predict which excercises will appear.
- Memorising for the sake of memorising makes you forget why you’re learning in the first place!
You have to decide whether you want to try to guess and fill your brain with (if you’re lucky) 30% of the material learned completely by heart, or spend this time trying to comprehend as much as you can, enhancing your chances of winning?
4. Don’t want too much too fast – give yourself some time
When we start learning, usually we feel like we can achieve anything and we want results to come ASAP. This is the time when we feel like the more excercises we do, or more time we spend on learning, the faster results will come. But a brain needs to rest! You can compare it to body excercising: Do you think it’s better for you to excercise once a week for three hours, or three times a week for an hour? The body, as well as the brain, needs stimulation that is repeated and some rest between it to regenerate. This truly enhances your chances of not giving up – even if some obstacles come your way.
5. It’s not a crime to take a break
There may come a time when you feel like you can’t learn anymore and that language learning isn’t for you. You feel that if you take a break now, you won’t be able to come back and you will forget everything you’ve already learned. That’s a big mistake. Sometimes it’s better to take a short break to clear your mind and come back stronger with new strength than to force yourself to learning, which is just as effective as no learning at all.
Language learning can’t be perceived as a drag. Remember, mastering a foreign language is a long journey, and it has its ups and downs. Sometimes, when hiking mountains, you need to go down to start climbing again! Just always keep an eye on the destination. Remember your goal, and perhaps even write it down and repeat it to yourself over and over again like a mantra. You’ll then find the right path.