Conquer the Intermediate Plateau and Reignite Your Language Learning Motivation

Learning a new language is an exciting adventure, but it demands dedication, time, and commitment. The journey, at times, can be frustrating. Many learners hit a wall around the intermediate level, where progress seems to slow down and frustration sets in. This is the dreaded “intermediate plateau,” and it can be tough to overcome. I recently did a podcast episode on motivation, and in this blog post, I’ll explore the significance of motivation in language learning. I will also offer practical tips to stay on course, particularly when facing the notorious intermediate plateau.

The Role of Motivation

Motivation does not mean endless hours of study or sacrificing all your free time. Instead, it acts as a guiding force, helping you maintain a consistent study plan. Whether dedicating 30 minutes or 15 minutes daily, motivation encourages regular language practice. It propels you to seek out diverse resources, like podcasts, to enhance your listening, reading, and vocabulary skills.

As you progress into the intermediate and advanced stages, motivation becomes even more critical. The intermediate plateau often leads to a perceived lack of progress and a subsequent decline in motivation.

Overcoming the Intermediate Plateau

The intermediate plateau is a phenomenon where progress slows down despite continued effort. This can lead to frustration and a loss of motivation. To overcome this hurdle, it’s crucial to reevaluate your language-learning goals. Ask yourself why you want to learn English and what you hope to achieve. What do you want your life to look like? What are you hoping to achieving with your new English skills?  Whether it’s for work, school, or personal enjoyment, clarifying your objectives allows you to tailor your motivation.

Once you know why you are wanting to study English and what you are hoping to do with the language, it’s time to set a measurable goal for yourself. Instead of vague goals like wanting to be fluent, set specific targets. You want to set a goal that you can use to measure you progress and see if you have achieved it. For example, say that you want to have 30-minute conversation with a native speaker, read a book in your target language, or watch an episode of your favorite TV show without subtitles. All of these goals are measurable, which means you can track your progress as you go and you can also know when you reach your goal.

Building a Consistent Study Plan

A well-defined study plan is essential in maintaining motivation. With clear goals in mind, create a schedule that outlines when and how much time you can dedicate to studying. Cramming for weeks followed by months of inactivity isn’t helpful for learning a language.  Our brains need time with the language to absorb its grammatical patterns and remember the vocabulary. The more time you spend, the better you will do, so it is important to stay consistent. A little bit of English every day is better than none at all, and a consistent amount over the course of months is what will boost your English to the next level.

Develop a realistic schedule that fits your lifestyle and stick to it. Realistic is really the key here. If you only have 20-30 minutes a day to study, set that as your study plan. Do not tell yourself that you are going to study for 2-3 hours when you do not have the time to do it. By overpromising and failing to follow-through, you get in the habit of accepting failure and can put off studying. Instead, set amount of time that is achievable and be successful in doing it every day. Psychology research has shown that achieving these smaller goals will build your confidence and keep you moving forward. More success equal more motivation to continue on, which in turn leads to more success.

Choosing Engaging Resources

As the polyglot Steve Kaufmann says, language learning shouldn’t feel like a chore. Motivation also hinges on the resources you use. Ensure that the materials you engage with are interesting and relevant to your preferences. Follow Steve’s advice and seek content that captivates your interest, be it TV shows, music, or podcasts. Enjoyable content keeps you motivated and enhances your language skills because you will want to come back and engage with the language.

Besides selecting material that you are interested in, make sure that you use material that is at the appropriate level. You want to use resources that are slightly higher than your current English level so they help you grow. Too easy of material means that you won’t learn anything, while too challenging means that you might not be able to understand the content. Using material that is slightly above your current level will help you get the most out of your study time and provide the most growth.

If you are at the intermediate level, resources for beginners are not appropriate. However, a number of my English students have told me that they struggle to understand native content and have a hard time finding intermediate and upper-intermediate resources. The main reason I created the Learn English Podcast was to help my students by providing a resource they could use on their English journey. Each episode has a vocabulary list in the episode description, and you can listen or watch  them on all podcast platforms.

Take Breaks When Needed

If you find yourself burnt out and losing motivation, consider taking a break from studying. While consistency is key, occasional pauses are acceptable. Give yourself a few weeks or even a month to rejuvenate. A short time away from the language won’t erase your progress. Give your brain time to rest and recharge, and you’ll return refreshed and ready to tackle the next challenge.

In conclusion, maintaining motivation is necessary to a successful language-learning journey. By setting specific goals, creating a consistent study plan, choosing engaging resources, and allowing for breaks when needed, you can navigate the challenges, overcome plateaus, and continue progressing toward fluency. Remember, learning a language is a gradual process, and your dedication will lead you to your desired proficiency level. Keep learning English, and enjoy the rewarding journey ahead!

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