Have you ever had the feeling that, no matter what you do, your English will not improve?
If so, you are not alone!
In everyone’s personal learning journey, there is always a time in which one feels that no progress is being achieved and that all those efforts previously made were useless. This is a very delicate moment that pretty much all the language learners have to deal with at some point, and this is where most people eventually end up giving up.
If you feel like you are losing motivation, you must understand why it is that you seem to not be progressing in your learning journey, and how you can keep moving towards your goal of reaching fluency. Today I am here to help you understand what the issue might be. Before you throw all of your progress out the window, here are some steps to take if you want to keep advancing towards fluency!
1. Focus on quality, not quantity
Often, the root of the problem lays in the study method. Studying hours solely on textbooks, for example, might not help you improve if you lack listening and speaking skills. Diversifying your practice and focusing on your weak spots is fundamental for you to succeed. One great way to do this is to create a schedule for you to work on a different skill every day. Keeping a journal (strictly in English) which tracks your work and your thoughts about your learning journey is also a great idea to work on your fluency.
2. Start approaching the language as a tool rather than a subject.
One of the most common mistakes that language learners make is to think of a language as a theoretical subject to be studied. Strictly focusing on grammar and exercises because “it is important to know by heart all the rules of a language before starting to speak it” might be what prevents students from further improving. It is true that studying grammar, especially at the beginning, is very important to have the basis of a language, but only studying English as an academic subject can completely hinder people’s efforts of learning it. Integrating writing, speaking (recording yourself and speaking in front of a mirror are great for practicing by yourself), and listening from the beginning is fundamental for a balanced and successful learning process.
3. If you are at an intermediate level, stop studying simplified materials
Most people assume that, when they reach the intermediate level, they should just keep studying like they always did: by using the same simplified materials, whether videos or textbooks, that they have previously used, but elevating them to an “intermediate level”. However, this should not be the case, now that one can understand the language at a pretty good level and speak it to a certain extent. It is now time to change the approach and start diving into the real English content: the one that intermediates will struggle with at the beginning, but that will bring the most benefits. Learning English fluently by studying “intermediate” material is like wanting to solve complex mathematical concepts by studying additions and subtractions: it would not make sense because it is most definitely not enough. Doing the same easy exercise thousands of times will not be as valuable as doing a few ones which are pertinent and adequate to your learning process. Therefore, integrating more complex readings (might be academic articles, or even posts on social media platforms), with movies, videos and other content meant for actual English speakers, and not English learners, is the right path to follow. In other words, to finally see some progress again, you do not have to necessarily study hard, but you surely should study smart!