The most beloved stretch of a cyclist embodies the most dreaded stretch of a language learner-- a plateau. While long straight stretches are a cyclist's dream, language learners hate being stuck in the same level of language fluency for long periods of time. The difference between a cyclist hitting a plateau and a language learner hitting a plateau is that the language learner can actually do something about a plateau. Below are suggestions of what to do when you hit a plateau in language learning.
Familiarize Yourself with Language Levels
Whether you choose to follow the CEFR Language Fluency Levels of the ones created by ACTFL, you need to become familiar with the language levels in order to move past your language plateau. You must first determine what level of fluency you currently have, so that you can determine the next level you should be aiming for. The ACTFL fluency guidelines go into detailed description of what speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills look like at each level of language fluency. You can read through and determine where your language abilities are at and what is missing in order to move to the next level.
Find Activities for Current and Next Level
To improve your level of fluency in a language, you will need speaking, listening, reading, and writing activities on your current level as well as from the next level of fluency. Only doing activities from the next level of fluency will cause frustration and possibly cause you to quit altogether. In language learning, you need to practice on your current level while adding a little bit from the next level up. You cannot simply jump from one level to the next. Think of it more as climbing a mountain with many plateaus. You will climb for a while and then walk a straight stretch. Then you will come to another incline. You cannot just jump from the plateau to the top of the incline. You must slowly make your way up.
Find Some Help to Get Past the Plateau
Sometimes our best efforts may not be enough to get past certain plateaus in language learning. If you find that you have been doing activities for your current and next levels for quite a while and still do not resemble the next level's fluency description, it may be time to get some help. You might think to yourself, oh I can talk to my friend who is a native speaker. They should be able to help me improve my fluency! Although this may or may not be the case, it is likely that finding a language teacher will be more beneficial in the long run. Language instructors know what the language fluency levels are and how to help move you up to your next level. They have honed their craft and are experts at shortening plateaus.
Dedicate More Time During Plateaus
Although 15 minutes per day is sufficient for steadily learning a new language (according to Philip Dunne with Rosetta Stone), it will not be enough to break out of your fluency plateau to move to the next level of fluency. You will need to dedicate more time in order to see faster results. You may need to increase your time to 30 minutes and maybe seek to slowly increase it to one hour. You can perhaps break up the hour into 15-minute increments, practicing one of the four modes of communication (speaking, listening, reading, writing) every 15 minutes. You are frustrated with this plateau you are on, so it stands to reason that you will need to do something differently to fix it. Adding more time is likely part of the answer. Once you have broken out of your plateau, you can go back to your regular programming.
Find a Slightly More Advanced Learner
What could possibly be the benefits of finding someone just barely better than you at the language you are learning? They have just gotten past the level you are at. They know the struggles you are currently having and how to get past them. Their slightly elevated level of fluency will actually rub off on you. As you learn a language, you should always seek to take your current knowledge and at a little bit from the next level up. This will happen naturally when you practice with someone who is slightly more advanced than you are. Hopefully, you can find a Facebook friend you can practice, but if not, make sure to check out language learning groups on Facebook or LinkedIn and connect with someone who can help you level up in your language learning fluency.
If you would like to dedicate more time to your studies, check out our article on the learning packages we have available to select the best one for your needs.