Stuck in the "advanced plateau"? Stopped seeing any difference in your language in recent months or years?
Yeah... stagnation is a real thing. You can choose either to accept it and move on to your next project... OR you can give your English a kickstart with these five tips:
1. Make English progress by... getting curious about the whys and hows of the language around you
When you understand something - a text, video or audio - delve deeper into the intricacies. Examine the language used. Why did the speaker choose that particular phrase? What's the impact of the chosen verb form? Engage curiosity mode.
Consider how you might have expressed the same idea. Think about the difference in impact between your expression and theirs. Is one more suitable for a specific situation?
You can tap into this curiosity with loads of everyday sources – an email from a colleague, a WhatsApp voice note from a flatmate, or a caption on an Instagram post.
You've got the hang of a message, but exploring the underlying mechanisms can be enlightening. Not knowing all the answers to the whys and hows is okay. By challenging your own understanding, you'll uncover more insights than you realize.
2. Make English progress by... doing something new
One major reason for hitting an advanced plateau is often the comfort of competence. You might simply already possess enough English for your daily needs and so have stopped making progress.
To counter this, engage in activities that push your language boundaries. Embrace a new hobby, join a new club, or explore different genres of literature. Stepping outside your linguistic comfort zone is key.
The magic lies in persistence. The initial discomfort of exploring new language territories is going to be... well, uncomfortable! However, as you keep going, adapting to this new linguistic arena will become second nature.
Taking on a new skill or interest outside your linguistic comfort zone can initially feel daunting, but remember, it's a temporary discomfort. The eventual comfort in this new linguistic landscape is worth the initial challenge.
3. Make English progress by... finding the (most important) gaps
A mistake advanced English learners often make is trying to learn everything they encounter, regardless of whether it's relevant.
Identify communication friction points in your typical day, week, and month. Pinpoint specific areas where you encounter resistance in expressing yourself fluently.
Prioritize these areas. For instance, if chatting about your weekend to colleagues causes a mild panic, focus on crafting a couple of interesting anecdotes or jotting down phrases to ease this communication.
Rather than grasping at any and all unfamiliar content, identify the specific areas where you stumble in communication. Addressing these 'squeeze points' is more efficient than attempting to learn everything at once.
4. Make English progress by... focusing on active learning (no more grammar books, please)
Ditch the grammar books. Simply dedicating time to daily grammar exercises isn't effective for language progression.
Instead, immerse yourself in active language usage. Write, speak, interpret, memorize, and experiment with the language. Mere 'gap filling' won't suffice; try to actively engage with the language.
Engagement with the language, beyond passive study, is essential. Immersing yourself in a variety of language activities sharpens linguistic skills far more than a theoretical understanding from grammar books.
5. Make English progress by... building a realistic routine
Consistency is key if you want to see tangible progress in your language skills. Design a study routine that's realistic and adaptable to your daily life.
Compare your study routine to a sandwich: a basic 'bread and butter' routine for busy days, a 'bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo' routine for focused sessions, and an elaborate 'toasted ciabatta' routine for days with ample time and energy.
The activities you choose to spend time on are your ingredients — vary them based on your mood, energy, and time available.
Crafting a versatile routine is akin to assembling a sandwich. The elements in your study 'fridge' should allow for adaptability based on your daily fluctuations in mood, energy, and time.
BONUS: Make English progress by... thinking about whether you really need to improve your language
Consider the possibility that, at an advanced level, you might not necessarily require further improvement in your language skills. Sometimes, focusing on refining your mindset can be more beneficial.
Challenge false beliefs about language learning, address self-talk during challenging moments, and emotionally prepare for difficult situations.
Question whether your self-perceived language limitations actually match up with how others perceive you. (SPOILER: you're probably being WAY more hard on yourself than others are!)
At an advanced stage, it's crucial to examine whether the neverending goal of "more language" improvement is truly necessary. Sometimes, working on mindset and perception can get you quicker and more meaningful results than relentlessly pursuing further linguistic mastery.