Have you ever found yourself struggling to form more complex sentences? Learn a new word and can’t remember it an hour later but you’re sure you’ll remember once you hear it? Frustrated that you aren’t advancing?
It is normal to reach a “learning plateau” – this means you reach a level and you suddenly stop advancing. It can seem difficult when you start to learn a language but just like starting at the gym, it takes time to see some improvements and once you do, you need to push yourself to get better. Once you’ve passed the basics, you start to improve and suddenly you’re on a roll. Unfortunately, what happens to a majority of people is they form habits and stick to them and that’s when you reach your plateau. How do you get out of it? Many scholars explain how to break through this plateau and here are some of the tips that they have in common:
1. Change it up
You’ve probably been sticking to learning one aspect of the language, whether it’s grammar or vocabulary through gap-fill exercises or translating sentences. Try doing something out of the norm – take up a dance/cooking/any type of class, go to language exchange meetings, do Couchsurfing, buy a cookbook in Spanish, work as a volunteer, etc Try to find something you might enjoy to stimulate your learning!
2. Integrate with Spanish people
Don’t make the very common mistake most foreign students make – surrounding yourself with people from your country which can make you lazy and hinder your progress. Live with Spaniards, work with Spaniards, study with Spaniards, make friends with Spaniards, and even date Spaniards! If you already live with non-native speakers, make a deal to only speak Spanish at home and have Sunday off!
3. “No puedo hacerlo” or “No, puedo hacerlo”
Don’t give up! Don’t compare yourself to others – we all have had different learning experiences and we use different methods and learn at different paces. Get help and motivation from friends, family, classmates, teachers etc. There are many others who don’t even bother to learn a second language so just by trying, you are opening up a world of opportunities for yourself.
4. Social media
Aside from watching Spanish movies, listening to Spanish songs, reading Spanish books, you have another, and possibly, more entertaining way to learn – social media! Nowadays, memes and funny articles are probably more searched for than news. Read articles on Buzzfeed España and check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc for funny accounts or pages to follow and find yourself laughing while you learn #SpanishMemes #LetTheLearningBegin
5. Back to basics
It can be overwhelming and disheartening to learn new things when you feel you aren’t making progress. Go over the basics – this can motivate you and boost your self-esteem. There is no harm in revising the differences between tenses and making sure you know the name of all the things in your room or kitchen.
6. Set goals
You have a world of tools to help you learn – set yourself targets and you will see improvements. Read a book in a month. Learn the lyrics to that catchy new song. Use at least 5-10 new words or phrases a day. AnkiDroid is an application where you can note down new words and revise them at your leisure. Keep your phone on hand when you’re out and about and note down anything new or things you aren’t familiar with
So don’t give up! Enjoy the thrill of learning new things and taking steps to being bilingual