So, you’ve been studying English since primary school and you’re wondering why you still aren’t fluent. How much longer do you need to study to advance to the next level in English? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why learners get stuck at the same old level.
You aren’t spending enough time learning
I know, you’re pressed for time with your job, your children and your social life and end up having very little time to learn a language. However, if you don’t make the time to learn English you simply won’t make any progress in the language and you’ll be stuck at the same level for a long time.
You don’t need to sit for hours on end to learn English. The typical attention span of a human for learning is between 10 and 15 minutes and this is all you need each day to contribute to your English learning (yes, I said each day- you do need to learn every single day to see some progress).
I like using the analogy of a gym. In order to stay fit and healthy, you need to visit the gym regularly and consistently and exercise all areas of the body. Only using this method will you maintain a good body, feel fit and healthy, look better and be able to continue pushing yourself to the next level. English is exactly the same. You need to practise regularly and consistently (I recommend 15 minutes daily) and all areas (listening, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, speaking). Only using this method will you be able to progress and keep pushing yourself.
You aren’t learning in a realistic environment
I’ve seen so many videos on YouTube with a list of the top 100 phrases and words in English and these videos have hundreds and thousands of views. I bet you’ve even seen a few of these yourself. Now, can you actually remember any of those phrases? Have you ever used any of those phrases in real life?
Sitting down and learning a list of the most common phrases and words in English or completing grammar exercises one after another is simply an irresponsible waste of learning time. You should be learning English in a realistic environment. After all, this is why you’re learning English- for a job interview, to communicate with friends/family, to attend English-speaking lectures and presentations. Use the same resources as native speakers to learn realistic English- read the news, watch funny YouTube videos in English, read the most popular books and watch the most popular TV series and films in English. This way, you’re accumulating USEFUL and MODERN English.
Think back to your primary school and secondary school English classes. The teacher probably put on a listening tape in very clear English and you answered some true or false questions. In a realistic environment, you’ll land in an English-speaking country, you’ll never have encountered the accent of those standing in front of you and you’ll be mystified by some of the slang and phrases that are being used. This is realistic, everyday English and this is what you need to be learning.
You aren’t being patient
Learning a language takes time. A language is a tool that you should continue learning and improving for the rest of your life. I know, marketing materials promise you’ll be fluent in a few months or say that it only takes 1,000 hours to learn a new skill – they are misleading and this can put you under pressure and question why you haven’t been able to achieve this. Stop using numbers and timescales to learn a language. The amount of time it takes to learn a language depends on so many things. It depends on your native language, it depends on the time you have available to learn, it depends on what type of learner you are, it depends on your access to learning materials. The list goes on. There is no specific number of hours that you need to work in order to become fluent, you need to be patient with yourself.
You don’t know what you’re working towards
A lot of people start off learning English in school because it’s an obligation and by the time they get to university or their first job, societal pressure dictates that you need to know English, but this isn’t a good enough reason to learn a language. Ask yourself right now, why are you learning English?
- Do you want a higher-level or better-job job that requires English?
- Do you want to attend a university, college, presentation or lecture in English?
- Are you working towards an English exam
- Are you simply learning for fun?
By understanding why you’re learning the language, you’ll be able to focus more on those areas and really see progress in your English.
Something that’s really important for learning English is the motivation to learn. If you understand why you need English, this will most likely drive that motivation in you and push you towards your English goals.
You can’t see any progress
I have so many intermediate and upper intermediate students who say they simply cannot see any progress in their language any longer. You can remember the days when you learnt vocabulary at school and got good grades in English and were suddenly able to hold a conversation about a basic topic. Stop comparing your current-day progress to your English learning from the early days. The experience is completely different. Take a look at the diagram below and imagine the curve as your English language progress. The start is rapid and you can visibly see how well you’re doing but the end is slow, long and can be difficult to see. This leads to a lack of motivation and then to the question “why am I stuck at the same level of English?”
First, it’s important to understand that the advanced stages of a language are much more difficult to distinguish between, as shown on the diagram. Second, as mentioned above, it’s important to remember what your reason for learning the language is. Third, set yourself smaller, more visible objectives to measure your progress. This provides you with a confidence boost, more motivation, more clarity on your English and, as a result, more progress.
So, hopefully now you can get out of that rut and start making progress in your English level.