Why aren’t I progressing?
Does learning a second language make you feel like you are stuck in a traffic jam? Do you feel like you have been making the same mistakes for years? Do you think that your level isn’t increasing?
If you are dedicating five hours a day to studying a second language and you feel that you aren’t progressing, then I can’t help you. However, this article will assume that learning a second language is not your number one priority right now. You are probably a busy person with a heavy timetable, and learning a language on the side, for business or pleasure. Realistically, it can be hard to progress when you have a million other things on your mind. However, real progress can come with as little as ten minutes dedication a day. Here are some reasons why you might not be progressing.
1. You aren’t practising frequently.
Having only one English class a week is probably enough practice to keep up the level of English that you already have, but it is unlikely to develop your English skills.
However, combine your one English class a week with reading one article a day in English, or listening to an audio book during the week, or even simply watching a lot of Netflix, and you would already be practising almost every day!
Just keeping a minimal amount of contact with your second language, for example by reading the news headlines in English on the way to work, can make the difference between progressing and not.
2. You aren’t being creative.
In social situations, there are always some people who speak more than others. In group language classes, this is often the same. Unfortunately, only speaking to answer questions, and only using language that you feel very comfortable with can limit your progress. A great language student is brave, without fear of making mistakes, and will allow their natural creativity to construct sentences in their second language. This is also incredibly important for intermediate learners to reach the stage where they no longer have to translate in their head while speaking.
A fantastic exercise to test your own creativity is writing to yourself. You could rewrite something that you have read in your own language, write a mini-story, or, before you go to bed, write a note to yourself about what you have to do tomorrow.
3. You aren’t challenging yourself.
As explained above, being creative is all about challenging yourself. People who stay within their comfort zone won’t pick up new language skills as much as people who deliberately go outside their comfort zone. This is the same when you are speaking your second language, as well as when you are deciding what to read, watch or listen to. If you never take the subtitles off of your favourite series, then you will never be able to understand it without subtitles!
To quote my own experience of challenging myself; I listen to the radio two or three times a week in French (via the internet, of course). I started doing this a year ago, and understood around 40% of what I was listening to. Having challenged myself like this for a year, I now understand 70 or 80% of what I hear from that radio station. Hopefully, next year it will be 90%.
4. You aren’t interested enough.
Fortunately for me, I am very interested in current affairs, and so listening to the news on the French radio station has been a great way to practise French. It keeps my attention, as I’m interested in the content.
Too often, I see people trying to learn English through text that they aren’t interested in. This makes language learning more difficult than it needs to be. With the ease of access to information today, there is no excuse for not finding something that you really enjoy.
This is important in your classes as well. If your teacher brings articles or exercises that you find boring, try to suggest other topics that you are more interested in. I am sure your teacher will be grateful for this feedback.
5. You are.
Perhaps you are making progress, but you simply don’t realise it. This may be especially true for advanced students, for whom progress can be very difficult to see or feel!
Here are some ways that you can check your progress.
Here is a quick creative exercise for you! In the comments section below, write a very quick story in which you use all of the following words; orange, town, square, cloud, important, impossible, undesirable. Don’t think too much, and don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense!