We’ve talked about the notorious P-word in previous episodes “How to go from intermediate to advanced English level”, and “How to increase your English fluency”.
And the “P” word of course is PLATEAU!
If you’ve hit the PLATEAU, you would know.
The symptoms include:
– Feeling like you’re no longer making progress, no matter how hard you study.
– Difficulty remembering new words.
– Feeling like you can’t express yourself as well as you should.
The good news – this challenging period is temporary. One simple way to push through is to expand your vocabulary.
In this episode, we’ll discuss some tips to learn more words, faster – and start seeing your language proficiency in English accelerate.
This lesson is particularly useful for Intermediate English learners ready to move to an advanced level.
Why is advanced vocabulary in English important?
One reason we experience the language learning plateau is because when we are in the beginner stages of learning a language, our learning is rapid. It’s easy to mark how much we’re learning in large part because everything is new.
However, once you reach the Intermediate stage, it can be difficult to notice your progress, especially as you transition from early intermediate to advanced intermediate, and then finally to the advanced level.
Vocabulary is a key component to moving from beginner to intermediate and advanced levels of language proficiency.
Sometimes, when students reach a certain level in English and can communicate with other English speakers, they might use simple vocabulary words to “get by.” This is understandable.
After all, if you can express yourself and feel understood, then you may not make much effort to expand your vocabulary beyond the core words you already know.
However, to see progress in your language learning, it’s important to expand your vocabulary, as well as include more colloquial words, idioms, and phrases in your English repertoire.
The plateau is actually an exciting time, because now you can develop a new strategy to get more proficient in English based on your personal interests and needs.
At this stage in your learning, it can be especially helpful to call a coach to intervene. A coach can tell you exactly what you lack, what you need to improve, and how to do it in the most efficient way possible.
Let’s break free from the plateau and to our next peak of achievement with these five tips.
Tip #1: Organize Vocabulary by Theme or Interest
It’s easier to recall a list of words that are grouped or organized in a meaningful way.
Create a list of words to study that are focused on a particular subject, and you’re more likely to remember them.
For example, if you love music you might focus your attention on creating a vocabulary word list with music as the theme. You might learn the names of musical instruments, musical terms, and so on.
For some ready-made lists of vocabulary, you can also watch my previous videos about English vocabulary for talking about flights, wine, your favorite TV series in English, or terrorism & bad news.
As you learn these new vocabulary words you can draw connections between the words, which will help you to remember the words easier.
It’s easier to remember something that connects to something else that is already in your brain! So the more connections you can make with vocabulary you already know, the easier it will be to remember new words!
Tip #2: Practice using new vocabulary often
Do you feel like you learn a new word, only to forget it the next day?
The key to remembering new words is repetition. The more frequently you encounter a word, the more likely you’ll remember it.
Did you know that you’re already a master language learner? When you were a child, you learned your native language through lots of listening and repetition. As you pick up new words, repeat them several times throughout the day, just as a child would.
Even though children and adults learn differently, adapting the language learning techniques we used as children can help us tremendously as adults. You just have to work at it now, because you don’t have English-speaking parents talking to you in English 24/7.
A virtual immersion program will make this process a lot easier for you, and give you many opportunities each day to learn English frequently!
Tip #3: Learn Prefixes in English
Another way to bulk up your vocabulary is to recognize how modifiers, or affixes, change the meaning of root words. Understanding affixes can help you interpret the meaning of hundreds of words that you may not know.
The first affix I’d like to talk about are “prefixes.” Prefixes are letters used at the beginning of a word to change its meaning.
For example, a common prefix in English is “re-.” When “re-” is used, it means “again” or “back.” “Rethink” “redo” and “repay.” – each word has “re” at the beginning.
Another prefix is “Un-”. Un- can mean “not,” “remove,” or “opposite.” Adding un- to the word “rest” gives you the word “unrest,” which means not restful.
Tip #4: Learn Suffixes in English
Similarly, suffixes can help you determine a word you don’t know, and help you accelerate your vocabulary learning.
A suffix is a letter or group of letters added to the end of a word. Suffixes can provide clues as to the verb tense.
For example: “-er” at the end of a word often suggests a comparison. We find “-er” at the ends of adjectives and adverbs.
-er suffixes are good at making a comparison. They compare two things and show that one is “more” than the other, such as “faster” and “stronger.”
Tip #5: English Collocations Competence
This sounds fancy, but it’s a simple idea. A collocation is when two or more words are often seen together.
For example, “blonde hair” is a collocation. In English, when we use the word “blonde” it’s most often an adjective used to describe hair. We wouldn’t say “blonde car” or “blonde house.”
Here’s another example: the word “heavy” has many different meanings, depending on the word it’s associated with. You can have a “heavy rain” – a “heavy meal” – “heavy traffic” – “heavy smoker” – in each instance, the word “heavy” changes its meaning.
Other examples include idiomatic expressions in English, phrasal verbs like “figure out” , phrasal verbs with “up”, phrasal verbs with “get”, and expression used in American corporate jargon.
Memorizing common collocations used in colloquial English will make a noticeable difference to your level of proficiency.
By noticing subtleties of English, you’ll sound more fluent using these words in the right context, avoiding some of the most common mistakes less experienced English learners make.
One Last Note
It’s worth noting that according to research, 3000 words is a good target to achieve a lower intermediate learning level. One of the big reasons why intermediate learners hit the plateau is because they no longer actively expand their vocabulary knowledge.
By expanding your vocabulary, according to your interests and needs, recognizing prefixes and suffixes that modify words, repetition of words, and memorizing collocations, you will be well on your way to pushing through the plateau and reaching an advanced level in your English studies.
What About You?
Do you have any tips on how to learn vocabulary words or ways you’ve elevated your level? Share them in the comments!
Practice Speaking English
And if you want to practice SPEAKING English?
Then consider my Faster Fluency Conversation Club. Club members can participate in 3 group sessions per week.
You will be paired up in small groups with other motivated students and get some help from a Fluency Club Leader too. The small-group size ensures you get plenty of practice to speak English and receive feedback on mistakes or suggest ways you can speak more colloquially, so you gain fluency faster.
You can get all the details and join the Fluency Club by clicking on this link.
You’ll also get extra resources and a conversation guidebook, to help you increase your vocabulary and become more confident in conversations.
Thank you for learning with Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next time!
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