Stuck on the intermediate plateau in English?

By 25 August 2020 Video lessons 20 Comments
intermediate plateau English

Woohoo, today’s the big day! We’re starting my new video series: How to go from intermediate to advanced English, with virtual immersion & tiny habits. 

Why is it that your English level is not that bad, but you still don’t feel confident speaking?


1. Let’s start with a quiz…
2. What is the intermediate plateau?
3. If you’re stuck on the intermediate plateau, what do you need to move forward faster?
4. What kind of activities can you do for natural learning and deliberate learning?
5. Myth: “I need to go live in an English-speaking country to become advanced”
6. My question for you

1. Let’s start with a quiz…

Do any of these describe you?

  1. You feel blocked or hesitant. Like you can’t always find the words you need, even if you can communicate your message.
  2. You worry you’re making too many mistakes in English, and feel like you’re translating too much in your head because you just feel something’s not right
  3. You don’t know why you feel this way, or what to do, and it’s super frustrating

If you said yes to those questions, well, Congratulations!

Why am I saying “congratulations” if you feel blocked, stuck, and frustrated? Because if you have any of these feelings, you’re already on your journey to advanced English!

You have reached the intermediate plateau, and now it feels hard to increase your English fluency. 

2. What is the intermediate plateau?

The intermediate plateau happens when you reach an intermediate level. You stop progressing as quickly as you did in the past.

When you’re a beginner, or a lower level, it’s easy to see progress because you have so much to learn. And every time you learn 1 or 2 new things, it feels like you’re making a lot of progress.

But when you reach an intermediate level, you have enough English to make yourself understood and to understand well enough in most situations you encounter. So you don’t work as hard to improve.

After all, it’s not absolutely necessary. You can survive with your current level, even if you don’t always feel comfortable.

And at this level, it can be difficult to know what you need to do next to improve. It may feel like you’re doing things in English, but not really improving your English.

So today, it feels like  you haven’t really improved for the past few years. Like your English has hit a brick wall or you just aren’t keeping up your level.

Don’t worry. This is totally normal, no matter what you’re learning. English, guitar, running… Everyone hits the intermediate plateau in their learning process.

At more advanced levels, the language you need to learn becomes more abstract and more nuanced. You may not use the things you learn every day.

But, like in your native language, you want to be able to talk about more sophisticated, specific topics when they occur. You want to be able to mobilize the language you need, when you need it.

So just watching Netflix or watching TEDtalks or using English at work is not sufficient. It’s great, but not enough to help you get off the intermediate plateau and move up to an advanced level.

3. If you’re stuck on the intermediate plateau, what do you need to move forward faster?

The first step is to be more structured, with 2 approaches:

  1. Natural learning: “Absorbing” the language by exposure, “living” English
  2. Deliberate learning: Working on English, studying, “doing” English

Use resources and topics that are relevant and useful for YOU, so that they’re more interesting, you want to learn with them, and you remember what you learn better.

When you have a connection or interest in what you learn, your brain engages with it better, and you’re more likely to remember it.

This is why it’s so difficult to memorize lists of vocabulary. If you have no context, no connection, and no reason to remember the vocabulary, your brain doesn’t see the point in making the effort.

You have to connect personally and emotionally with what you want to learn if you want it to stick in your brain.

4. What kind of activities can you do for natural learning and deliberate learning?

Natural learning activities include:

In a nutshell, Natural Learning is what happens when you do the activities you normally do in your everyday life, but in English.

Deliberate learning activities include:

5. Myth: “I need to go live in an English-speaking country to become advanced”

I hear this from so many of my clients. And while an immersion in a different country is a fabulous way to become more fluent, it’s not the ONLY way to do so.

Plus, unfortunately, going to live in a different country right now, with Covid, is perhaps not a great option…

But the good news is you don’t really need to move to a new country to be immersed in a language and starting thinking directly in English.

I’ll tell you how in the next episode though!

And now, you know what’s blocking you, and you can feel reassured that it’s normal, and there is a solution!

So you’re one step closer to speaking better English and feeling more confident!

6. My question for you

I would love to know how you feel about this! Are you stuck on the intermediate plateau?

Let me know in the comments below!

Looking forward to reading your comments!

Video #2 is coming soon! Look for it on Thursday. It will have a concrete, step-by-step virtual immersion day plan, to help you start!

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