By Dr Norman
Have you reached that point where you feel that your English isn’t improving any more or that improvement is very slow? Many intermediate, upper intermediate and advanced students often feel stuck. Just like you, their speech and writing has become automatic. Their pronunciation and grammar have each settled into a pattern with the same errors repeating themselves. This is what linguists refer to as “fossilizing”. Fossilizing, or getting stuck, can cause some students to lose motivation and even to give up.
The good news is that you can get past this point and improve your English. To do that, however, you need to change what you are currently doing. Let’s look at some really useful strategies that work and get back on track!
Start by thinking about where you are headed. Choose a ‘big’ goal. For instance, you may decide that you want to improve and go from an intermediate level to an upper intermediate level or an advanced level. Now be realistic about how long it will take to get there. It takes about 6 months of study to get from one level to the next.
Once you have a ‘big goal’ in mind, start thinking about exactly what you need to work on. Do you need to speak more clearly? Does your listening comprehension need work? Do you need to improve your grammar? This will give you your medium level goals.
Now break these medium level goals down to smaller achievable targets. Think about what you specifically need to work on. Think about your speech. What sounds do you need to work on? Think about your grammar. Do you make mistakes with your simple sentences or tense constructions? Then aim to work on these. If your simple sentence constructions are alright, then look at your complex sentences. Do you need to work on these? Think about your vocabulary. Do you have sufficient vocabulary for everyday activities and discussions or do you need to work on gaining more advanced vocabulary and phraseology?Once you have specific targets to achieve, you will be able to see the steps you need to take to reach your medium level goals and your ‘big’ goal. Now you can start to take control of your learning and improve your English.
Once you know where you are going, get organised. Seek out materials, activities and videos that can help you on your way. See my blog on improving your vocabulary for tips on how to select materials at the right level for optimal learning.
It is important to create a program of study, and it is important to be disciplined. Make sure that you set up a regular study time and that you stick to it! Get rid of any distractions and look at ways you can keep yourself on task.
It can be hard to know exactly what you need and to create a program of study on your own. Think about taking a course or getting a teacher or tutor to help you. It is important to get the right course and the right teacher so that you can be successful and make the most progress in the time you have. See my blog on choosing the right course. Also see my blog on choosing the right teacher. These will help you assess who and what you need. Remember, the more you study, the better your teacher and the better your course, the better your progress will be.
Finally, I suggest that you track your learning so that you can evaluate your progress. Start by honestly rating or describing your current level of English. As you work through your study program, re-evaluate your level of English and compare it to your ratings at the start. This will give you a chance to see your progress. You may find that you are improving in some areas but not in others. This will allow you to make useful adjustments or improvements to the program of study that you have organised for yourself.
By taking control of your learning and by working toward clear goals, you will improve your English!
4th April 2016