If you’re a Spanish speaker or learner, you may well follow my Blog en Español series. If you do, or even if you don’t but you’ve read this blog before, you probably know that I’m currently in the final throws of formal university study for Spanish. Phew. It’s been a long old journey. And you know what makes it harder?
The better you get at a language,
the harder it becomes to notice progress.
That sucks! I’m sure we’ve all felt this, right? The plateau of language learning. “Argh! I still feel like I have such a long way to go but am I ever going to get any better at this?!”. I feel your pain. It’s all because you’re unable to see the progress you make. I’ve been experimenting a little with ways to do just that. So today, I want to share some ways to keep making progress as an advanced language learner.
Record yourself regularly
Stepping away from whatever it is you’re using to study and recording yourself speaking the language may sound super obvious, but it becomes harder to do, I find, because you think that you’re doing alright so why the heck-a-roo would you need to speak to yourself? Put a reminder in your phone each week or each month and record yourself speaking directly into your phone. No-one has to know. Shh! Ignore it for a while but then check back on it a few months down the line and you might just be pleasantly surprised by how much you’ve improved in a short space of time. When I’ve learnt languages as part of the italki Language Challenge, I’ve taken to recording ‘before’ and ‘after’ (and sometimes during!) videos to document my progress. Watching the early ones back for each language are cringey, but a nice reminder of how much I’ve improved.
Set regular writing challenges
I feel like I’m cheating here. It’s basically the same tip but for writing. It’s often a forgotten skill, and granted, not always necessary for everyone. However, we’re talking about advanced learning here and if you’re at this level, you should really be rounding out every skill in my opinion. This is why I started Blog en Español, to practise my writing in Spanish and to share my progress with you. It was scary at first. I mean, I teach Spanish and use this blog to promote that fact! What if there’s mistakes?! But hey, even though I am at a level where I can teach Spanish comfortably, I’m still learning, and I always will be, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Which leads nicely to my next point.
Accept the boom period is over
Woah. Ok. This is probably a controversial one but there comes a time in language learning when you have to accept that the boom period is over. When you start learning a new language, especially if you’re a bit of a regular at it, the progress will come quickly and you’ll make leaps and bounds very soon, which is awesome. However, that will flatten out. You won’t plateau completely, and if you’re still actively learning then you definitely won’t, but just take comfort in the fact that the boom period is over and it’s ok to begin to make progress at a steadier rate. Don’t be so harsh on yourself.
Keep learning vocab
I’ll be totally honest with you. I get to a point learning a language when I stop learning new vocabulary. I know, I know! Terrible! But I’ve turned that around recently. With this Spanish course, I’ve actively kept learning new vocabulary and created my own Memrise course for new words I come across in the course. The thing is there will always be new words to learn in any language. Well, except for maybe Toki Pona. So you can always make progress. Hooray!
Revisit your favourite things
Having something that you’ve loved for a long time, as in since the early hazy days of learning the language in question, is a great way to check in periodically. As cliché as it may be, I do love a good Almódovar film, especially La Mala Educación. I wrote about the film for my Spanish A level and so it’s something I can watch every now and then, enjoy, and hopefully notice something new each time. I also wrote about Poeta en Nueva York by Lorca for A level, but everytime I open that book it lands on the ‘rio de oro’ page and I get Fairytale of New York stuck in my head. Plus it has 17 year old me scribbles of meaning and pretentious poetic interpretations so that’s not a great option. My other go to is Shakira. It’s always been something I’ve enjoyed listening to, but every now and then when I listen I’ll pick up something new, which is crazy but a great way to realise that I’m still making progress. Fistbump. Yeah!
Have you reached an advanced level in a language you’re learning? How do you keep making progress as an advanced language learner? Share your thoughts in the comments!