Yes, I know it. I’ve been there many times. You’ve been learning English for a long time, you’ve reached the intermediate, upper-intermediate, or even advanced level of English. And all of sudden you don’t feel that you’re making progress.
You don’t feel like your learning is giving you any results. You feel stuck and unhappy. The situation brings you a lack of motivation. Nothing motivates as much as results. It looks hopeless. So, what do you do if you don’t see progress?
For sure, like me, you read many articles about not giving up, staying on track, and moving forward. You look for encouraging quotes, pictures, and solutions. And still, none of that has helped you. You just don’t feel like learning if you don’t see results. They say that it happens to everybody. They tell you to not give up, to be persistent and to wait. Many times, you heard that it is not a sprint but a marathon. But what to do if you are still not ready to run a marathon?
I’ve been there. And I am a little bit wiser today. I’m still strongly motivated to learn. And you know what? I like it more and more. I’ll tell you my secrets. Yeah, secrets, because to reach this you gotta be ready for many things. The most important thing is to change your attitude towards English. You can’t just learn it, you have to live and love it.
1. Finding Your WHY
Do you remember why you started to learn English? What was so important that made you start on the difficult path? It’s really important to remember it every time you feel you’re about to give up.
I started because I was ashamed… It looked like everybody knew English or another foreign language. I was in such circumstances where many people talked about knowing it. Finally, it turned out that that was untrue!. Anyway, that was good for me just because it made me take the challenge and start to learn English. My WHY changed.
When I reached a certain level and gained more self-confidence I noticed that there was nothing to be ashamed of. It was the time when I wanted to learn for my work, for traveling, but suddenly, my English opened me up to the best opportunity it gives: meeting and connecting with other wonderful people from all over the world.
Now my WHY is this: having friends all around the world. And that is darn good motivation to learn! I hope you feel something similar.
2. Enjoying the Process
When I discovered my deep WHY, it turned out that there was no need to be in hurry anymore. Talking to others drove my development. Long conversations increased my vocabulary, speaking and writing skills. My improvement happened by itself. I didn’t need to memorize difficult vocabulary, and to write long and artificial essays.
Talking to various people, exchanging our thoughts and points of view, finding out their value and experiences are, firstly, priceless and a value in itself. And secondly, it is an amazing tool for learning, not only English, but life. There are various ways to enjoy the process. I found out that for me, the best solution is connecting to other people. You may find that reading books or watching movies/series are better for you.
I remember when I read my first English book. I was so proud of myself, it was such a powerful experience! Besides the fact that reading is great (you come across an unknown world every time you’re opening a book), it increases your vocabulary, lets you discover grammar rules and teaches you how to be good with words.
It is similar to watching series or movies in English. I believe, when you reach the upper-intermediate level, you’re able to watch them without subtitles. I know you may not understand 100% (I am happy if I understand 80%). It’s all good! You have to challenge your brain.
Watching movies exposes you to common, informal language (unless it is a series about lawyers, doctors and so on 😉 and compelling suspense gives you an additional pleasure. You enjoy the twisted fate of the characters not even noticing that you’re learning English.
Right now you are probably saying: “OK, I enjoyed the process – I’ve done it the entire time so far… I found my WHY, at last, I started learning – it had to be for some reason…. But I want to know English in the real world! Here and now! …and I am tired of learning it”
All that I can say is it’s because you can’t just see your progress. Now, I’ll tell you what I do to see the progress and stay on the right track.
3. The Support Group
Nothing helps as much as people who understand you, your situation, your feelings, who go through the same experience. I found such people. In my opinion, the best benefit that I have received from purchasing the Fluent with Friends course has been an access to the Fluency Circle group.
The group is made up by people from every corner of the world who are learning English. That is the place where you may share your concerns and fears, where you may always count on somebody’s support. People share their opinions, experiences, and deep thoughts there. Due to the participation in the group, I gained self-confidence. It is also a very social place. Interactions with others keep me on the right track.
I’ll tell you my secret: there is no reason to learn English if you don’t want to actually speak it and interact with other people. Honestly, you just waste your time if you don’t use your skills for connecting with others.
The whole talking about enjoying the process, watching movies, reading books… what is it for? Those are just empty skills if you don’t use it – there is no chance they can keep you on your English path. So find people who you can talk to and use the language for what it exists for: Communicating.
4. Making Friends in English
When you find the support group like the one I talked about above, it’s highly possible you will find new awesome, valuable friends. And this is the shortest way to keeping you motivated. When you have friends who you can connect with only thanks to the English language, there is no learning anymore. It’s only living and loving the language.
I’m so grateful to all the people I’ve met and who have become my sincere friends. Since I have met them, the previous pain and struggle of learning have disappeared.
5. Someone Reliable
We improve ourselves only when we are active. But sometimes it’s very difficult to be active all the time. We find many excuses for why we can’t just read the paragraph, sing the song, watch the movie… yes, yes, we are tired, busy, there are meetings, children, partners waiting for us… we are the masters of creating excuses for not doing something.
The solution is finding a learning partner who shares the same interests as you. If you like singing, ask someone to sing with you – record a song together. If you like watching movies, but you can’t find the right time for this, ask someone to watch it too, and plan a meetup to talk about the movie.
If you have a partner and you feel responsible for them, you can’t betray someone’s trust. So, you want to do everything to get the job done!
6. Challenge Yourself
As I said, results motivate the most. I can really hear your question now: “Agnieszka, how can I obtain the results? I’ve been working for so long and there are none.”
Let me explain. Do you exercise? So maybe you know that after a while of doing the same exercises our body gets used to the moves. Your body still exercises, but the workout doesn’t bring results anymore. It’s the time to increase the strain, challenging yourself.
The problem is we are naturally lazy, we like our cozy shells. For sure, you heard about leaving your comfort zone… yeah.. it sounds tough, but it’s worth the effort.
For me, a very good solution was the 30-day challenge, which relies on your commitment to do something for 30 days. I took many challenges: starting from reading a few pages of a book, through recording myself every day, and even doing tongue twisters every day for 30 days. The method not only helped me try something new, but also built my persistence. I truly recommend it.
7. Finding Something New
You may feel that raising the game is not for you. Sometimes we are tired of the same methods, repetition, and learning becomes dull. We lose the joy and freshness of getting to know something new. That’s discouraging, isn’t it? If that’s the case, then it’s high time to try something new!
I am a person who gets bored quickly. And being bored is a very demotivating state. I like when tasks change, when they are colorful, interesting and still new. To stay on track, I immediately look for new ways of learning as soon as I feel tired with the current ones.
Luckily, there are so many awesome and interesting things to do to improve your language! You may run a YouTube channel, write letters to strangers, get to know new people, challenge yourself, lead a discussion club, call unknown people, sing songs, translate songs… there are so many ways! The sky’s the limit. Writing articles is one of my methods.
It sounds ridiculous, right? Like a rebel. Comparing is the best way to see your progress. So, correlate your current self with the one from a few months ago. How? Return to articles or books you read before, call a friend you haven’t talked to for a long time, re-watch a movie, re-listen to a podcast you listened to some time ago. You will be surprised how much more you understand right now, and how easily it comes to you.
A year ago I was advised to listen to the podcast “Serial”. That was very difficult for me. I understood almost nothing and gave up. A few days ago I got a recommendation from Stitcher to listen to it. I thought: why not give it a try? I was very happy when I was able to understand 70-80% of what I listened to! Remember that good results motivate the most.
Yes… I should have mentioned this before, like the second or third step. Habits strongly keep us motivated. Anyway, it matches in this place. I mentioned comparing yourself to yourself. You need a proper way.
So, do journaling, write a diary, run a vlog, make recordings as often as you can. Try to make a habit of doing it every day. That not only improves yourself and your English but also lets you collect stuff for comparing.
After a while, when you return to past days you will see your progress. We tend to use words which we know. In the beginning, my writing texts were simple and poor (not to mention with many mistakes!). But with passing time, I’ve built my vocabulary, I’ve learned some grammar rules, my writing skills improved… hence the article.
I hope you had fun reading the text. Fingers crossed for you being motivated.
If you looking for more ways to make your English a life-changing global adventure, download a free copy of the RealLife English Manifesto: A Master Guide to RealLife Fluency and start living your English today!
Also, if you liked this article, you will love 13 Tips for Lifelong English Fluency.