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The dreaded plateau

Imagine're learning English (or another language) and you feel like you're improving really quickly, perhaps even in leaps and bounds but then all of a sudden, one day you wake up and feel like you've forgotten everything and that you're incapable of forming a proper sentence? Well that, my friend, is what we call the plateau. Don't despair! It's actually a good thing, let me explain why. It means that your brain just needs some time to assimilate all the information you've been feeding it. So instead of studying more and stressing yourself out more and more, do the opposite...take a break...relax, maybe even don't study anything for a few weeks! Keep watching Netflix and listening to music and doing all those fun things in the language that you're learning, but give your brain a little rest from memorizing irregular verbs and the like. Now, I'm no neurologist, so I won't be explaining how your brain actually works to you, but I can tell you about my first experience with the dreaded language learning plateau.


I explained in this post what the beginnings of my Spanish learning journey looked like, so here's chapter 2:

When my first year at university in Madrid finished, I had hit this plateau, and was really quite frustrated. I was hanging out with Spaniards more than ever, following my friend's great advice, but all of a sudden I found myself making silly mistakes and for me, an extremely shy person, that just made me want to clam up and never speak again. So anyways, I went home for the summer and didn't really speak much Spanish for a few months, and I was in despair upon my return to Spain, thinking that after a few months I would have even more difficulty communicating, and to be honest with you, thinking that I'd never learn. To my utmost surprise, when I got back to Madrid, my Spanish magically seemed almost better that it had been before I left! As there is no magic to language learning, I owe this to the fact that I had just let my brain rest and stopped obsessing over speaking perfectly.


So there you have it, my first plateau. There were more, but none so frustrating as that first one. So, the next time you want to throw in the towel on your language learning, please don't! Pat yourself on the back and say congratulations to your brain for finally starting to assimilate everything you've been studying for the past few months, and celebrate by putting your feet up with some popcorn, your drink of choice and your favorite Netflix series.

  • Leaps and bounds: if something or someone grows or progresses in leaps and bounds or by leaps and bounds, they grow or progress very quickly.

  • To clam up: to close up like a clam (vongola/almeja) and refuse to talk.

  • To throw in the towel: to give up, to quit

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