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Why you don't improve in English 📉

Have you ever felt like you're walking but not moving forward?


Like you speak a language at an intermediate level but are not getting better?


You are not alone.


Let's dive into why you don't improve in English as an intermediate learner and what we can do about it.


When we start, we learn quickly. New words and phrases come to us like gifts every day. Our skills grow fast.


But then, something happens.


We hit a wall. We enter what I like to call the 'intermediate plateau'.


This is where many learners find themselves stuck.

English intermediate plateau

Why does this happen?


Let's break it down.


In the beginning, improvement is fast. Everything is fresh and easy to pick up. There is a lot to learn, and learning comes easily.


Progress slows down when we reach the intermediate level.


By this time, we can do a lot with the language already. So, we often stop learning with passion.


Also, because we already know the most common vocabulary, it's harder to find the less common words around.


As a result, the effort to improve must go up: You have to dedicate more time to studying, more time to practising and generally learn harder.


It basically becomes like work.


Sounds familiar?


Because of this, learners end up in what we can call the 'comfortable' zone of learning.

No progress in English

In the comfort zone, you make 0 progress because it's not hard enough for you to make adaptations.


It's like exercising. If you always lift the same comfortable weight, your muscles will have no motivation to grow.


I've had many clients behaving this way.


They have busy lives and don't want English to feel like work.


So whenever they read anything in the target language, they're distracted and don't focus.


Whenever they watch a film or video, they don't really listen.


Whenever they find a new word, they don't notice it and don't write it down.


On the other hand, some people push too hard.


These people want fast results and go all in from day one.


They start books, applications, movies, podcasts and other activities but very soon they burn out and give up.


So, what is the solution to this?


Well, that's a good question.


And as my granny used to say, the truth is often in the middle.


Or better, slightly beyond the middle in this case.


What we should aim for is the "Sweet Spot"


A little beyond comfortable but not too hard.


As I often say to my clients, the sweet spot should feel a little like work, but not so much.


Let's see three tips to help you find your sweet spot:


Challenge Yourself

Pick activities that are a little harder than what you're doing now.


For example:


  • Watching TV series passively? ➡️ Start taking notes of 5 new words or expressions.

  • Watching videos one time only? ➡️ Start watching the same video twice.

  • Listening to podcasts passively? ➡️ Choose a podcast that has transcripts and read the transcript after listening to it.


Mix It Up


Many of my clients only do the same activity. And then wonder why they don't improve.


For example, are you watching TV series only?


The best thing you can do in that case is to start creating language as well, not just passively consuming it.


As a suggestion, start writing a short daily diary in your target language.


It doesn't have to be too long, just add a few prompts to help you get started. Here's a template I often use with my clients:


  • Today I...

  • Tomorrow I want to...

  • I feel...


When you write the diary, try to use the new words you've discovered during the week.


Find New Material


If you always do the same stuff, your brain will get used to it and become comfortable.


When you find yourself in this situation, try to look for different resources to learn from.


For example, don't be afraid of changing the book you're reading or the TV series you're watching before it ends.


It's much more important that you give your brain new stimulus than to finish anything.




Remember that we need to keep moving out of the 'comfortable' zone and aim for the 'sweet spot'.


Where learning starts feeling like work but doesn't overwhelm us.


That's where true learning happens!


So, don't be discouraged if you feel stuck.


It's just a sign to change how you learn.


Push yourself a little more, and soon, you'll see the progress again.


Until next time, keep finding your sweet spot, and don't be too comfortable.


Yours truly,



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