The learning plateau is probably a concept that doesn’t say much. However, we can assure you that everyone who has studied a foreign language has experienced this phenomenon in their lives. The plateau phase can be encountered in many fields, although the one we are interested in concerns
a problem that is easily experienced when learning languages other than one’s mother tongue. So what is the learning plateau, what are its causes and how do you deal with it?

Learning plateau – what is it?

It is a phenomenon generally found in psychology and refers to nothing more than a temporary lull in the learning process. This is a period during which, despite continuous studying and exposure to the language, it is easy to feel a lack of progress and the results remain at the same level. In short, the learning plateau can be referred to as a phase of great frustration. Experiencing the learning plateau stems from nothing more than our brain doing a progress analysis. This can be represented by a learning curve. At the beginning of studying, when we are constantly progressing in it, the curve rises upwards. Whereas at the moment, when progress in learning becomes less and less noticeable, the curve stops rising and takes on a constant value shown by the horizontal line – this is what the learning plateau is.

The causes, i.e. why this is happening to me

In the first instance, it is important to understand that experiencing the learning plateau is natural, and even professional translators have experienced this phenomenon at the time of their studies. It is worth realising that learning foreign languages is a long-term process that requires a lot of effort and the right attitude. The causes of a lull in the studying process can include fatigue, lack of adequate motivation, concentration problems and an inadequate amount of sleep. It is also worth noting how the learning process is carried out, e.g. whether it is unsystematic or whether there is
a change in the materials used to learn the language.

How to deal with stagnation?

As with stagnant in weight loss or exercises, the key to success is variety and a change in what you have been doing so far. It is important to analyse exactly how learning has been done up to this point and to start making changes.

• First of all, it is important to understand that learning a language should be approached with
a calm attitude, which will not focus on gaining a high level as quickly as possible but rather on being systematic, committed, and having set goals;
• It is advisable to avoid monotony and boredom, which are factors that exacerbate frustration. At the beginning of the learning process, well-chosen textbooks are indeed the best option, however over time they do not produce the desired results and become a de-motivating tool. It pays then to use materials such as foreign-language films, books in a different language, radio, and even newspapers or games. This introduces variety and allows to learn the vocabulary used by native speakers.
• Regardless of when the learning plateau is experienced, it is important to find sufficient motivation within oneself that will encourage one to continue studying. Without appropriate motivation, the frustration that affects learners is bound to get worse and the time put into the study will be lost.
• Discouragement is also often experienced by those who take private lessons. The key is to change the teacher to adapt the lessons to the students’ needs and abilities, so that they can avoid the learning plateau or help them out of it.

The learning plateau is not a unique phenomenon that few individuals encounter. This is a period in the life of almost every language learner. The most important thing is to realise that you are experiencing a phase of frustration, to make changes and to persevere back to the progression stage.

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