If you're an intermediate or advanced learner, you might have encountered a learning slump: Once you're comfortable with the basics of a language, it can be hard to feel like you're making enough progress. In fact, it's so common that language educators have a word for it—the intermediate plateau!

After establishing a solid foundation at the A1 and A2 levels, it can be challenging to know what to actually *do* with your study time.

Here are 5 reasons for your study slump and practical ideas to keep moving towards your language goal!

Reason 1: You need new, advanced goals to motivate you. 

If you want to improve your language skills, you need clear and specific goals… something more than just "I want to get better"! 😂

Think about what you want to be able to do with the language that you can’t do yet, and use that to your advantage.

Study session idea: 

  • Take a few minutes to write down a few very specific goals that focus on what you want to *do* in the language you're learning—for example, I want to use English to read and understand a news article about the economy or I want to use French to make a meal by following a recipe video. 

Reason 2: You’re using the same type of language for all situations.

You're probably very comfortable with certain tenses, phrases, and speaking styles, and maybe you use them across all contexts. A big part of leveling up your language skills is learning multiple ways to express the same idea, depending on your audience, goals, and the situation.

Practice expressing the same idea in different ways, in more and less formal language and with longer and shorter sentences.

Study session ideas:

  • Read or listen to something in your target language, and then try to summarize it in your own words. Need an idea to get started? Try summarizing a Duolingo Story or DuoRadio episode!
  • Listen to 2 very different speakers talk about the same topic to observe how native speakers change their language. For example, if you are interested in art history, find a TikTok about it and compare it with a professor’s more formal lecture on YouTube. Pay attention to the differences in the vocabulary and grammar! 
  • Pick a basic sentence and try to brainstorm as many different ways as possible to rewrite it with the same meaning. Here are a few examples of the same idea expressed in different ways:
      • Oscar and Bea are walking to the store right now.
      • At the moment, Oscar and Bea are on the way to the supermarket on foot.
      • Bea joined Oscar on his walk to the store, and they’re still on the way there.
      • Currently, Oscar is with Bea walking to the store.

Reason 3: You’re ready for more authentic materials.

If you feel stuck in a learning plateau, you might need to mix in more real-world materials into your study plan. This will give you a fresh challenge and help you experience the kind of language used by real speakers!

Use texts and audio not meant for learners to get more real-world practice.

Study session ideas:

  • Rewatch a TV show you love, this time in your target language. Try to listen for just one or two expressions that are completely new to you, and write them down in your notes! Don’t worry about understanding everything.
  • Listen to music in your target language, including by checking out Duolingo's Spotify playlists.
  • Replace something you already do in your first language with your target language, like watching sports, googling the answer to a basic question, or reading celebrity news.
  • Make a social media account where you only post and interact with target language users, like influencers, meme accounts, or reporters—whatever interests you!

Reason 4: People can already understand you.

This might not sound like a problem, but it can be a reason for a plateau! Since people can understand you even when your language has mistakes or awkward phrasing, it can be difficult to know what to work on!

To push past this (good!) problem, seek out more advanced language examples.

Study session ideas:

Listen to authentic materials in your target language and pay attention to connected speech (how words are linked together). Can you hear extra sounds in between words? Do you notice any casual pronunciations that sound different from more formal (or beginner) pronunciations? 

Listen for the different intonation patterns of the language. There might be different rhythms and patterns for questions, statements, narrating events, and so on—and it varies from language to language. After listening to a particular intonation, repeat it several times and try to hum along with the rhythm. Don’t worry about the specific words at first, and just focus on when it gets louder and quieter.

Reason 5: You need to focus on speaking and writing.

Many learners improve their reading and listening faster than speaking and writing. Make sure to spend time specifically on speaking and writing so they don't fall behind!

Find or create as many opportunities as possible to speak and write in the language.

Study session ideas:

  • Keep a daily journal in your target language. It can even be on your phone. Download the keyboard for the language to complete the experience!
  • Keep an audio daily journal! Instead of writing, record yourself speaking for a few minutes about your day.
  • If you’re driving somewhere, narrate everything you see out loud (like a sports commentator!).

You have what it takes!

Reaching a language plateau marks an important and exciting phase in your progress—now you can customize your learning to fit your exact goals and needs! Take control of your learning and you'll soon pull yourself out of your slump. 💪