A lot of people get to an intermediate level in English – and then stop. There are reasons for this, but it IS hard to continue making progress when your English is already good.
Here are three reasons why making extra progress is difficult – and some ideas for helping you to go from intermediate to advanced level.
Improvements are hard to see
When you first start learning English, everything you learn is new. If you study consistently, you’ll make progress very quickly.
But English isn’t like learning a software program. There aren’t endless new things to learn. For example, when you get to an intermediate level, you’ve already learnt most grammar rules. Instead, what you need to do is deepen and extend your knowledge and use of English grammar.
At an intermediate level it can be very difficult to see exactly where you’re making progress – and that can be demotivating. Why continue to study when you are always stuck at the same level?
But remember: you are making improvements (even small) that will help you on your journey to advanced level. Here are some of the ways you can see your progress:
– a greater passive vocabulary (you can read and understand faster)
– more fluency (you don’t need to stop and think each time you say something)
– better listening skills (especially if you listen to English regularly)
Your English is already good for most situations
When you speak and write well enough (even with a few errors) you don’t feel you need to continue studying. You can communicate, and that’s good enough. Goal achieved.
But what happens as a result is that the mistakes you make become “fossilised”. That is – they solidify in your brain, making it harder to correct them.
I see this all the time in people who speak very good English. They make the same mistakes again and again.
Remember: when you know what your typical mistakes are, you can work on correcting them. At intermediate level, you won’t have thousands of these, but correcting even a few will make an immediate difference to your English. Here are some things that you can probably focus on:
– Prepositions and verbs
– Gerund vs infinitive
– Simple vs continuous form
Your vocabulary is limited or “stuck”
When you’re at intermediate level, you can understand most things quite well – but you don’t use a range of expressions. Students often say:
“I always use the same words in English.”
“My vocabulary is stuck at basic level.”
Does this sound like you? It’s perhaps the biggest thing that stops you from getting to advanced level. Your English conversations sound boring or limited (to you) and you can’t express yourself as precisely as you can in your first language.
It’s frustrating and de-motivating, but there are things you can do. Read on for some ideas!
A direct path from intermediate to advanced level
The following ideas will help you get from intermediate to advanced – but you have to be strict with yourself. They all require effort, but if English is your goal, it won’t be too difficult!
Dedicate time consistently
10 minutes a day is good, though 20 minutes is better! Make it your best time of day as well, when you feel refreshed (just after you wake up) or relaxed (sitting in the park in your lunch break.)
Work on the mistakes
It’s worth investing 30 minutes or an hour of your time finding out what your mistakes are – and then trying to eliminate them one by one. Contact me if you want to find out where you can make the most impact on your English.
Use more native-speaker phrases and vocabulary
Reading helps you here – but make sure you also note down new words and phrases, and then find ways of using them.
For a quicker route to effortless conversations (where you don’t need to think and translate before you reply), learn “blocks” of English.
“Blocks” are entire phrases, collocations or phrasal verbs. The reason they’re useful is that you can “input” them into a conversation – and then just add the details for that conversation. They help you get more fluent (you don’t need to stop and translate) and more natural (they’re what native speakers actually say).
My speaking program Real English Conversations gives you 350+ of these phrases so you can speak easily and naturally in advanced conversations. You practise the phrases through simulated conversations, so you can say them at natural speed and increase your fluency.
Follow someone you admire
Actor, personality, singer… It doesn’t matter who the person is. But the benefit of following someone is that you hear their phrases and can copy their language style, accent or intonation. When you do this, you can be sure that your English will sound more native and more advanced!
Hi! I’m Clare, the founder of this site. My goal is to help you become more fluent in English – and get to an advanced level quickly!
My program Real English Conversations shows you the phrases you need to speak fluently and confidently – and it helps you expand your vocabulary. Check it out below!