I don’t feel I am making any progress. What can I do?

This is what we call the ‘plateau effect’, which often happens in learning when the learner has reached a relatively advanced level. More advanced learners longer have to learn rapidly in order to respond to the challenges the language around them poses. When you were a beginner, every word you learnt made a big difference to your level of English. However, as a more advanced learner, you may find you have to learn many words before it really makes much difference to your ability to understand more or to express yourself better. This is because we quickly learn the basic words of a language that are used most frequently, but the more words we learn, the less common they are, which means they give less coverage of texts.


The graph to the above illustrates how this happens. For further information, see Tom Cobb’s article on the research behind his website from which this graph is taken.

Feeling you have reached a plateau is an indication that you need to set yourself new challenges or find a different way of studying. See: What is the best way to learn new words?