This chapter marks the end of the advice tailored towards beginners. From here, I provide more frameworks to help intermediate learners choose better study activities and progress more effectively. If you’ve gotten this far and have yet to begin your journey, I recommend you stop here and begin studying. There is nothing here that will change how you should approach your learning as a beginner.
How your study changes
As you might recall from the paragraph on CEFR levels, the intermediate stage is roughly the point where the learner can function in a conversation with native speakers, even if they need to speak slowly and simply. During this stage, the learner largely ceases to follow a structured syllabus. Learning becomes more self-directed based on your goals.
The study routine of an intermediate learner is quite different to that of a beginner:
There is less structured learning of grammar
Writing and speaking will start to feature much more prominently
Choosing what to study next is your choice
A lot of interesting content opens up as understanding increases
Learning becomes more goal-directed
Nearly everything you do will be centred around content. There is a huge amount of nuance to grammar and vocabulary usage, so the only way to properly absorb it all is with content.
Narrow your learning
If you have a specific context you want to be highly competent in, such as work or family, your choice of input and vocabulary can differ from a more evenly balanced approach. Narrowing your learning allows you to effectively reach a higher level much faster and can be more enjoyable. Start by tailoring the resources you use and using content that aligns with the contexts you need the language for. For example, if you want to learn for business purposes, interviews (podcasts or videos) of experts and articles in business publications are more useful. Your goal may emphasise certain skills, and this same idea applies. For example, if you want to be able to communicate with ordinary people in public, you should utilise audio resources and speaking practice more.
The intermediate stages also mark the point in which you will begin to feel like your progress is slowing down, a phenomenon commonly referred to as the intermediate plateau. This is a natural part of your learning, and leads us to the next principle I want to share with you:
Principle: Trust the process
A common learner complaint is that learning seems to slow down at a certain point. This can lead to frustration at an apparent lack of progress. These natural plateaus will occur often in your learning. It is a natural part of learning a language and happens to everyone. Plateaus have more to do with how language learning works than your technique. The best fix is to simply power through it. Continue using input, challenge yourself to improve, and, most importantly, trust the process. You will progress, I promise.
There is no point where your learning will appear to pick back up to the pace you experienced as a beginner, though you can continue to tangibly improve with good application of the advice here. To help you through this stage, the next chapter will discuss the kinds of exercises you can do and how to choose between them.