Beginner, advanced and somewhere in between
Learning a foreign language is a demanding process and it can be easy to feel stuck at any stage. This may be at the beginning when you’ve just started, in the middle once you’ve mastered the basics or even much later on when you are approaching an advanced level of fluency. Sometimes these in-between stages can be challenging and disheartening, so it is important to always remind yourself how far you’ve come.
Maybe you mastered basic grammar a long time ago, but as things such as vocabulary and colloquialisms have improved, the parts you learned at the beginning have started to confuse you. In my case, I learned from this that it is OK to go back and revise simple things such as grammar and pronouns, as having focused on vocabulary improvement for so long it is only natural that you might slip on the basics.
Although being fully immersed in a language can be the best way to improve your comprehension and skills, it might also be frustrating when the language feels inescapable. When all you want is to hear your native tongue and have a conversation with someone without having to really strain your mind. It’s for this reason that in your free time you’ll probably be craving contact with your own language, maybe through reading or watching a film. There’s nothing wrong with this, but in my situation, I knew I was becoming lazy.
You might assume that living abroad is enough alone for you to progress to fluency. Of course, daily and consistent interaction with natives is one of the best ways of improving, but I realised I had sort of hit a wall. I knew enough to get by, but I wasn’t going the extra mile and using most of my free time to learn more. Language learning is a huge commitment, and if you don’t work hard to maintain it you can end up stuck at the same level, or worse, move backwards.
It’s inevitable that you’re going to need a break to relax with your own native language, but I now realise I had become too complacent and was no longer progressing as much as I would have liked. Since then, I’ve made more of an effort to read at least once a day and select options on Netflix in Spanish as opposed to English, allowing me to practise more skills which are equally important as speaking. I have some days when I feel like I’m really achieving advanced level and others when I feel more like a beginner, but I am now aiming to use this as motivation rather than an excuse for complacency.