Get Weekly Language Tips That Work!

Receive study tips, resources, weekly challenges, helpful articles and inspiring success stories. Many students use our weekly newsletter as an essential part of their study routine.

Effective Language Learning: Some things to watch out for

Language learning plateaus

People inevitably encounter certain plateaus during their learning, when their progress seems to slow to a snail’s pace. It happens to everyone. 

This is a natural part of learning a language and has more to do with how language learning works than anything to do with you. 

The best fix is to simply power through it. Continue using input, trying to improve, and, most importantly, trust the process. You will progress, we promise.


Fossilisation is the process in which the learner acquires a specific form or way of speaking that is not native-like, and this error becomes stuck in the learner’s speech. 

This is different from ordinary mistakes that a learner makes, which can be corrected and will often fix themselves. 

Fossilised errors are often resistant to correction and the learner’s efforts to change. 

These arise when a learner repeatedly (and successfully, in terms of being understood) uses a certain form without being made aware that it is not native-like, to the point of hearing and using it so often it sounds natural and comes to mind easily.

Learn a new Language with LinguaLift

There are two general techniques for avoiding fossilised errors:

1. Try to be constantly aware of how words and forms are used around you. Focus on shifting your speech to more closely resemble how natives speak.

2. Ensure you have a source of feedback or correction. This can be a friend, tutor, family member, or language exchange partner. Make sure they understand that you would like your errors to be corrected. Most people will avoid correcting others’ speech to facilitate smooth conversation.

Summary of previous posts

These past posts will have given you lots more activities to try and principles to integrate into your learning. The key ideas are:

• Speak a lot if you are learning to communicate

• Read a lot, read widely

• Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

• Make your learning into a consistent habit

• Hunt down your weaknesses and focus on them with drills

• Remember the principle Difficulty + successful recall — there needs to be some mental struggle for effective learning to happen

Revision – Difficulty + successful recall 

When you encounter a something recently learned, the general stages are as follows:

1. Confusion/uncertainty — The learner finds something unclear when they first encounter it in their content.

2. Mental struggle — Mental effort is expended trying to recall a word or concept to use it. This is where the most powerful learning happens.

3. Insight — The mental effort pays off, and the learner successfully grasps meaning using their new knowledge.

4. Repetition — Each time the new word or concept is encountered it becomes easier.

Learning functions by the learner successfully recalling and applying words or concepts. 

Words or grammar will only become solidified once you use your new knowledge to extract meaning from your content and use the language yourself. 

Your brain will learn optimally when you encounter something difficult, work hard, and eventually succeed. This means there needs to be some kind of mental struggle involved in your learning.

To ensure your mental struggle results in learning, aim for just the right amount of difficulty — not too difficult that something presents an insurmountable barrier, but not so easy that you don’t learn anything new. 

To do this, make sure you encounter new words or forms quickly enough after you first learn them in isolation. If too much time passes, you’ll spend mental effort trying to recall something that is gone.

Try a free lesson with Lingualift today!

Free language Tips

Get your weekly dose of language learning tips by email

Receive our free e-book Language Learning Secrets