Are you in The Intermediate Trap?

Are you stuck?

As a beginner in English you moved so fast, right?

An explosion of vocabulary every day.

Table. Bottle. I would like. Man. Floor. Hobby. Key.

You were like a sponge soaking up useful words almost effortlessly.

Even your grammar progressed at breakneck speed. You flew through ‘English grammar in Use‘ like there was no tomorrow.

‘Cool!’ you said to yourself, ‘At this rate I’ll be fluent in no time.’

All of a sudden you feel stuck. You always use the same old words and expressions. You can’t seem to get rid of your mistakes. It feels frustrating because you just don’t see any progress and you have that nagging feeling that you just aren’t communicating as well as you could be.

Where did it all go wrong?

The experience of your progress grinding to a halt is very common for students of English. Here I am going to explain the causes for  ‘The Intermediate Trap’.

1. People don’t correct you anymore

Once you reach intermediate level people stop correcting you. They understand what you are trying to say and are too polite to correct you. Or maybe their grammar is rusty and they don’t actually know how to correct you. Whatever the reason – people don’t correct you. So you end up reinforcing your mistakes, rather than eliminating them.

2. Advanced vocabulary is abstract, complex and infrequent

A word like ‘table’ is a doddle to learn. Why? Because we have plenty of opportunity to use the word. Tables are all around us – every day. Plus, you can translate it easily into your language. A table is a concrete, tangible concept. Easy.

On the other hand the language that you need to become advanced is less frequent. We don’t hear it all the time. So the opportunity to practice and reinforce the language is lower. Here are some examples of the type of advanced language I am talking about:

Sorry! I got the wrong end of the stick

We still need to iron out some issues.

I can’t believe those politicians always get away with it.

It just boils down to hard work.

This type of advanced language (which will make you fluent and natural) is more abstract and it’s harder to translate easily into your language. To make matters worse advanced, natural vocabulary is often made up of a verb and a preposition. Nightmare.

3. You don’t know what to do next so you lose motivation

At the beginning of your English journey it was crystal clear what you had to do to get to the next level. It was about understanding the structure of tenses in English and working out how to form questions. Your grammar book had clearly laid out exercises which you steadily worked through in order to reach intermediate level.

But now it seems unclear exactly what is required to move forward. You can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong with your English. You suspect it might be grammar so you try going over your grammar book again and you are reading in English as much as you can, which certainly helps, but you just can’t see that progress. That lack of progress is a serious motivation killer.

You don’t have to stay stuck.

The reality is that moving from intermediate to advanced is more challenging than other stages of your English journey. Scarily, a huge number of people stay in The Intermediate Trap for a very long time – even those who live in English speaking countries.  Many people never escape.

The good news is that with a little bit of effort and focus you can break free of The Intermediate Trap and before you know it you’ll be communicating naturally, accurately and confidently.

What can I do?

If you suspect that you are in The Intermediate Trap then don’t panic! There are loads of things you can do to escape the trap but there are three basic ingredients that are essential. To break The Intermediate Trap and make fast progress you need to do these three things everyday: a lot of speaking, receive error correction and study new vocabulary. You can read all about it here.