The inevitable (?) plateau

General discussion about learning languages
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smallwhite
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby smallwhite » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:15 pm

Chris wrote:The inevitable (?) plateau
Self-assessments put me between A2/B1and I really want to...

I don't know if this is good news or bad news, but you're not at the plateau yet.
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby luke » Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:14 pm

smallwhite wrote:I don't know if this is good news or bad news, but you're not at the plateau yet.


Where is the plateau?
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby Tristano » Fri Mar 17, 2017 10:40 pm

Plateau is at B2 level. From there only disappointments. It doesn't matter if you can talk about medical stuff, you will just be in big difficulties if you have to explain very mundane things about objects and tools you have in your house. It doesn't matter how good you are in explaining history or phylosophy or physics. As soon as you have to explain very trivial things you start to sound like "the thing that does that other thing but not very right but the other thing is better. Maybe."

You can talk about advanced stuff yet a child 5 years old has a better grammar and vocabulary usage than you.

How to fix it? Close courses and methods and grammar books altogether. Start using the language. For years. Sometimes check what are the things you stuck the most and fix your weakest points.

Or start a new language or two or three and forget about the problem ;)
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby the1whoknocks » Fri Mar 17, 2017 11:55 pm

Jbean wrote: ...
What doesn't work for me; listening to music, watching movies or TV with English subtitles, watching TV without subtitles when I can't understand much spoken language, reviewing easy stuff when I should be struggling with something new.


Can't really speak to watching TV or movies, but for music you might enjoy an app like musixmatch. It can be used to identify unknown songs (that may or may not be playing on your phone) or display the lyrics for a song you may already be playing (on your phone) as they are being sung. It comes in handy on my phone and is a good combination with music apps like Spotify or Pandora when if I'm unable to pick out what's being said.
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby Cavesa » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:04 am

I agree that the usual plateau comes later, around the B2 level, sometimes earlier, sometimes later. This plateau is more likely caused by the end of the chosen resources. Duolingo is simply not gonna get anyone to the real plateau.

How to get to the plateau: Courses, start native input, grammar, vocabulary, workbooks, srs, anything. Usually, the plateau starts, when you are running out of resources. It is the moment courses stop holding your hand and congratulating you on getting through another unit. It is the moment you simply need to jump in the water and start swimming, despite being far from perfect and definitely not feeling ready for it all. It is the moment, at which most advice found on the internet (or said by teachers) becomes painfully irrelevant and useless.

How to get through the plateau: Lots of reading, lots of listening, ideally lots of practice of the active skills too (but that gets complicated in real life). Unlike some others, I totally don't think grammars and srs should be thrown away at this point. They just take a much smaller part of the whole, fill holes, and are approached from a different perspective, heavily influenced by all the input. And they help with the active skills a lot.

Most people stuck at the plateau are more or less doing the right stuff. They are just doing too little of it. They are reading, but they expect progress after a few dozen pages, or at the pace of two book chapters per week. They try listening, but expect to understand perfectly their first movie. And so on. And we tend to throw away grammars and courses too early, while we should revise weak points and strenghten the weak links in the chain. Many people are being held back by basic grammar they rushed through the first time.

But you don't need to get stressed about that yet. Grab some real courses and work on getting to the plateau.

A motivational bit: the plateau can be made much less scary and more fun than it seems. When you are able to read books you are interested in, watch tv series you will be finding fun, and communicate in Spanish, everything will feel different.
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby Tristano » Mon Mar 20, 2017 9:45 am

@Cavesa, I'm not try to suggest that grammar books are useless at b2 level. My point is that at that level working through advanced grammar features is much less added value than working on vocabulary and comprehension. At a certain point you discover that your vocabulary is so good but you have problems to get your message delivered because, for example, you didn't master the subjunctive. Then it's again grammar time :) but b2 is the kingdom of "I have a problem with my kitchen sink but I can't talk about it in the pub with my friends because I don't know the names of the parts".

But not with every language you want this level of detail. With Hebrew for example I am sure that I am more interested to talk about completely different things than in Dutch where I am very likely to talk with a plumber and we're I'm less likely to talk about camels and prophets :D
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby blaurebell » Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:25 am

Tristano wrote:b2 is the kingdom of "I have a problem with my kitchen sink but I can't talk about it in the pub with my friends because I don't know the names of the parts".


I can't talk about problems with my kitchen sink even in my native language ...! And if I have to call tech support I sound like a moron in German and that's although *I worked in tech support in Germany* :lol: Lost cause, I'm useless at pragmatic language usage in general, not just in my TLs. I think when you get to a point where people understand you when you ask for anything without knowing the words you're already far ahead of many native speakers when they pull a blank. I always get blank stares myself!

"The thing that you put in the ... you know .. the green stuff ..." Me talking about Zucchini in my native language :roll:
I have no problems having fairly convoluted discussions about philosophy, but interference is killing any semblance of eloquence with pragmatic usage in any language.
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby Cavesa » Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:46 pm

blaurebell wrote:
Tristano wrote:b2 is the kingdom of "I have a problem with my kitchen sink but I can't talk about it in the pub with my friends because I don't know the names of the parts".


I can't talk about problems with my kitchen sink even in my native language ...! And if I have to call tech support I sound like a moron in German and that's although *I worked in tech support in Germany* :lol: Lost cause, I'm useless at pragmatic language usage in general, not just in my TLs. I think when you get to a point where people understand you when you ask for anything without knowing the words you're already far ahead of many native speakers when they pull a blank. I always get blank stares myself!

"The thing that you put in the ... you know .. the green stuff ..." Me talking about Zucchini in my native language :roll:
I have no problems having fairly convoluted discussions about philosophy, but interference is killing any semblance of eloquence with pragmatic usage in any language.


Yes, what is your B2 level, Tristano, is my normal life :-D
Blaurebell, thanks. I am not the only one! It is sometimes weird, that I have to educate myself in some areas in the foreign languages more, than I am educated in them in my native language.

It is actually annoying, when people were assuming I was having a trouble with my French during my Erasmus, when I simply had no clue what the technical bit was called in any language, or that it existed and what it was (or wasn't) doing :-D

I am by no means saying tha one should focus on grammar and such stuff at the expense of vocabulary or native input. But I simply know how tempting it is , to simply give in to all the internet "advice" to just get rid of courses and have fun. I am just warning against such an extreme. I wish I hadn't fallen for such an illusion a few times myself in past, that's why I am mentioning it.
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby iguanamon » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:37 pm

The thing is, you don't need to talk about the kitchen sink until you do. That's the problem with most of us who aren't living in a TL country and are learning/have learned a language. To get to kitchen sink level vocabulary you have to have had experience with daily life problems in the language. Of course, when such a problem comes up circumlocution is your friend and you'll learn that vocabulary for that situation. You may be able to talk easily about a wide range of subjects, and then look like a fool because you don't know the word for "shoelaces" in your second language... part of the process for all of us. There's a whole world of infrequent vocabulary we don't need... until we need it.
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby Random Review » Mon Mar 20, 2017 3:43 pm

I can't remember who it was (I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it was Iguanamon, who tends to have good advice about these things having been down this road a few times; or perhaps it was Bakunin), but someone on HTLAL recommended using BUNFUN* (I'm sure they didn't use AJATT's terminology, but I'm going to, because I find it helpful) resources to fill in these kind of holes.
"Oh no, I don't know how to talk about parts of my kitchen sink and I really need to..." [walks out of the bookshop the next day with a DIY guide written by natives, for natives and one week later is posting in an online forum on the topic (and if living in the country has signed up for evening classes on DIY)]. Same for any subject area. I guess that's an important part of what the road from B2 to C1 is about (I say that as someone who has never finished that road: 2 years in Spain and even 3 months of virtual immersion just took my Spanish from a weak B2 to a strong B2: don't underestimate just how big the plateau can be if, like me, you don't change your approach drastically).

Another suggestion I remember reading is school books, I mean strip a native of his or her education and in many respects their level would only be B2 as well.

* BUNFUN = By Natives, For Natives.
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