why my English level is not improving

Reasons why your English level is not improving

Do you feel stuck with your English level? Is your english not improving beyond a certain point? Have you measured your language proficiency and tested your English level with exams like IELTS or TOEFL. If not, then I recommend you do so because these English language tests are not just useful if you are planning to study or work abroad. These tests not only help you understand your english level, but also give a chance to improve your reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in english.

Knowing the english language is a skill you can acquire in a classroom or by taking courses on your own. However, you will find it difficult to improve if you don’t practice. In fact, it can easily become worse if you practice the wrong way.

Learning the grammar rules, most common words and basic phrases, is easy. But, using English proficiently is where things get difficult. 

Think of it this way. Anyone can learn to cook, right? Some things are simple, like pasta or an omelet, and some things require more advanced skills, like a soufflé or beef wellington. You’re still using your cooking skills, but you need to improve your knowledge and technique to master more difficult dishes. 

Most of all, you need to practice.

English is the same, you can learn to have an exchange with the waiter in a restaurant, but using English proficiently at your workplace can take years of practice and many failed attempts.

The problem is that most people get stuck at some point in the journey. 

You get to the point where you understand the rules and can communicate, but don’t feel that you speak english confidently. You get nervous in many situations, and hearing new expressions can leave you feeling a bit lost.

This is the number one issue I hear from most new clients. So let’s take a look at why you feel stuck, and how you can improve your English level. 

Reasons why your English level is not improving…

Reason 1: You study instead of practice

I’ve read dozens of recipes for making pizza dough in my home. I’ve researched different types of yeast and what seasonings to include or exclude and the best ways to mix the ingredients. 

But all that study didn’t help me make better pizza dough. Making more pizza dough is what helped me improve. 

The first thing most clients tell me in our trial session is that they want to improve their vocabulary. 

The first thing I tell them is they already have enough vocabulary. 

In fact, if you know the most common 1,000 word families (i.e. run, running, runner, and ran, are all in the same word family) in English you can understand 75% of English spoken in everyday life. 

If you’re reading this, I can tell you that a lack of vocabulary is not your problem. 

If you don’t believe me, take this English test and see if you already know more than 1,000 word families. 

My clients also tell me that they want to improve their grammar skills. I tell them they already understand what they need to know about grammar.

You have vocabulary and you have an understanding of grammar. It’s time to put down the books about English grammar and list of phrasal verbs, and practice using what you have. 

Your vocabulary will grow over time, but it’s not going to happen only by reading and studying new words, or useful expressions.

Reason 2: You still treat yourself as an English learner

Tell yourself right now, “I speak English.”

If you use English in your work, or can communicate in English when you travel. You are an English speaker.

Of course, we are always learning and improving. But you already command the basics of the language. You know the rules of grammar, pronunciation and sentence structure even if you struggle to put them together sometimes. 

Have you ever taken an English class and still felt like you haven’t improved after the course finished? I hear it all the time from my clients. 

Classes are for learners. In cooking, once you learn the basic knife skills, flavor combinations and food safety practices, it’s time to leave the classroom and go to the kitchen. There is a point where you cannot learn anything new from a class, and you have likely passed that point in your English level. 

Don’t waste your time and money on another English class. Learn something new using your English skills.

Reason 3: You’re practicing the same skills

Once you can make the perfect omelet, making 100 more omelets does not make you a better cook. You need to move on to more difficult dishes if you ever want to improve. 

If you speak with the same 3 clients every day in English, or you write the same emails each week, you are not going to improve your language skills. You’re in a comfort zone, and you’re not being challenged. 

Maybe you have all the English you need to navigate your work life. But if you want to improve yourself as an English speaker, you need to put yourself in new situations. 

Think about what interests you, or something you would like to learn more about, and look around your area or social media for a group related to that interest. Try a cooking class, programming class or design class, where the language of instruction is English. You may just impress yourself.

Reason 4: You don’t make the time to improve

Back when I was an English teacher, before I became an English language coach, I had a student who insisted he wanted to improve his English. 

He would have one class with me every week for 30 minutes.

Thirty minutes. Per week.

This may be enough for someone who works in between classes. But this class and the basic homework assignments were the only ways he studied. Those 30 minutes were the only time he spoke or read English during his life. 

If you only cook one meal per week, are you going to become a better cook?  

With any skill, if you want to improve, you need to put in the time. That doesn’t only mean dedicating a part of your week to practicing English. It means incorporating the language into your life as many ways as possible. 

If you struggle to motivate yourself, think back to why you want to improve your English level. Ask yourself what new opportunities you will have if you become good at english. 

My experience learning a second language

I learned Spanish in school as a young child until I was 16. I understood the basics, and could read and speak enough to survive when I traveled. But when I moved to Colombia in 2016, I found myself hilariously unprepared for real everyday communication. 

Surprising, right? 

Instead of going back to class I tried something different. I enrolled in a free course online about healthy eating. I didn’t just join for the information, I joined to give myself an opportunity to listen and use Spanish. 

It was one of the hardest courses I’ve ever taken. But at the end, I learned so many new things and advanced my ability to communicate. 

This wasn’t the only step on my path to stronger communication in my second language. Later, I found myself struggling during a business lunch. Each challenge led to new levels of understanding and growth. 

English is easy. It is a hard skill with clear (although often broken) rules and systems. The real challenge is applying those rules in order to communicate coherently. Once you know the basics, the only way to improve is to use English as much as possible. 

If you’re feeling stuck, and not sure where to start, join our free english speaking club online. You might have some trouble or small failures along the way. But every time you use English to communicate is another step on your journey to becoming a proficient English user.

Not sure if you’re ready to move forward with your English communication development? Let’s chat!