Am I making progress? This is the question you should ask yourself if you’re having burnout or second-guess yourself if it’s worth continuing. It’s normal to doubt yourself after learning the target language for so long especially if you’re not getting the result you desire.
I’m going to share with you 9 ways to know you’re making progress in your language learning. Some of them may seem insignificant so much that they can easily be overlooked but they are ‘progress’ after all.
Review Previous Lessons
I started learning Arabic in 2019. After finishing book 3 early this year I took a few weeks of break. Then, I started again with book 1.
To my surprise, I understand them a hundred percent. I haven’t finished all the lessons at the moment of writing, but so far it’s been amazing. Honestly, I didn’t expect this outcome because I was struggling with the other 2 books.
Some of the basic rules from book 1 that are also in the other books which I didn’t understand before suddenly become uncomplicated. I realized I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should.
Understand YouTube Comments
Back then, I used to skip those comments written in Spanish but now, I’m always looking forward to seeing them. The feeling of finally being able to understand them is surreal. As Thomas Fuller said
All things are difficult before they are easy
Spanish Dialogues In TV series
When I’m watching my favorite American series there are always scenes that involve Hispanic characters speaking in their native language. I often find myself repeating them until I fully understand. Sometimes it happens instantly but other times repetition is needed.
Same thing with the news. When my mom is watching the news in my room I’m somewhere there doing my work. Even when I didn’t actually see the news if I hear someone speaking in Spanish (usually international news) that alone is enough to perk up my ears.
The first thing I do is identify the accent while my brain is doing its job. Of course, I couldn’t catch all because they speak freaking fast but I get the gist.
Watch Series Without Subs
You can’t always rely on someone subbing all the series and movies you want to watch. What happened to me is I used to wait until someone subbed them and that can take weeks even months. Now, I don’t have to anymore.
Even though I don’t completely understand I’d have no problem summarizing if you ask me. This is one of the best indications. Once you realize you’ve achieved it, it does make a difference. All these efforts of yours so far have paid off.
Conversation With Natives
Speaking with natives hasn’t been an easy task. Fillers become your best friend while you’re racking your brain for the right words and conjugation. Sounds familiar?
In the beginning, there were a lot of blanks in my sentences but I filled them in with the correct words (thanks to the dictionary). The next time it went smoothly and that’s how I know. Of course, it doesn’t happen immediately because I have to keep practicing with the newly-learned vocab.
Something interesting happened though. There’s this one native I’ve been speaking to regularly before I spoke with the other natives. I unconsciously picked up his intonation of the word ‘pero’.
So, when I started with the others I used the same intonation and it startled me. That little change made me happy because I’ve been trying to have a Spanish-like accent and improve my intonation. Most natives said that I have a neutral accent. It isn’t bad, but having a native-like accent is the cherry on the top.
Check how many words you’ve learned in your language-learning apps. Putting aside the question of how many you can remember just the fact your vocabulary is growing is a sign you’re making progress. Those vocabs are just sitting idle in your brain until you decide to actively use them.
Some people don’t believe in online assessments. If you’re one of those and prefer to see it to believe it, this is it. Record yourself (video or audio) talking about whatever topics interest you. Naming them according to their topics makes it easier to find for future reference. You can do this in intervals.
Write down whatever you want to talk about regarding the chosen topic in .docx so the next time you want to talk about the same topic you can refer to that. Watch or listen to them again in a few months and see if there are any improvements.
Want to know if you’ve improved your pronunciation, accent, intonation, and reading speed? Pick any article in your target language and start reading. Come back at a later date and read again. Compare.
If you can spot your own mistakes and correct them, congrats! That’s the proof you’re looking for.
The ‘Confusing’ Notebook
Get yourself a notebook and call it the confusing notebook or whatever you want. The purpose is to write whatever confuses you be it the grammar rules, conjugations, sentence structures, etc. Make a note somewhere on the side or below why they cause you headaches.
Whenever you feel like you’re not making any progress open the book and try solving the puzzles. If you manage to figure out some, now you know that feeling is a false alarm.
Online Test Assessments
I’ve never taken this type of test. It wasn’t until February this year I decided to take it before starting my speaking practice with natives. After 5 years of learning Spanish, the result was B1.
That test only covered writing and listening so, unfortunately, it wasn’t complete. But it’s a good start to know where you are at in those areas.
I also tried another one at 123 Teach Me which tested four categories (vocabulary, listening, verbs, and grammar) and the result wasn’t bad. Taking these tests is good but the best judge is yourself. You know your own strengths and weaknesses.
There’s no roadmap that tells you where one level ends and another begins – Luca Lampariello
When I asked my language exchange partners how they know they are making progress, these are their answers.
- They can’t describe it because they just know. They can feel it.
- When they use words they didn’t use before. For example, using synonyms for their commonly used words.
- When they can communicate and understand more easily. For example, able to comprehend all the vocabulary that they hear in a conversation.
How about you? What are your signs? Share with us.