How do you overcome the intermediate plateau?

What advice would you suggest to first time language learners for overcoming the intermediate plateau? This phase can seem interminable, particularly for languages like Mandarin.

On this week’s I’m Learning Mandarin podcast I talk to Andrew Methven who picked up Chinese while backpacking before self studying to interpreter level. We discuss overcoming the long intermediate plateau & how his Slow Chinese newsletter helps learners acquire low frequency vocab. Listen here: Cracking the Intermediate Plateau (Podcast) – I'm Learning Mandarin

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I am actually working on a Youtube video series about this. For me, the wikipedia method has been amazing. Because the content is so straightforward, and the complexity of the sentence constructions is both limited and perfectly pegged to the complexity of the content point, rather than the author’s experimental use of the language, it has enabled me to rack up a lot of reading time with native material faster than I would be able to with contrived, lower-intermediate designed material. I pick stuff I already have some background/context of, but am not an expert on, so I actually learn something (not about the language but the subject) with each article. It also keeps the lessons managabely sized. In general straightforward non-fiction about subjects you already know about and are interested in are best–stories can be great but require a lot more tailoring to your level, in my experience–but Wikipedia is even a level beyond that because the prose is so lean. Hope that helps


Good one.

I’m having this problem myself. I’m at the stage where the language has lost its novelty and now competes against podcast/shows/books in English. I think another problem is, once you’ve acquired most of the most frequent verbs/nouns, further vocab acquisition has a diminished return on your overall comprehension. I’m tempted to start outputting on Italki although I don’t think that’s solving the root of my problem. I have to keep searching for compelling input!


Good tip. Look forward to watching the YouTube series :slight_smile:

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Don’t tell me that if you do shows and movies really carefully (uploading of whole phrases to Anki, subtitles to lingQ etc.) it doesn’t give you tremendous language boost beyond B2. Well maybe we could talk about what B2 really is, but there is no way you get stuck at B1 forever, for instance, doing this. my German tutor told me I am somewhere around B1 and I have barely started with shows and they seem a great challenge still. I expect to get out of it as B2 + at least, possibly even touching C1 when I get really comfortable with all the German shows.

This is something I briefly wanted to mention. I like the idea of learning with TV shows but the problem with my target language is there just isn’t as much content that I’d watch (imagining if the equivalent target language show existed in English). That’s personal opinion of course :slight_smile: For you I’d recommend the website Immerse with Migaku, they have extensions for people who want to make flashcards quickly out of Netflix/Youtube shows. I wish I could apply your method. I’m mostly spending my dedicated studying time on Glossika but if you are already using Anki, I probably wouldn’t add Glossika too.

Good shout mate I haven’t dived into Wikipedia yet I might give that a go!

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Hi, RJDavies!

You have several options:

  • You could try audiobooks (Audible, etc.) in combination with Kindle, DRM-free, etc. e-books imported into LingQ.

Useful threads reg. the import of Kindle e-books / Audible files into LingQ:

At a B1 level, it´s probably better to stick to factual texts à la “Sapiens”.
From a B1-B2 / B2 level upwards, contemporary (popular) novels are also very helpful.

  • News websites (short articles, daily news, news in slow Greek, etc.).

  • Documentaries (with subtitles)

  • Podcasts (with scripts) aimed at intermediate learners à la DreamingSpanish (see also their channel on Youtube).

  • The Wikipedia approach mentioned by @BabyRuth

“further vocab acquisition has a diminished return on your overall comprehension.”
No. At the advanced levels (C1, C2, native speaker), the focus simply shifts more to discourse structures / collocations (word groups) and the topics themselves.

But, if you haven´t read more than 2-3 million words and listened more than 400-500 hours in your target language, you haven´t reached an advanced level. In other words, knowing the “most frequent verbs/nouns” is the beginning, not the end of your language learning journey :slight_smile:

Have a nice Sunday

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Hi Peter, thanks for your message :slight_smile: For Greek, there are a few Youtube channels which are starting to upload free covers of audiobooks which have been very helpful. Unfortunately there isn’t the breadth of content suitable for learning as there is for English, French, Spanish, German etc. That’s not to say there’s nothing, just not the sort of content that engages me enough to drag me from my native language. To be clear I mean content I can learn with I wouldn’t dare say there’s no interesting content period! I’m also talking about TV/Youtube, not books and other media in general (I quite like podcasts!). I agree with you that factual texts are easier to comprehend for low intermediates like myself (something which I wouldn’t have predicted going into this). My monolingual friends can’t believe that I find the news or podcasts on science/history much more comprehensible than sitcom/ soap opera TV shows. You made an interesting comment a while ago on another thread about comprehension which unfortunately got overlooked: how your language comprehension is linked to your knowledge of a subject. But that’s a bit off topic to my second post which not all languages have as much content (dependent on audience sizes/ economy etc). But I also think content becomes more compelling the more you understand it - so perhaps there’s something to be said there.



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Just as a quick note, you can use youglish in greek as a better youtube search bar for content with subtitles. Feel free to try, I don’t know, επιστήμη, ιστορία and whatever key word comes to your mind.
Honestly, I think there’s enough content in greek (books, audiobooks, yt, podcasts etc.) to at least learn the language 3 times over. But your point stands that in comparison, and restricting ourselves to the particular tastes of each one, it may not seem so at times.
To not flood this thread, and if you still want to, you can open a new one for recommendations for greek and I’ll try to chime in.

Till then, go watch survivor and hone your day-to-day greek skills!

(please don’t)

nb: if you want to have a chat in greek sometime, you have my discord id in my profile! (I’m way more active there than in the forums)

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Euxaristw polu! I’m trying to watch the classics like Eythxhsmenoi Mazi and Eisai to Tari Mou. You’ll have to guess what I wrote with my terrible Greeklish haha!

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Hi, Rob!

I agree with @rafarafa and you that the market for Greek is definitely smaller than for the more popular languages you mentioned.

I just did a Netflix search (Netflix) for series in Greek out of curiosity., and the search results were mostly a few series for kids. That’s really disappointing! But, hey, there’s Bear Grylls in Greek, too! :slight_smile:

In this case, I would use the Audible-Ebook-LingQ combo because it´s one of the most effective strategies to reach an advanced language level quickly.
Only after reaching a C1 level, I would use TV / YT content produced for Greek native speakers.

But I’m more the “Goggins type of learner” (“to grow you must suffer!”) and less the fun-seeking learner à la Master Steve :slight_smile:

Have a nice evening

That’s sort of deceiving because in Greece almost no movie is dubbed, except children shows, which of course makes perfect sense because the children can’t speak english. On the bright side, since most of the movies are in english, it is a good exercise for greek people and one of the causes that they score better in english proficiency tests, than let’s say France, Spain or Italy.

As a side note, Greek being a relative new language, with demotic being adopted for education in 1976 and the polytonic system replaced with monotonic in 1982 (and this is a huge deal when importing in lingQ; f.e. τῶν and των are different words), the truth is that there is no such thing as “classic” literature, and that most of the copyright free “classic” books are written in a mix of regionalisms, katharevousa and demotic that is simply too much for the learner.
I’ve shared, and I probably shouldn’t have, some texts of Papadiamantis that I know for a fact a native would struggle reading. They are roughly 100 years old… Then again, everyone and their dog uploads chapters of the bible in koine so yeah…
Roughly at that time in Europe, you had Hugo, Galdós, Dostoyevski, Dickens etc. and everyone of those can be read today by a(n educated) native of the respective language with relatively no trouble.
For greek you have to learn some sort of light dialect. Good luck!

If you really like to suffer come to learn greek. There’s literally dozens of us!

(it’s not that bad honestly)

Hi, rafarafa!

“If you really like to suffer come to learn greek. There’s literally dozens of us!”
Hey, that sounds great!
But so far Greek hasn’t been on my language radar.
The next language I want to learn is Modern Hebrew. But this choice has less to do with the language itself, and more with the Israeli culture and startup community I’m interested in.

Suffering without a “strong why” doesn’t make sense to me.
In other words, I need a good reason “why” I need to suffer. So suffering is never an end in itself. It’s just part of the journey of mastering challenging things that you find interesting, worthwhile, etc.

In short:
Learners who avoid discomfort almost never “master” challenging things. That´s all :slight_smile:

Have a nice day

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