Feeling Stuck in English? Break Through and Improve Your English with This 3-Step Process

Are you stuck in English? Do you get frustrated at not improving after countless hours, days, months, and years of English language study? Maybe you are a fantastic student who has done all the things for English textbooks. Maybe you have attended courses, hired a tutor, or currently spend a bit of time in English everyday.

But, nothing is more frustrating than not being able to USE what you just learned.

If this is you, then perhaps you have hit a plateau in English learning.

How do you break free and start improving your English again? That’s what we are going to talk about in this post.

How Do English Learners Learn a Term in English?

As an English language learner, you probably pick up expressions or vocabulary words from textbooks, lessons, or other “credible” sources for proper English. If you take English classes, then you study and exercise a collection of terms in various ways throughout the semester, take a test, and pass the class.

But do you actually use those terms in daily life? Do you hear them whenever you are listening to natural English spoken in movies, YouTube videos, and other media?

If you are feeling stuck in English, you are likely not using or hearing what you are studying.

How can we fix that? Let’s address a couple of things first

What’s the Problem with English Textbooks?

There’s one big problem with learning terms exclusively from structured learning that you’ve probably noticed—English speakers don’t always follow those patterns! Isn’t that frustrating?!

Though textbooks and structured learning are important, and they certainly have a place in your English language journey, they should not be your sole or even primary source of English language learning.

You should be learning the bulk of your English from natural English sources: blogs, YouTube videos, music, books, short stories, and other media. This ensures that you are getting a healthy dose of English as it is actually spoken.

Does that mean learning English grammar is a waste of your time? Not necessarily. Learn more in our article: Should I Learn English Grammar? Is It Worth My Time?

A Living Language

Guys, English changes just like your own language changes. Every generation adds new terms and leaves others behind. Grammar evolves with each generation to keep up.

Josh and I are native English speakers and teachers, but our nephews teach us new words, phrases, and grammar structures every month!

Moreover, people often intentionally mispronounce words, misspell words, make up words, and misuse words to express a specific meaning.

No, it’s not proper English, but that’s what you will be hearing in English-speaking countries. 

You won’t hear textbook-perfect English on the streets. You will hear people using English as a tool to express themselves.

So, follow a social media influencer, read English blog posts, and take in all the English media you can. Surround yourself with it. That’s the best way to learn a living language.

How Can I Study English without Getting Stuck?

To avoid getting stuck in the relentless cycle of studying terms only to forget them next week, you need to make observations from natural English sources, write those observations down, and share them with somebody.

Intermediate English learners should no longer rely solely on textbooks and vocabulary apps to practice English because they are not learning those terms from context.

Learning a term within its natural context is so much easier to remember than the other way around. Terms learned in context engage your ears, mind, and sight. 

More specifically, learning a term by observing it in its context means that you will know what it means, how to say it, and when to say it.

Make Observations

Watch YouTube videos, movies, the news, and TV series in English. Read blog posts, articles, and social media posts from native individuals who write in English. Listen to English news, podcasts, and music from English-speaking artists.

As you do so, note any terms, phrases, expressions, or grammar structures that catch your eye (or ear).

Take Notes

Make notes on your phone, computer, or notebook that include the term, what it meant in context, and whatever the context was.

Your notes should look something like this:

  • Word: gullywasher
  • Definition: a short, heavy rainstorm
  • Context: A homesteader on YouTube showing thunderstorm damage to his garden from that morning’s “gullywasher.”

If you do not take notes, then do not expect to remember natural English terms, spoken grammar, or expressions. Without taking notes, you will have to hear that same term in similar contexts multiple times.

But, if you do take notes, then you will know where something came from and how to use it in similar situations. Further, you can look it up and learn more specifics later.

You are far more likely to use a term that you observed and noted in a natural English speaking context because you know it is correct.

Share It

Now that you’ve made an observation and noted it, share it! Teach it to someone else.

You have just learned an interesting term, expression, or grammar structure from natural English. Share it with other English learners around you!

Family members, friends, classmates, coworkers, or even social media groups are all places you can share what you’ve just learned.

Perhaps whomever you share with will have further insights. Or maybe they really needed the help. Whoever you share your observation with will likely ask you questions that will help you to better understand the term yourself.

Even more, you are more likely to remember a term that you discuss with a friend. And you will pay even closer attention to your notes while observing English the next time.

Want to get in some listening practice on this topic? Check out our video on YouTube: Feeling Stuck in English? Break Through and Improve Your English!

Wrap Up

If you are feeling stuck in English language learning, it is likely because you are not learning English terms from the context in which they are naturally used. You can counter this by watching and reading natural English media, making observations, taking notes on those observations, and sharing your findings with someone else.

We found these steps particularly helpful for observing a language, engaging with it, remembering it, keeping each other accountable in our learning, and using terms relevant to context. We hope you do too!


I am the wife of the man I adore, the mother of two brilliant kids, an English teacher to many wonderful students, and a writer of helpful content for the world. On any given day, you can find me outside working with my hands or sitting in a comfy chair with coffee and my Bible. I love learning languages, creating handmade items, and teaching my kids.

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