Did I Hit The Plateau Or Am I Just Lazy?

I think I improved a lot in my first year in China. My spoken Chinese is absolutely much better. In seven months I also got from failure to level 4 in Elementary-Intermediate HSK. But right now I don’t know how to improve, I don’t feel like studying and I spend my days more stressing about studying than actually doing it. Could it be this learning plateau?

When you are learning new stuff, there will come a time when you hit a plateau. At the plateau it feels like you’re not making any progress at all, no matter how hard you try. This can be a very frustrating experience, and unfortunately a lot of people give up learning and move on to something else –. But the plateau is not an end, it’s a natural phase of the learning process and you are in fact still making progress. (be an original)

One reason for the lack of motivation might be that I can survive in my daily life. I don’t know all the words but I can explain lots of things by using the vocabulary I have. I can talk with my Chinese boyfriend about numerous different topics. I can look at the menu in a restaurant and order food I know what they are. I don’t have to carry a dictionary with me when going to the local market. So maybe I’m just stuck with my level?

— it is also easy to become complacent in this stage, as basic communication is no longer a problem. At this level, what is not understood can usually be worked around or explained in Chinese. This stage can last for a long time, as pronunciation and tonal errors are slowly reduced, fluency is increased, and vocabulary is expanded.To make it to the next stage, a lot of hard work and self-criticism is necessary, as long as prolonged, intense exposure to Chinese. Everyday exposure is not enough. (sinosplice)

Now this sounds like me! And here my laziness comes to the equation as well. Just living in China isn’t enough to improve my Chinese from now on. For the next three or four years I will be attending formal teaching, but that still isn’t enough. On my spare time and especially on my holidays (right now!) I have to remember to study. But how to study when I totally feel like my motivation flew out of the window?

There’s a good topic on Chinese-Forums about the issue and they propose trying these things:

  • Read interesting Chinese websites/blogs
  • Write a blog in Chinese
  • Write a diary in Chinese by hand
  • Listen to Chinese podcasts while walking/exercising
  • Watch Chinese movies and TV-shows
  • Read easy Chinese books or comics

I think what I need now is something fun and interesting. I read two books from Chinese Breeze, they are meant for beginners and I truly enjoyed reading them. I have to find something similar when I go to the bookstore this week. I should also watch movies or TV-series in Chinese, but the difficulty of them still holds me back a little bit. I should just continue with 8090 which is a talk show about break ups! Language of that show is not too demanding and the topic is quite interesting.

I’m very good at planning things, but sometimes not as good doing them. I should keep in mind that next April I want to get the level 5 (old HSK) and in order to do so I have to study a lot more. Not just should and have to, but also want to.

Anyone else trying to beat the learning plateau?