Feeling Stuck in Your English? Here’s Why & How to Get Unstuck.

Oct 23, 2019 | English Confidence and Fluency, How To Develop Skills

This lesson on How to Get Unstuck in English has been updated and was originally published in January 2017.

Have you ever felt stuck in English like this:

 

  • “I try to do something in English every day but nothing works, I can’t remember new words and I still feel stuck.”

  • “I’m so embarrassed that I can’t speak to my colleagues in English. I’ve studied for years but I’m still stuck.”

  • “I’m ashamed because I’ve spent so much time and money learning English, I even lived abroad in England for a year, but I still can speak fluently.”

​If you said yes, you’re not alone. These are all things my students have told me when they first started learning with me.

And truthfully, I’ve felt the same way in my second language — stuck, frustrated, embarrassed, even guilty.

So today I want to share 5 reasons you might be stuck in English and how to get UNSTUCK.

Plus, today’s lesson will help you stop feeling frustrated, embarrassed, ashamed and guilty — why guilty? Because maybe there are things you know you SHOULD be doing… but you’re not. And you feel guilty about that.

But you don’t have to.

Then, at the end, I’m going to share my favorite strategy for getting out of a rut.

5 ways to get unstuck in English.

Lesson by Annemarie

Stuck in English? Here Are 5 Ways Out.

Strategy 1: Drop the vocabulary app and the grammar book.

When we’re stuck, we always do the things that seem easy and comfortable to us, like getting a new grammar book or vocab app. 

👉But doing the same old things will keep you in the same old place. 

To get out of a rut, you’ve got to try something new, you have to challenge yourself. 

My students always hear me say, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” 

If you need some ideas for something NEW and CHALLENGING in English, I’ve got 2 recommendations: 

  1. My 5 Favorite Ways to Get Speaking Practice
  2. Check out the recommendations for students below.

Strategy 2: Get to step 2.

Step 1 is to make the decision to try something new — but are you really doing the work?

For example:

You decide you want to live a healthier life so you get a gym membership and fill your kitchen with healthy food but… you never go to the gym and you only eat pizza for lunch.

Will anything change? NO!

You’ve got to do the work. Step 1 is making the decision. Step 2 is doing it.

So ask yourself —  and be honest — are you really doing the work to help you accomplish your goal? Or did you stop at step 1?

When you’re honest about that question, two things happen:

  1. It removes the guilt you feel about NOT doing what you should do.
  2. It gives you the freedom to make the right choice going forward.

Strategy 3: Make the right choice for today. Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

Going from zero to 100 doesn’t always work.

If you’re struggling with doing something in English every day, then try 3 days a week.

And if that’s still not working, try this: Every Wednesday I share a new lesson.

Can you watch the new lesson and then (here’s the challenge part) take 2-3 minutes to summarize (out loud) what you learned? This is the speaking practice part, which is 100% necessary to improving your speaking skills. 

Start where you can. And let that be okay, because it is. And worry about tomorrow tomorrow. It’s a new day and an opportunity to make a new decision.

Strategy 4: Get professional help when you need it.

We all do from time to time. I’ve definitely needed professional help when I felt stuck. 

And that’s exactly why my students learn with me when they feel stuck in English.

A professional can help you avoid pain and embarrassment.

A good professional will know exactly what you need and will help you make quick, effective progress.

If English is important to you, invest in it and get a professional.

Strategy 5: Give yourself permission to accept what’s true.

Most of the time when I hear students say, “I want to be fluent but I can’t find time to study.”

“I can’t find a good teacher.”

“I can’t take a class right now.”

What they really mean is: I won’t. 

It’s not a priority for me right now.

And that is 100% ok! But you’ve got to be honest about it.

We find and make time for things that are important to us.

We find opportunities for things that are important.

If getting unstuck in English is important, you will find time and a way. 

And if it’s not, you won’t. 

Accept that. Remove the guilt. 

You’re in control of your choices and what’s important to you right now is perfectly fine. 

Bonus 1: How My Students Get Unstuck

Change that Negative Mindset

Daniela says:

I overcame the challenge of feeling stuck in English language thinking of ‘I am not stuck.”

There is a quote in American culture and it says: “Fake it before you make it.”

So think about you speaking English well instead of on what you don’t know yet. Nobody is perfect. How we work with our mind is the key!

The classes with Speak Confident English helped me to make the shift. Encouragement and support and also the desire for expressing my thoughts in English language. 

Do Your Chores in English (and Listen to Something Fun!)

Iryna says:

Since this summer, I developed a habit of not to do any housekeeping chore without listening to something in English.

Even though it is sounding as background, I always pick up something useful. I feel that I spend my time double efficiently because of that.

 I listen to YouTube videos. I prefer youtube channels about minimalism life style… [and] I have a list of sites with free podcasts and transcripts.

Here are some of Iryna’s recommendations for something interesting in English:

News in English https://www.newsinlevels.com

English in 10 Minutes https://englishin10minutes.com

The Whole Happy Life
https://www.youtube.com/user/wholeandhappy

Simple Happy Zen 
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5c3csRaQTw9ZnHge1mTw4A

Create a Regular Practice

Tanya says:

The most important thing is to practice regularly, just for 10 or 15 minutes but every day. I use every free minute to do something in English.

For example, I listen to different English podcasts every morning while I’m walking my dog.

I have a tradition to read something in English before I go to sleep. 

(Want some recommendations for reading? 📚 I’ve got a lesson on great books to read in English at every level.)

Combine Reading, Listening, and Speaking into a Cocktail

Olga says:

I can’t offer any new or original tip to make your speech more fluent and not to feel stuck – only practice! The more the better!

Reading is the best activity to boost vocabulary. Listening helps you to understand people and improve pronunciation.

And speaking transforms your theoretical knowledge into practice.

I’m sure if you get this “cocktail” every day even in little “portion” you’ll breakthrough. 🙂

Challenge Yourself

Emilia says:

After 5 months living in the US, I think practice every day has helped me.

If you don’t have a partner, read out loud to practice the pronunciation, you can also listen to podcasts and try to record yourself talking about what you understood.

It’s important to do activities that challenge yourself, for example, record yourself talking in English and then you can see what you need to improve if it is grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation!

Take a Class

Rafif says:

For me, I have noticed that I need to engage in a class to learn new things, what I mean by learning here is to get to know new vocabularies and grammar and to fix them in my memory.

After that, I need practice (speaking, listening, writing) to use what I have learned in a good way.

Binge Watch TV (Yeah! TV Is Good for You!)

Maria says:

 Well, my tip is – binge-watch as many series as you can, of course, if you have plenty of free time. 🙂

But do it without subtitles, because when you have subtitles you always try to read and follow them and that’s too easy and very bad for your eyes! So, try to get everything with the help of your ears and that way you will sharpen your listening skills plus you will get the real language, the one natives speak!

It’s what you need! And if you don’t know some words or don’t get some phrases, it’s ok, you can make a little break and try to find the words or phrases in your dictionary. In 80% of cases I find it, so will you!

There is a great chance you will remember the phrase, coz of all the concentration and desire you have to know what they are talking about in the movie!!

Michaela: At the very beginning, I decided to learn English because of music lyrics. Today I am still the biggest music fan 😉 and I am still learning new words from lyrics of songs I love. For me, it is like I don’t even learn, it is fun for me. And because new words I learned from lyrics are used in sentences, it is always easier to remember them. So, if I am not counting down Anne Marie Fowler’s fluency challenges, today, learning lyrics are the coolest way to learn something new for me.

Learn It and Use It

Anastacia says:

 There are a lot of tricks that I use when I feel stuck in English.

But I want to share my top tip. If you learn a new word, a new phrase or some grammar, you should use it the same day.

For example, maybe write a comment on Facebook or an email, tell your friend or relative about it. You should connect with this word, phrase or idea emotionally. It will stick to you very soon. And revise it a couple of days!!!

Teach Others What You Know
 
Reem says: 
 
I think teaching others [can help]. From what I have learned it is a good idea.
 
It will let you look for more and to communicate with native speakers so they can help you. And you can develop yourself if have the desire to do that.

Bonus 2: My Favorite Way to Get a Positive Boost When I Feel Stuck

In the video lesson, I shared my favorite way to get the positive energy I need when I feel stuck.

I (secretly) love dancing! 👯‍♀️💃

I find the best female-power dance song and get moving.

Want to listen to my favorite right now? 🎧

Try Lizzo’s “Good as Hell

Whew! Today’s lesson is full of info and resources!

There are 2 things I really want to know from you!

  1. What is your secret way to get a positive boost?
  2. If you feel stuck in English right now, what is 1 new thing you will do in English to challenge yourself and get unstuck?

As always, you can also ask questions or leave your feedback in the comments section below.

– Annemarie

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