Learning a language is a marathon.
You need to keep running. Motivation is key.
Plateaus can be really hard to get through.
When you start learning a new language, you begin with the basics. The most commonly used words. Unsurprisingly, you will encounter these words daily because casual conversations rarely use more than a few hundred different words.
Once you reach an intermediary level, newly learned words appear less frequently in daily conversations.
Eventually, the feedback loop between the acquisition of a new word and reencountering it in a conversation becomes too long to produce dopamine;
- Learning new words feels less immediately rewarding
- You feel like you're wasting your time or, worse, that you suck at learning
Also, memory is selective, akin to the evolution process: survival of the fittest. The statistical relevance of a newly acquired word is inversely proportional to the total number of words you know. Words deemed less relevant have a harder time reaching long-term memory.
Solution: the "see you in 6 months" mind trick
This is more a mind trick than an actual memorizing technique.
Every time you learn a new word, tell yourself: "Alright, new word, nice making your acquaintance. See you again in 6 months."
Staying motivated is about setting realistic expectations. By saying, "See you in 6 months", you acknowledge that it will take time for that new word to be part of your working vocabulary.
Why 6 months?
Feedback loop: 6 months from now, you should have encountered the word or concept a few times and given your brain enough time to process it to long-term memory.
Survival of the fittest: If you haven't reencountered it after 6 months, it probably wasn't that relevant to your daily reality. Maybe it will someday, but in the meantime, give yourself some slack and move on. There's so much to learn!