The stigma of being "beginner" or "intermediate" language learner
We all have goals that we want to reach, and it can be very frustrating when we fall short. This is especially true in language learning when we want to reach fluency. But I just feel that we place too much stock on such categories of learners that we forget that language is constantly evolving and that we are all ultimately fallible. That we will forget words, will stumble, will speak slowly, will appear to be stuttering and feel stupid at times, even when we become fluent. Frankly, when I hear terms like the intermediate "wall" or "plateau", I feel discouraged and even pressured to get out of that "dreaded" stage because it feels like a sign of failure or lack of ability.
I don't perceive these categories as "stigma"; they are just indications of where I currently am in my studies. I can certainly move on, and that is my goal!
I've experienced "plateaus", and in my opinion, there is not much one can do about them. They are just a part of the learning process. In my experience, learning is not a linear process in which I constantly increase my knowledge and skills in a reliably linear way. There are phases in which I "seem" to stagnate, even lose skills, but I think that in the background, my mind is consolidating the stuff that I have learned so far.
That's why I have grown patient with me at these points. I read a little more stuff on the stage that I'm currently obviously consolidating, and I move further ahead when I feel ready for that again. It's not a race (at least not for me)!
Edit: I think it's also wise not to attribute any "failures" in utterances (missing words, stuttering) to one's capability of speaking the foreign language one is using. I'm doing some word-searching, err-hem, stuttering, restarting sentences in my native language, and this happens to everybody. It is the way we normally speak, without paying attention to it. Only when we speak our foreign language: Then we tend to think -- unfortunately -- that these imperfections are a sign of our lack of skills.
Thank you for putting to words how I feel in my Spanish studying.
I have been living in a Spanish country for more than a year, and am currently at a "conversational (with grade 5)" level and it has been a slow process for me. Each plateau however has only increased my skill level and prepared me for the next advancement. Right now, I believe I am about to take it to a new level. Great words of understanding. Many thanks for your insight.