Learning a language is like climbing a mountain.
First, there’s the preparation: you load your language-learning backpack with tools for success, such as apps for learning English and a list of the easiest, most common English words.
As you begin your ascent, you learn specific vocabulary, such as restaurant and food words, and you tackle tough grammar topics, such as English verbs.
You’re well on your way to becoming an English master and reaching the peak of English fluency!
But then it happens: you reach a spot on the language-learning mountain where you don’t know how to improve your English any further.
You’ve lost the momentum you had in the beginning, and it seems that your old techniques aren’t working.
It’s official: you’ve left the Beginner’s Base Camp. Welcome to the “Intermediate Plateau.”
The “Intermediate Plateau” is defined as the stage in language learning where learners don’t feel they make as much progress as they did in the beginning stages.
This is partly because much of the language’s grammar has been learned. Sounds awesome, right? With all that grammar out of the way, you can focus on the fun part…
…and the hard part: learning a lot of English vocabulary and mastering advanced grammar topics.
Because of this, many learners become discouraged at the Intermediate Plateau, and some even give up learning English altogether.
But you’re not ready to give up, are you?
You just need some additional climbing gear! The key to overcoming the Intermediate Plateau is a structured learning regimen with fantastic resources, like the ones below.
Beat the Intermediate English Plateau: 15 Resources to Help You Ascend to the Peak!
Check out the top 15 intermediate English resources to get you off the Intermediate Plateau and back on track to reach the peak of English fluency!
Intermediate English Courses
Courses are one of the best ways to get a well-rounded regimen to improve your English. If you don’t know whether you want to improve your listening, speaking, reading, writing or grammar, try an English course! They target all of these skills at once and give you some great vocabulary to work with.
Perfectly Spoken has an online course that’s intended for B1 (early intermediate) English learners.
The strength of this course is that it’s made up of 60 video lessons. The videos are perfect for hearing English spoken at a native level, but the language is still easy enough to understand that it won’t be overwhelming for early intermediate learners. After each video, the lesson includes comprehension questions to check your understanding and reinforce the new material.
The course claims to teach 2,000 essential words for intermediate English learners, which is a great addition to the base vocabulary learned during the beginner stages. Lesson topics include grammar points, technology, films, books and media.
The best part is that this course is free upon signing up! That means you can use the course without spending a dime. For a fee, however, learners can access a business course and get one-on-one lessons with tutors.
FluentU is an app that’s available on the web and on your smartphone.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
The videos and audio clips include built-in subtitles in English that can be toggled on and off to help with understanding. You can click on any word in the subtitles to learn more about it and see it used in example sentences and additional videos.
Best of all, the content includes lessons that are specifically tailored to intermediate learners. There are nearly 2,000 lessons for intermediate learners alone, and each lesson includes comprehension exercises afterward to test your understanding. Better yet, you can add an unknown word to a flashcard deck for quick, on-the-go practice and review these words often to maximize vocabulary growth.
But wait, that’s not all from the FluentU team!
If you want to beat the intermediate English blues, then you need to add some variety to your English use. If you’re tired of using the same responses and learned phrases, then it’s time to take it up a notch (make it a bit harder).
For example, how many ways do you know how to say you’re welcome in English? Be sure to check out the video below and, while you’re at it, subscribe to the FluentU English channel. It’s packed full of great videos like the one below that showcase native English helping you overcome that intermediate stage!
Complete English Course: Intermediate Level
The “Complete English Course: Intermediate Level” is an online course that’s hosted on Udemy. Udemy is an online learning platform that offers high-quality courses to students worldwide without having to enroll in a university program. Udemy has courses for a wide range of subjects that are available for free or at various prices. Each course is taught by top industry professionals.
As such, for a pretty inexpensive price, you can take this English course. With four and a half hours of video, each lesson focuses on a different topic, ranging from grammar to vocabulary and from speaking to listening practice. Each lesson comes with practice questions in a downloadable PDF to check your understanding and practice new skills that have been introduced in the video.
The best part is that students can access the course either on the computer or on their mobile devices. Furthermore, a certificate of completion is available for those who finish the course.
BBC’s Online Intermediate Course
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is one of the leading media companies for teaching English. As such, it offers 30 in-depth units for intermediate English learners. Each unit includes five sessions, and each session includes activities that aid in building a particular skill or topic.
When you begin a session with the BBC’s online intermediate course, you’ll start with an audio file that breaks down the topic. There’s a corresponding transcript for learners to follow along. Subsequent activities include matching, fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions. All of these allow learners to build their skills in the given topic area and practice what they’ve learned.
Each unit focuses on building competencies such as grammar, vocabulary, speaking and listening skills, so learners get a well-rounded learning experience.
“English for Everyone: Level 3” Course and Practice Book
“English for Everyone: Level 3” is an intermediate course broken into two pieces. The first is a course book that introduces material in manageable chunks through cohesive and easy-to-follow units. The second is a practice book that contains a collection of exercises that correspond to the material taught in the course book.
Since this is the third level, this is thus the third book in the “English for Everyone” self-study series. While this book picks up where the second book left off, it can also be used as a stand-alone resource. It’s, however, recommended that you have a B1 (early intermediate) level in English before beginning this course.
The book provides a comprehensive course that includes speaking, pronunciation, reading, writing, vocabulary building and grammar explanations. Furthermore, there are over 700 exercises in the practice book. These exercises mirror the material in the course book.
Best of all, the material covered in the “English for Everyone” series corresponds to major English-language exams, such as the TOEFL. Plus, learners can access online listening exercises with the course’s corresponding app.
Intermediate English Grammar Resources
In addition to a general English course, intermediate learners should consider investing in a good grammar resource. Whether you’re looking for concise, clear explanations of advanced grammar topics or simply a place to practice, the following recommendations are a sure way to solidify your intermediate grammar knowledge and understanding.
“Practice Makes Perfect: Intermediate English Grammar for ESL Learners”
“Practice Makes Perfect” is a leading brand in language learning textbooks. They offer workbooks in dozens of languages, and they have quite a few for English learners. This textbook in particular exclusively focuses on grammar.
Primarily, it tackles most parts of speech, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives and conjunctions, and gives in-depth explanations as well as exercises to support learners in mastering grammar skills. This textbook also covers complex sentence structure and punctuation, which can be used for composing more advanced writing work, such as essays and reports.
In addition to an answer key, there are also flashcards to review main grammar points.
“English Grammar in Use”
“English Grammar in Use” is written by Raymond Murphy, a renowned language teacher and writer of ESL materials. At 390 pages, this grammar guide is as comprehensive as it gets at the intermediate level.
In short, this book covers all the grammar topics needed for the B1/B2 (early intermediate to high intermediate) level. As such, I would recommend this for learners looking to bring their skills to the C1 (fluent) level. While explanations in the book are concise and easy to understand, there are hundreds of practice exercises to perfect grammar, and thus communication, skills.
The same series also has an advanced grammar book for learners who have completed the intermediate level grammar guide.
British Council’s Intermediate Grammar Lessons
If you’re less into textbooks and prefer an online place to learn and practice intermediate grammar, look no further! These lessons are online offerings by the British Council, an international organization that specializes in promoting the learning of the English language.
These lessons correspond to the B1 and B2 (low to high intermediate) language learning level. Dozens of lessons cover intermediate English grammar topics, and each lesson details specific usage of a grammar point and includes one to two built-in practice exercises.
Lesson topics include gradable and non-gradable adjectives, the conditional mood, specific time words such as “since” and the differences between American and British English. If you want a more comprehensive regimen, the British Council also has an intermediate vocabulary course that perfectly complements their grammar offering.
Intermediate English Vocabulary Resources
It’s said that growing vocabulary is the hardest to do at the intermediate stage. With so many words to choose from, how do you know which ones are the most important? Check out these resources to steadily grow your vocabulary and populate your sentences with great words!
“Intermediate English Comprehension”
“Intermediate English Comprehension” is a textbook that focuses on learning intermediate English in context. Context is one of the best ways to learn vocabulary since it gives you real-life situations where you can use the words. Such situations move the words into your active vocabulary, which makes them easier to access when you actually want to use them.
The book contains 15 articles on topics such as science, travel, food and history. Each text includes comprehension questions, a glossary with definitions and a video link for listening comprehension. In fact, this book is most ideal for people looking for a less grammar-based approach who would rather improve their language through the immersion method.
After completing this textbook, there are several others in the series that are structured the same way to continue expanding your English vocabulary.
“English Short Stories for Intermediate Learners”
“English Short Stories for Intermediate Learners” is written by Olly Richards, an acclaimed polyglot and language-learning material developer. Rather than a conventional textbook, this book uses eight short stories to help learners grow their understanding and abilities in English.
Each chapter opens with a short story and is followed by a glossary, a summary, comprehension questions and answers. Authentic, everyday English is used as a basis for the stories, and the stories themselves revolve around so-called unconventional situations that learners will find relatable and interesting enough to make vocabulary learning fresh and fun.
The book also details a six-step strategy for effectively using the stories for study. This includes the best way to use the stories to grow your English vocabulary efficiently.
Woodward English is a website that includes extensive vocabulary lists for intermediate English learners. Each topic includes the most common words associated with it, and there are in-depth explanations of the words and their usage.
Some of the lessons include opportunities for learners to practice commonly confused words through written exercises.
Intermediate vocabulary topics include Earth Day, expressing opinions and the difference between the English verbs “lie” and “lay.”
7 Little Words
7 Little Words is a website and app for general students and English language learners alike. In fact, it’s a game that will grow your vocabulary while promoting fun at the same time.
The instructions are simple: there’s a list of seven clues, as well as blocks of letters underneath. For each clue, the player must tap the groups of letters to create the word that matches the definition. For example, the clue might be “a sweet, deep-fried dough” and you would tap on the letters “DO,” “NU” and “TS” to write “donuts.”
The best part is that you can start with the words you know and then use the leftover tiles to figure out what the new or unknown words might be.
Intermediate English Listening Practice Resources
An important aspect of learning intermediate English that often gets overlooked is listening practice. While learning grammar and vocabulary is important, don’t forget to actually listen to the language. But don’t just listen: listen actively so you can hone your understanding and thus improve your spoken English abilities.
This site offers lessons to specifically improve intermediate English listening skills. Each lesson on the site links to a video or audio file, and most of these lessons include transcripts.
After listening, there’s a short quiz to check your comprehension.
Some lessons even allow learners to adjust the speed of the audio. Topics for the lessons include holidays, historical figures, famous landmarks and recipes.
Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab
This website offers dozens of listening exercises for intermediate learners. Topics include school, work and home. Each lesson includes an audio clip and transcript, quite a cohesive listening strategy for learners. In fact, this ESL lab promotes a three-step listening process.
First, each listening lesson includes a pre-listening exercise. This pre-lesson exercise allows learners to predict what the text may be about and exposes them to new words or idioms used in the audio clip.
Next, learners listen to the audio and then complete a comprehension quiz. Afterward, each lesson offers post-listening activities that require learners to build on what they’ve listened to in English. Try doing these orally to maximize your listening and speaking practice!
Helena Daily English’s Listening Practice Video
Helena Daily English’s listening practice video is a YouTube video that’s nearly an hour long. The video features 14 listening lessons that focus on topics such as sleep, nuclear energy and sports. Each lesson includes clear English audio with on-screen transcripts.
Unknown words are highlighted in yellow, and then definitions of these words are given at the end of the lesson. While there are no actual comprehension exercises included with each lesson, I recommend doing an oral or written summary of each one in order to check your understanding and expand your listening skills, as well as your vocabulary.
In addition to this video, there are plenty of others on the Helena Daily English YouTube channel that you can use for more listening practice.
Whoa—your backpack is looking a little full there!
With all these new intermediate English resources, you’re ready to get back to scaling the English Learning Mountain and leave the Intermediate Plateau behind. Happy climbing, and watch out for that altitude sickness!