Learning a language is never easy and language learning mistakes abound. To organize the process, many people go online and read articles on tools and resources to use, time management tricks to apply and positive habits to develop for better training.
That’s all well and fine, but why is it that so many language learners don’t finish this path? Why do they keep repeating the same language learning mistakes over and over until they eventually give up?
Once you decide to learn a second – or third, or even fourth – language, you should understand it’s going to be a challenge. But what can make the process even more challenging is your falling into common traps (read: language learning mistakes) that you could otherwise avoid.
What are these catastrophic errors standing between you and your goal? Here are seven of the worst language learning mistakes and how you can avoid them:
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1. You Set Unrealistic Goals
As the German proverb says, “Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen,” which means “Practice makes perfect.” One of the most common language learning mistakes of most students is they expect to master a target language at breakneck speed.
That’s where unachievable goals come up, followed by thinking of slow progress and desire to give up. But goal setting is the key to your learning success. Foreign language encourager Kris Broholm, reveals that there are several language learning mistakes that can come out of setting unrealistic goals.
He considers setting way too ambitious goals, too easy goals, no goals at all, and having no idea why you are learning the language as the core mistakes of most learners.
The process of language learning reminds one of a marathon rather than a sprint. So be persistent, take a critical look at what you want to achieve, and compare it to how fast you can do it. Train every day by taking little steps closer to your goal.
2. You Rely on Only One Learning Method
Language learning mistakes are more common when you rely on just one method of learning. But methods to learn a language are many.
Some prefer a listen-and-repeat technique, others choose grammar textbooks, and you might want to ask online tutors for help. All these approaches are fine, but it would be a big mistake to rely on only one.
When using multiple learning methods, you practice all communication skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) as well as see different concepts and shades of a target language.
Some language enthusiasts believe that spoken and written languages are different, and a learner should master them separately, which makes it logical to consider a combination of training methods.
Also, the variety can keep you from getting stuck: where textbooks don’t work, audio lessons or learning apps will save you.
3. You Don’t Speak
Developer behind EducationWithResults Mikhail Kotykhov, considers not speaking as number one of all language learning mistakes.
“I have met people who are learning the language for a couple of decades. They are doing vocabulary/grammar exercises regularly, and, yet, still unable to ask or answer a simple question in this language,” he says.
Content strategist of PlagiarismCheck Nancy Christinovich, agrees: “Speaking is the only way to become fluent. No matter how well you write, you need to speak a language if willing to use and improve it.”
It’s the stage where a fear of embarrassment rules and language learning mistakes are most obvious. You are afraid of mispronouncing words or making grammar mistakes while speaking, and you don’t want to look stupid in front of others.
This fear hinders all your endeavors. Memorizing tons of words and not being able to put them in practice – that’s not how language learning works. Speaking helps to see and correct mistakes before they become ingrained into your passive vocabulary; so the more you speak, the faster you learn.
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4. You Don’t Listen
Did you know that some linguistics schools believe language learning begins with silence? Just like babies learn to speak by hearing sounds, you need to practice listening to learn a foreign language: it helps to see patterns as well as reinforce your vocabulary and grammar and avoid language learning mistakes.
While all people use this communication skill in everyday life, many ignore listening when it comes to language learning. And how wrong they are! Music, movies, TV shows, and podcasts in a target language should become your best friends in learning. Listen, as often as possible.
5. You Don’t Adapt it to Yourself
“The teacher and the course book are a starting point, not an end-all. Don’t limit yourself to it, seek out things that interest you in your target language,” head organizer of Polyglot Gathering Judith Meyer, says.
Trying to acquire all four skills, – which is significant, by all means – you take a mechanical view of the process. Such an approach allows to learn the material but doesn’t help to feel a target language.
Follow your interests while learning a language to avoid making the same language learning mistakes over again. Do you like cooking? Learn native recipes. Do you need a language for work? Adapt it to your field.
Think outside the box: consider viral videos, funny memes, cartoons, video games, or Q&A websites to learn language patterns in your area of interests.
6. You Translate
“Too many students speak a foreign language translating directly from their native language with a lot of usage errors, and fail to adjust and improve it when discovering that a teacher or a native speaker use different expressions,” Greg Pringle writes in Quora’s thread on language learning.
Joel Dykstra adds: “It’s natural to want to translate, but most languages don’t say things in the same way as other languages; so while you might use some of the same words, the patterns are different and have to be learned.”
When learning a foreign language, make sure you understand its natural way to say this or that phrase. Listen to native speakers, don’t ignore their comments, and, as Greg suggests, “take advantage of foreign models rather than plowing ahead with own weird version of that language.” Language learning mistakes are only encouraged if you translate along the way.
7. You Think that Language Learning Mistakes Have to be Made
The wrong belief of many learners: the harder a language learning program is, the better. In other words, they equal complication and effectiveness, forcing themselves through strenuous courses and feeling like they’re investing efforts into learning. That’s wrong!
Sure, learning grammar constructions and language units are far from relaxing and drinking cocktails on a beach. And yet, it shouldn’t be dreadful and exhausting.
Switch textbooks, use authentic materials, consider alternative learning techniques, communicate with native speakers to practice a target language… You name it! Just don’t turn a learning process into torture.
“The more languages you know, the more you are human.” These words, attributed to Czech philosopher Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, inspire and motivate to learn languages down to the ground. So don’t allow the above language learning mistakes to mislead you in the colorful journey to cultures, countries and human nature.
Lesley Vos is a language teacher and professional web writer, contributing to publications on education, digital marketing, and self-development. Feel free to follow Lesley on Twitter to say hi and see more works of hers.