5 Common Mistakes Language Learners Make


You know that you need to learn a new language if you want to compete for better educational or business positions in 2020.

But the process is never easy, and there are 5 common mistakes learners make that get in the way of progress.

If you can stay dedicated and patient, and you’re open to making the right mistakes, you’ll have an easier time picking up a new language.

Throughout my initial years of learning Spanish, I fell victim to the wrong mistakes language learners make many times.

In this post, I’ll lay them out for you so you don’t make them, too!

1. Starting By Learning the Wrong Content

This one is obvious, and it’s part of what’s wrong with common core learning in education these days:

If you start by learning vocabulary and phrases that won’t help you right away or that don’t interest you, will you stick with it?  Furthermore, will you recall what you’ve learned if it’s not practical?

Start by building a vocabulary bank that will help you in immediate situations like social interactions or at work.  Mix in topics that interest you, like music or fashion, to stay motivated. On to the second of the common mistakes language learners make.

Another common mistake made by learners is to study a lot in 1 full day and the other six days of the week, do nothing. Of course, if you study more and more you will improve quickly. But many times we cram up till we are exhausted  and then forgetting to learn not even 10 minutes per  day. It is useless memorizing each words by heart. You cannot learn a language even if you study 10 hours per day for 3 months. Learning a foreign language is a constant and long process. Studying in a smart way is the key.

2. Equating Fluency with Perfection

Language learners who stress over perfect grammar when speaking tend to fear practicing and making mistakes. Each learner is different  Each person has different skills. There are some people  who learn very quickly and others who take more time.

But equating perfect language production with fluency is a mistake in itself.

In reality, the ability to communicate your ideas so that others understand you is far more indicative of your level of fluency.

Think of the last time a non-native speaker tried talking to you in your own language. Were you able to understand the intended meaning even if they didn’t conjugate the verbs or say each word correctly?

Chances are you could.

This leads us to the next common mistake language learners make.

3. Being Afraid to Make Mistakes

If you’re discouraged by your mistakes, or you’re afraid to make them in the first place, you’ll have a tough time improving.  This is because you need to attempt to produce the language if you want to receive feedback from other speakers.

The analogy about shooting a basketball helps explain it:

Sure, you can read all the books you want about how to shoot a basketball.

But the knowledge alone won’t help you if you never step into a gym and try it out.

The same goes for language learning.  Native speakers appreciate that you’re at least attempting to speak their language, so loosen up and let loose!

Plus, the muscles of your tongue and mouth need to warm up and get used to making certain sounds.  Think muscle memory-the same as with basketball.

Additionally, too many people make a lot of efforts in copying the native accent. Most of the time, it will sound very artificial and ridicolous.

Everybody has a different accent, even in their mothertongue. In particular, I found this bad habit widespread among US students: they want to sound “native” since the first class, but they do not have enough grammar basics. Don’t be in a hurry, you will get over there eventually.

Sometimes, we focus too much on the content of each sentences heard, leaving the native accent out.  The best way to learn is copying the native speakers.


4. Failing to Recognize How You Learn Best

Each language learner learns differently based on their learning style.

Some of us learn best visually, while others soak up information by reading it or acting it out. Try out different methods, or think back to the ways you prefer to digest content:

Do you enjoy reading blog posts, watching videos, or looking at graphics in your free time?

Then, apply this to your language learning.

Sometimes you can combine them. In my classes with children, we mix in a heavy amount of Total Physical Response (TPR) with the rest of the methods of learning.  This helps the students associate physical actions with the verbs and vocabulary.

Learning a new language also means being aware of the limitations we are going to have.  We will never get to speak like a native and there will always be expressions that we will not understand, as well as phonemes that we will never pronounce accurately.

Take some time to discover what works best for you! And now for the last of the common mistakes language learners make.

5. Giving Up Too Soon

You cannot learn a language if you are not constant. You learn some new words this week, then the next one you “don’t’ have time” for learning new vocabulary and revising the previous ones. You will forget everything quickly.

Learning a language, like learning any other skill, takes time.  You won’t pick it up overnight, so don’t beat yourself up when it doesn’t happen this way.

By staying dedicated to avoiding these common mistakes language learners make and consistent in your studies, you’ll notice incremental improvements.

And don’t forget to check back on where you were a few weeks or months ago.  Reviewing content is an effective way to see how far you’ve come and give yourself a motivational boost going forward!

Hopefully, your anxiety and fears of making mistakes have (at least somewhat) been alleviated here. The perfect way to start learning a new language is to just go for it — and we’d love to send you some material to help. Sign up for our FREE Spanish Survival Crash Course. Every day for six days, we’ll send learning guides and audio courses to your inbox, totally FREE.

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