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Learning a new language is hard. It takes a lot of commitment, passion, and courage. Many people make an attempt or two, but never get past that initial “wow, learning a language looks so amazing!”. If you’ve gotten past the honeymoon stage of language learning, fantastic! If you haven’t (or, even if you have), make sure not to make a language learning mistake you can prevent.
Language learning mistake #1: not speaking the language
I know, I know – Language Learning Mistakes 101, right? Truth be told, I’m shy, even in English. So, when you add things like “my accent is terrible!” “am I saying this right?” and “they’re going to know I’m not a local”, may as well sew my mouth shut! Of course, there’s no way for you to learn a language if you don’t use it! Sorry, there is literally no way to get around this one.
If you’re planning on an immersion trip, I like to use Verbling to get in a little conversation practice before throwing myself into a foreign language. If you’re uncomfortable speaking a foreign language, you can use Verbling to start learning a foreign language from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Click here to learn more about this awesome resource.
Language learning mistake #2: thinking negatively
Point blank, take it easy on yourself. I’m going to tell you right now that there is no way you’re ever going to sound like a local. Unless you’re young enough to still be learning your own language, it’s not going to happen. So don’t worry! Locals don’t care! They love when you try to speak their language! Being negative is a HUGE language learning mistake. Remember what I said about imposing limits on yourself?
Language learning mistake #3: nose in the books
There is some very important information to be learned from a textbook. I’ve discussed this briefly already: depending on your specific language learning goals, you’ll need to attack it from different angles. If you’re like me and you study for fluency, a textbook is very important. It’s the best place to find grammar rules and all the vocabulary you could ever dream of. But even if this is your language learning method, you can’t learn everything in a textbook. This is my biggest language learning mistake. Again, it’s absolutely crucial that you actually speak your target language.
However! Don’t take this to mean to walk away from books forever! Reading books in your target language is so incredibly important when it comes to language learning. I’ve made it easy for you, and brought together a collection of books that are ridiculously helpful for language learners.
Language learning mistake #4: too much memorization
Like everything else, there is some memorization involved in language learning. That doesn’t mean, though, that your best bet is to sit at a desk for three hours flipping through flash cards – not only is this a major language learning mistake, but it’s just boring. Especially as you get into more advanced vocabulary, the best thing you could do is put what you’re learning into action. That is absolutely, 100%, no doubt about it the best way to learn those words. Find a language partner, sit down, and tell them what subject you want to talk about.
Language learning mistake #5: learning too fast
I started learning Spanish with the goal of a fluency level (based on the DELE fluency levels) every month. That worked really well for me…for about a month. Then I got stressed, then I got sick, and then it was a month later and I hadn’t been able to even look at any Spanish! Remember, it takes children several years to master their own language, and they still need to go to school to learn to speak properly. Don’t push yourself too hard or you’ll burn out. This language learning mistake will ruin any motivation for you to try again.