1) They Think Learning Can Be Effortless
Sorry to disappoint you, dear beginners. Regardless of the promises that your new course or book has made, there’s no such thing as effortless learning. If only we could just sleep with a book under our pillows and have the information enter our brains by osmosis (I tried – it didn’t work).
Language is a skill like any other, so you’ll have to put some effort into learning it. This, however, doesn’t mean studying will be a struggle. The key is to find a method that you enjoy and that works best for your learning style.
2) They Don’t Have Time
Okay, so you’ve made a big decision to learn Greek. You start to follow your learning plan for an hour a day, 10 days in a row – but then, life hits you. Extra assignments at work, grocery shopping, taking the car to the garage, and calling your parents – all of these tasks take priority and you no longer have time for Spanish.
It’s a common misconception that language learning takes a lot of time. This approach, together with the fact that our time resources are scarce, makes us think we simply can’t fit yet another task into our busy days. In reality, the only thing language learning requires is careful planning.
You don’t have to study for an hour each day. With language sessions as short as 15-20 minutes, you can make immense progress (presuming that you learn on a daily basis). The key to making this happen is to make studying a habit and ensure that learning is an essential part of your day.
3) They Don’t Set a Clear Goal
A common New Year’s resolution I often hear is, “I want to learn [insert language],” and the common response you will hear from me is, “What for?”
It’s not that I’m trying to be mean or that I doubt the benefits of speaking a foreign language, I’m just aware of how hard it is to stay motivated without a specific end goal in mind.
Language learning is never a finite process. I’ll bet that even in your native tongue, there are many words and structures that you don’t know yet. Yet, it’s hardly motivating to be faced with an infinite task.
This is why language courses are divided into levels such as beginner, intermediate, and advanced. These levels give students a sense of completion, as well as measure how they progress.
A similar sense of achievement can be evoked if we establish clear learning goals. For example, rather than saying, “I want to speak German,” be more specific; “After 2 months of learning German, I’d like to be able to hold a 5 minute conversation with a native speaker.”
Having a set of language tasks to perform will motivate you and help you see your progress.
4) They’re Afraid of Making Mistakes
Many people approach language learning as a process that has to be finished before the results can be demonstrated to the wider world. Yet, did you know that even famous impressionist painter, Cézanne, was not satisfied with what we consider one of his most impressive works, Still Life with Apples?
If we waited until we were perfect, we’d never use the language!
Making mistakes is an essential part of the learning process. In fact, if a student didn’t make them, it would make me suspicious as to whether they’re on the right level. Perhaps a student like that needs more challenging material.
Of course, it’s not enough just to make mistakes – we have to make sure we learn from them. As a native speaker I can help you correct mistakes you make in speaking and writing. Do this from the beginning to the end and you’ll be glad you did.
5) They Don’t Celebrate Their Successes
It may seem like learning 20 new phrases in Spanish or a new conjugation pattern in French is a small step in learning a language, but your success is built from these very small steps!
From time to time, it’s important to take a break and reflect on the progress you’re making. Every few weeks, look through your notebook and compare your “language self” from the past with your language self now. You’ll notice how much you’ve learned. Why not celebrate?
A small prize helps associate learning with positive emotions, which in turn fosters your motivation to study! Listen to your favorite song in Greek, have a glass of Greek wine, or watch a Greek film. Enjoy how you can now fully participate in the foreign culture you’ve studied. Isn’t this a good reason for learning a foreign language in the first place?
No matter how you study a new language, just remember to encourage yourself along the way.