Learning an entirely new language can feel like a real minefield! Nonetheless, an increasing number of people around the world seem to be trying to improve their skillset by adding a second language to their repertoire. Some go for languages close to them, like British learning French, or Germans learning Italian. Others go for something more exotic and distant, like students in Australia trying to take on Korean or Japanese.
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Whatever the language, and whatever the great differences that they present to learners around the world, it seems that there are common errors that all learners make! In this article, we’ll be exploring some of the biggest mistakes we've noticed that learners frequently make...so that you can avoid them!
💬 Unrealistic goals of fluency
Movies and TV make language learning look easy, and many of us fall into the trap of thinking that it will be the same in real life. Fluency does not come after a three-minute montage in which an actor moves from zero ability to near-fluency in whatever theatrically pleasing way happens to make movies work.
Be realistic when making goals for yourself. If you set yourself a fixed time to what you’d consider fluency, then you’re only setting yourself up for failure. Don’t box yourself in; allow yourself the space to steadily grow, and stay patient as you progress step by step to build up an increasingly impressive bank of knowledge and language skills.
📅 Impossible daily vocabulary memorization
This is really an extension of the first mistake. In the beginning, you might breeze through vocabulary words --- 10 a day, 20 a day, 30 a day --- and think you’ll always keep up that pace. As your vocabulary builds, and the words and sentence structures get more complex, however, you’ll find you reach a terminal velocity, and may even have to slow down to ensure retention.
If you tell yourself you’ll learn 50 words a day, for example, and you might be able to keep it up for a day or two. Sooner or later though, you will run into difficulty keeping up with demand, and may also find that words are only sticking with you a very short time. This brings us neatly to the next big mistake.
🧑🤝🧑 Not taking opportunities to learn from native speakers
You can’t hope to master a new language without trying your skills out with native speakers. Memorizing vocabulary and sentence structures will only get you so far. The act of using what you learn in a natural and flowing conversation is the way to retain what you’ve learned and reinforce it so strongly that you’ll be able to call on it again and again in the future.
Building up the courage to chat with native speakers either online or in-person is tough for many learners out there. Like many other things, the first step is always the hardest. Once you establish a rapport with a native speaker teacher, you’ll wonder how you ever did without this game-changing experience.
😞 Regarding mistakes as obstacles to learning
A hostility and fear of mistakes in learning is another critical error that learners make. Getting a verb conjugation wrong, messing up some pronunciation or some other mistake can be very impacting on confidence. This much is understandable, but learners need to learn to accept mistakes as part and parcel of the whole experience. They should be seen as opportunities to advance up the ladder more quickly, and not as setbacks pushing them further down.
🧠 Assuming “Beginner” progress carries into “Intermediate” and “Advanced”
We touched on this a little in mistake 2 about vocabulary. The first few weeks of language learning are like a honeymoon period, where everything seems to click and you’re racing through reams of material. When you only have to face basic phrases, simple dialogue and rudimentary vocabulary, it’s easy for most people. The challenge comes when you start to move into the “Intermediate” zone, and then further into the “Advanced” zone. The slope in front of you gets steeper and steeper; increasingly difficult to climb and your progress starts to slow. For some, this meaning hitting the proverbial “wall” and feeling like they’ve reached the limit.
It is in these moments that our patience, persistence and determination are tested the most. We must power through these times and reach the other side if we want to be successful language learners.
😎 Do things the right way
If you’re serious about learning a second or even third language, then you have to do things the right way. It’s hard work, and takes time and persistence, but if you can remain patient and avoid the mistakes mentioned above, you are bound to have a more successful journey!
🎉 Get started!
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