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Everyone knows that learning a language is easier said than done. When you first get started, the whole process seems exciting and thoroughly worth it.
There’s a surge of motivation that makes you feel invincible, and you can already picture yourself in a foreign country wooing native speakers. In theory, the only thing between you and fluency is time.
“6 months,” you tell yourself. After that, I’m on my way to Spain or France to socialize with the elites. Except… time isn’t what’s in between you and fluently acquiring a foreign language.
It’s hard work, focus, determination, and self-discipline. “Time” means nothing if you don’t incorporate those factors into your study routine.
Most of us don’t like willingly taking on new tasks that require actual work. That’s natural, and it’s okay to admit that to yourself. No need pretending to be someone smitten with learning languages when that’s just not who you are.
I knew from the day I started that that’s not who I was. Yet, I have this whole blog dedicated to language learning– so it’s definitely possible to look pass less “free time” and on to the greater benefits in store.
There’s no shame in admitting that you don’t find language learning naturally enjoyable. Though I don’t touch on study methods in this article, your study routine could actually be the real reason you hate the process.
Boring, mind-numbing study sessions are more than enough reason to want to stop learning the language altogether. But, at the end of the day, it’s your mindset that determines your success.
A positive headspace equals positive results. Setting yourself up for victory involves some serious self-motivation, a good amount of research, and some mental preparation.
If you skip any of those steps, then you’d be right in expecting to hate the language after a month or two of study. And I’m sure despite how much you dislike language learning, you dislike wasting time even more.
So with that being said, lets get into the most probable reasons you dislike language learning.
1. You’re focused on perfection
This downfall is number one for a reason. If you go into learning any skill with the expectation of achieving perfection— you will fail. Hate to break this to you, my friend, but you’re not perfect.
You’re human. And as humans, we learn through mistakes. We learn through feedback; both criticism and praise.
If you let the fear of embarrassing yourself or “messing up” stop you from using your target language when in the presence of fluent speakers, you will never learn it.
Most polyglots will tell you that the all-time best way to acquire a language is through broken communication with native speakers.
Native speakers will 9 times out of 10 tell you if what you just said didn’t make sense, if they didn’t understand what you just said, or if there was a better way to say you what you had attempted to communicate.
It’s one of the most thorough, engaging learning experiences you will ever partake in. And the sooner you try it out, the easier it becomes.
Humble yourself early in the process and later on, your near native level of communication will give you reason to puff out your chest.
Plus you’ll find it a lot easier to not focus on perfection when you understand that native speakers aren’t even perfect. I’ve spoken English since the day I was born and I’m positive I only know 20% at best.
Think I’m being dramatic? Check the stats.
To be exact, 470,000 divided by 25,000 (since that’s the median between 20,000 & 30,000) is 18.8. So don’t shoot for perfection in your target language. You don’t even have to shoot for “18.8% fluency.”
Just do your best and be gentle with yourself. Knowing just 10% is something to be immensely proud of.
Regardless of whether or not you like this truth; with any language you start, you are literally on par with a baby. After 9 months, babies can understand a few basic words like “no” and “bye-bye.” But it isn’t until the child is a toddler that he or she can string together comprehensible sentences.
So those first 3 years are almost entirely dedicated to listening– otherwise known as “input” in the language learning community. Not saying it’ll take you anywhere near as long, just that patience and tons of input are your best friends as a language newbie.
So be like a child and attempt to communicate before you’re confident in your skill level. Don’t be too proud to sound stupid. Natives will at least appreciate that you’re trying.
Plus there’s still a chance they’ll understand what you’re at least trying to convey, and guide you to the proper way to express it.
2. You don’t care enough about your target language
Oop– there it is. The taboo reality not ever spoken about in the language learning community.
When someone chooses a language for reasons that aren’t intrinsically motivating. And trust me– you’d be surprised the reasons that originally seem fantastic but end up not being enough to keep you going.
These could be reasons like financial gain, business success, wanting your resume to stand out, or “upping” your customer service game. For “easier” languages, those motivations could be enough to set aside a part of your life for the next 6 to 12 months.
But for harder languages? As in those that take years to master– you’ll need a personal love for the language.
Reasons that involve helping others, connecting with family, or making a difference in the world.
If you decide to learn Italian because it “sounds nice,” you clearly haven’t taken the time to really appreciate the language.
6 months in and you may realize you have literally no need in your life for the language. And little did you know that you had set yourself up for failure from the get-go.
Unfortunately, treating foreign language learning as a hobby doesn’t produce a motivated enough mindset. Because when you get “bored,” you’ll automatically want to stop learning.
You’re not in it for the “thrill.” You’re in it for the long run. You’re in it for the future relationships, opened doors, and life-long connections.
So yes, you will end up hating language learning if you’re motivations are guided by superficial reasons. If you don’t personally care about the language, then you won’t personally care about the process of learning it.
Sooner or later, it’s bound to begin feeling like a inconvenience, and worse still, a burden
3. You let others get into your head
I think this downfall is more specific to native English speakers. English is a power language– I’ve even heard it called the “universal language,” so native speakers aren’t raised feeling like its a necessity to pick up another language.
Particularly in the U.S., where I’m from, foreign language courses in school are treated as nothing more than just another grade. By most students, anyways.
Honestly, being born as an English speaker unconsciously comes with an air of privilege. English speaking adults are fully aware that they could never ever learn a foreign language and still excel at both life and their careers.
And while there are lots of English speakers who do end up learning foreign languages, there are still way more who don’t. Particularly those of first-world populations (though most European countries have more second-language speakers than the U.S.), there’s simply not enough incentive to learn another language.
The main reason for this is that almost anywhere you visit in the world, you’re bound to come into contact with people who speaks English.
But what does this have to do with you learning another language? It’s not exactly a secret that if you don’t engage with online communities, language learning in itself can be a bit lonely.
Hardly any of your friends, family members, or acquaintances are learning another language and it could even be obvious that they think it’s a waste of time.
Even ‘innocent‘ questions can slowly tear down at your determination to follow through with your target language. Those like “but why are you learning that language?” or “you’re still learning that language?”
It’s pretty easy for others to make you feel like your goals are stupid. Like you could be out “doing great things” instead of “wasting your time” on a language that isn’t any more influential than your mother tongue.
So just as a word of advice, don’t ever let anyone who hasn’t taken the time to learn a language themselves give you input on your language learning journey.
Unless it’s a compliment, of course.
4. You plunged before dipping
A lot of people don’t really know just how time-consuming language learning is until they start.
That’s quite obvious with the number of language beginners who set “10 minutes a day on Duolingo” as their sole language learning goal. And despite how futile that may sound in hindsight, it’s honestly the best introduction for complete language learning newbies.
If you’ve never learned a language before (at least beyond a few grade school courses), you shouldn’t necessarily go ‘all in’ from the get-go. If you start out doing hours-worth daily, you’ll burn out quickly.
The whole process will quickly begin to feel like a burden. And understandably so– you have just basically restructured your entire daily schedule.
You’re making the active choice to cut into your free time daily, and that can take a toll on a all levels of language learners, but especially newbies. Even more so since a language is *arguably* the hardest when you first start learning it.
Learning a language requires a lot of memory, focus, determination, and discipline. And though it’s a thoroughly enjoyable process, it’s equally as uncomfortable.
Making mistakes and disappointing yourself are frequent occurrences. Though seasoned learners know these are all part of the learning process, it’s easy as a newbie to wonder if all these unpleasant feelings are even worth it.
It’s only after you make some noticeable process that you realize they totally are.
So unless you’re partaking in some rigorous program to reach fluency in the shortest amount of time possible (which again isn’t prime for your first foreign language), take it slow. Understand that if you rush it in the beginning, you’ll likely make mistakes you’ll be forced to correct later down the road.
5. You didn’t do your research
I cannot stress enough how much longer some languages take than others. Category 1 languages are those Western European languages that are most cognate with English and that are most typo-logically similar to it. For instance, Dutch, Afrikaans, Spanish, and Italian belong to Category 1.
Those languages should take 675 to 700 hours to learn to working proficiency. In contrast, category 4 languages like Dari/Persian Farsi, Hebrew, Hindi, Russian, Serbian/Croatian, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Uzbek, and Urdu take 1,100 hours to learn.
And category 5 languages, like Arabic (all varieties), Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean take 2,200 hours to learn (approximately).
So that is a huge difference. Some languages take 3.5x times as long to learn as others. Not said to scare you– just to make sure you’re aware of the time expectation for your target language when you’re first starting your journey.
It also helps to research the alphabet (of if there is one) and related languages, in case you have or ever want to learn more foreign languages.
Researching the subpopulations in your specific area, state, or country could also help in determining just how useful the language will be on a local level. If the language is rarely spoken where you live, and don’t plan on moving, then you need to be fully aware that all your communication will be digital.
It sucks to learn a language because you think there are locals who speak it just to realize your assumptions were wrong and the skill won’t be useful for business endeavors. (if your goals are career-oriented)
It also helps to research how many people globally speak the language, just to get a feel for how applicable it’ll be in different settings.
The amount of people who speak even generally popular languages varies drastically. For example, 63 million people speak Italian, 275 million speak French, and 572 million speak Spanish.
All 3 languages are popularly learned by English speakers but that doesn’t mean they’re equally as beneficial.
Not saying by any means that the amount of people who speak a language determines it’s value– but it’s something you should consider as someone learning the language.
6. You chose a super challenging language as your first
Of course, this is more applicable to those who plan to learn multiple foreign languages at some point in the future.
If you only ever plan to learn Mandarin Chinese, then you’ll be forced to leap into one of the most challenging language learning experiences that there is.
Fortunately, if you’re someone who was serious about your foreign language studies in school, you’ve probably already learned at least a portion of a relatively easy foreign language– usually Spanish or French.
And even just that little bit of experience could be all you need with familiarizing yourself with the process of vocabulary memorization, grammar acquisition, and learning about culture.
But if you’ve never been serious about a foreign language before, I would not encourage you to pick a category 5 language as the first one you learn. Unless you have extremely motivating personal reasons, like family, moving abroad, or long-term volunteering.
Don’t worry though– there are only five category 5 languages; those that take 2200 hours for English speakers to proficiently acquire. Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, and Cantonese Chinese.
Their writing systems, pronunciation, and grammar are all extremely different from English. As a language learning novice, the unfamiliarity can be very intimidating.
Even disheartening. So if you’re interested at all in another language, I strongly suggest you start learning that one first. At least to a lower intermediate level.
Personally, I studied Spanish for a few years in school (not super seriously but seriously enough) and I can’t stress enough how much that process helped prepare me for learning Vietnamese. A completely unrelated category 4 language.
Of course, it all comes down to you and your motivations. All I’m saying is don’t be surprised when you’re ready to call it quits a few months later, when you realize K-Pop wasn’t enough to fuel your Korean learning.
7. You haven’t taken the time to appreciate the culture
If culture is a house, then language was the key to the front door; to all the rooms inside.Khaled Hosseini
Don’t underestimate the part culture plays in acquiring a foreign language. You’re not going to want to open the door to a house you know nothing about.
So if you don’t know anything about the culture’s values, social etiquette, or view of foreigners, the language is going to feel a bit empty to you.
Just the shell of something unknown. Falling in love with the culture is the best thing you could ever do to fall in love with the language.
You’re learning the language to communicate with speakers of the language. Meaning you’re going to encounter the culture associated with the language during each and every interaction.
And you probably already know this, but the cultures in the rest of the world are vastly different from the culture(s) of English speakers. Culture shock isn’t just a term crafted up for travelers.
It something that every single language learner should experience at some point, if they’re doing the whole language learning thing right.
Even just reading articles online is enough to slap you with some shocking cultural knowledge.
Most of the time, you’ll realize things about the people behind the language that make you want to communicate with them all the more.
Most have extremely wholesome morals and values that can be a breathe of fresh air from the English speakers you know.
8. You haven’t connected with other language learners
For a skill with such a social goal, the process of language learning can be surprisingly lonely.
When you don’t know any friends or family studying a language, it’s easy to feel a bit like an oddball.
You’re don’t have anyone to share your thoughts, insecurities, or progress with. You might even start questioning why you’re “wasting your time” with the language.
All it takes is a quick trip to the internet to reaffirm your determination. There are so many social media accounts, groups, and forums that focus specifically on language learning.
Becoming even a passive member of the virtual language learning community is amazing for revitalizing your motivation and confidence.
You’ll see that you’re nowhere close to being alone. As a matter of fact, those that only know one language are actually in the minority.
A little over 60% of the world speaks at least 2 languages, so your efforts to join this percentage are by no means in vain.
When you engage with online language learners, you realize just how inspiring it is to see the amount of people who have fluently learned multiple languages.
The people are actively involved in English conversations yet were born speaking another language. These people worked extremely hard to be where they are today.
And they’re living proof that the work you put in pays off. Plus the advice and guidance offered by seasoned language learners is priceless for newbies.
You’re definitely not alone in figuring out the most effective ways to acquire your target language. They are plenty of people out there who already have and are more than willing to help you out.
9. You compare yourself to others
On the other end of this spectrum, connecting with fellow language learners can also be potentially harmful on your confidence in your abilities.
It may look like someone else is learning the same language twice as fast as you. That you must just suck at memorization and grammar rules. That must just be “too old” to learn a foreign language.
But the time expectancies put in place by the Foreign Service Institute are there for a reason. If you’re 100% positive someone else is progressing at twice your speed, then chances are they’re putting in twice the work.
If they’re studying the language for 2 hours everyday, while you study for 1 hour, then of course they’ll progress “faster.” But at the end of the day, that has nothing to do with you.
If you see some polyglot on YouTube picking up new languages like you pick up socks, then you better believe they’re putting in that work. And yeah, they probably are actually quicker at acquiring foreign languages than you are at their point in their life.
Polyglots are extremely familiar with the process of language learning. They know what works and they know what doesn’t. They know what to focus on and what to focus on last.
Just as with any skill, the longer you practice it, the better you’ll get at it. It’s just conditioning your mind to get comfortable doing things that are initially uncomfortable.
But comparing yourself to people who already know 3 or more languages is literally setting yourself up for failure. It’s not fair to you.
So focus on your own progress. Use others’ for motivation but not as competition.
Language learning is a personal race that we all get to win if we try hard enough. Your only competition is yourself– so push past the doubt and keep moving.
10. Your resources SUCK
The two apps I recommended to language learners of all levels, regardless of how good you think your current resources are, are Innovative Language and Rocket Language. 2 hidden gems that get lost behind the big boys like Duolingo and Babbel (which are significantly less effective, speaking from personal experience.)
Rocket Languages is a multi-platform application that uses the key strategies successful polyglots use to learn languages, which includes:
1. Making the BEST USE of limited time.
2. Understanding EXACTLY how the language and culture works.
3. REINFORCE what you learn so that it sticks forever.
4. Practice SPEAKING and SOUNDING like a native.
5. Maintain MOTIVATION and have fun while you learn.
Languages: You can learn:
- Arabic (Egyptian)
- Chinese (Mandarin)
- Portuguese (Brazilian)
- American Sign Language
While Rocket Languages doesn’t offer the language I’m currently learning (Vietnamese), I can personally vouch that their Spanish program is amazing.
As for Innovative Language… they’re also a multi-platform application!
With their subscription, you get 3-15 minute audio/video lessons that teach you languages the fast, fun and easy way.
Signing up means instant access to hundreds of audio and video lessons by real teachers, lesson notes, study tools, and more.
With 500+ million downloads and 10 years of experience, you’re learning with a time-tested, proven system. Choose one of 34 languages and learn anywhere, anytime.
- Access In-Depth Lesson Notes & Read with Every Lesson (Basic Users & Above)
- Track Your Learning Progress with Progress Bars (Basic Users & Above)
- Fully Master Conversations with Line-by-Line Audio (Premium Users & Above)
- Create Personal Word Lists with the Word Bank (Premium Users & Above)
- Chinese — Cantonese
- Chinese — Mandarin
Plus Hebrew, Dutch, Greek, Swedish, Indonesian, Filipino, Turkish, Persian, Norwegian, Finnish, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Swahili, Czech, Danish, Afrikaans, Romanian, and Urdu.
This is the application I’m currently using to learn Vietnamese and I’m obsessed. Definitely the #1 language learning application for learners of less popular languages.
And free subscription plans are offered so… Duolingo who?
Now that you know why you don’t enjoy language learning, head over to 8 steps to creating a Language study routine that you LOVE.
My love for language learning expands to multiple platforms so you can also find me cranking out DIY language learning inspiration on Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t hesitate to direct message me or comment on one of my posts! I’d love to get to know you beyond this blog.
Aside from that fun, if you’re still here then I want to make sure you don’t miss out on your free language learning toolkit.
All exclusive content curated specifically for atypical language learners looking to make their D.I.Y. language acquisition process as fun and creative as possible.
Equipped with a 4-week checklist, 100 fun learning ideas (read the first 50 here!), a rapid acquisition 2-week plan, memory-based guides to creating a language journal, and free language progress tracking printables. All straight to your inbox. And trust me– I never spam.
Keep learning languages my friend! And I look forward to seeing you again real soon.