Are you doing these 5 things wrong?
by Erin McGann
September 14, 2020

So you’ve decided to learn a new language, congratulations! It’s a big commitment, but one that comes with rewards throughout your learning process. There are a few common things that really trip up new language learners – and we all do one or more at some point. Don’t stress it, just recognise it and change your ways!

Don’t make these 5 mistakes when learning a new language

1. Deciding it’s hard

I remember meeting another English speaker when I first moved to Germany, and her response to everything was: ‘It’s so hard!’. Understanding cultural quirks and of course, the language. If you go into this learning process thinking it’s ‘hard’ constantly, you will find it hard. Obviously it takes commitment and work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is difficult. Banish that thought, and replace it with something like, ‘I can totally do this’. Because you can!

2. Getting obsessed and then burning out

We all know someone who gets really really into a new hobby and buys all the tools, the supplies, and the books, subscribes to 54 new YouTube channels… and then a month later they have fizzled out. Okay okay, I’ve done it too. The enthusiasm is commendable, but the reality is you aren’t going to change your entire life to revolve around learning a new language. This is a long-term project, so pace yourself. Take your time and find the elements of the language and culture that really interest you, and invest in those, within moderation! 

3. Not talking enough

I am guilty of this one, for sure. It is very tempting to keep your head down and not open your mouth in language lessons until you feel absolutely sure of your pronunciation. This is not the way to learn a language, though. Think of it like carving wood. You can’t produce a beautiful object when you only have a little bit of wood, you need a decent-sized piece to carve, and there will be bits that don’t look right that you carve off. Without a larger piece to work with, you can’t produce that beautiful final work. The same applies to learning anything – you need to do it a lot so you can find the good parts and whittle away the not-good parts. I find Lingoda classes really good at getting me talking, even the group classes are not so large that you can avoid speaking. 

4. Doing one class a week – and that’s it

I’m not saying you need to do a class every day or you will never get there, but it’s better to practise throughout the week in little pieces rather than assume in-class time is the only active learning you’re going to do. If you can do another class, that’s great, and it will help, but also listen to music, watch a TV show, or read some comics. Not only will that help with getting grammar and vocab in context, it gets you thinking in the language, rather than just translating class texts.

5. Learning grammar and vocab by charts

There will come a time when a teacher will show you a chart. It has to happen at some point, and sure, they help when you’re conjugating verbs and learning other grammatical structures. But don’t sit there and memorise charts or lists of vocab. Think about how you learn words in your own native language – you certainly don’t sit down with a list of new words to learn!

We learn new language in context. I was thrilled to know a German preposition right away in class because it was in the chorus of one of the songs I sing in the car all the time. So while those charts and lists can be a starting point, don’t think that’s the only way to learn this stuff. Look for phone games for matching gendered articles with nouns, or start following a bunch of Instagrammers in your target language and see how they use the future tense. Find a subject you enjoy and then dig out resources in your target language. That way, you’ll have a better shot at remembering all these news words you’re learning. 

Time to book your Lingoda class and get going on your new language learning journey! 

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