Language learning: expectations vs. reality

Language learning: expectations vs. reality

by Jakob Straub

Updated November 9, 2022

You’re committed to learning a new language and you’ve made the first step: you’ve booked your language learning classes on Lingoda, you’ve bought a course book or you’ve installed an app on your phone. Your hopes and expectations are high and in your mind, you’ll be fluent in no time and speaking like a native. Unfortunately, reality will set in and shatter your dreams of acing a new language in record time. At this point, it’s important not to get discouraged by disappointment. We’ll explain the difference between language learning expectations and reality and give you tips on managing your expectations!

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How your language learning expectations will clash with reality

The high expectations you’ll have when learning a new language will clash with reality, and that’s okay–if you anticipate it in advance. Just like when you add going to the gym to your list of new year’s resolutions, how you envision it in your head will be different from the day-to-day reality.

These are the most common cases of expectations versus reality language learners like you experience:

“I’ll be fluent in no time at all! Soon I’ll speak like a native!”Achieving fluency and native level takes time, dedication and practise. But with Lingoda classes, you’ll speak from your first lesson!
“I’ve learnt this much in so little time, I’ll double my knowledge every week!”An over-ambitious schedule for acquiring and practicing a language and reaching learning milestones can have the opposite effect and leave you frustrated or disappointed.
“I just need to book a class, buy a book, install an app to learn the language!”Well, you also have to consistently show up and do the work. That means attending class, reading the book or using the app. Practice is everything!
“Online classes are not suitable for conversation and two-way-communication. How do I know the teacher is qualified and engages me?”Online learning is very effective with the right setup. Lingoda classes will engage you with speaking exercises from the beginning by trained and certified teachers.
“I don’t need to do any work outside of class.”Your learning process doesn’t stop with the end of class and implementing your lessons is very useful. Think of learning a language as a continuous process.
“I’ll learn this one language quickly and then move on to the next–soon I’ll be a polyglot!”You have to factor in time for maintaining the language as well. If you don’t use what you’ve learned, you might forget it.
“I can have conversations if I know just enough grammar, vocabulary or expressions.”Unfortunately, no–informal language, talking speed, accents, slang, expressions, listening comprehension and the amount of people involved all influence how well you’ll manage in a foreign language conversation.
The course or the teacher will tell me how I need to study.Language classes, books or apps primarily tell you what you need to study and offer an opportunity to practice and use your skills. But you yourself have to figure out which way of studying works best for you to retain knowledge, whether that’s reading out loud, using flashcards or listening to audio.
“I’ll be the best!”Chances are, there will always be someone better than you, whether in the classroom or on the leader board or ranking of a smartphone app. The point is not to be (always) at the top, but to continually advance.
“I’ll be the worst.”Everyone has some talent when it comes to the different aspects of language learning. Maybe you just haven’t discovered yours yet, that’s what lessons are for. Embrace your mistakes and those of others, they’re often the best opportunities to learn and commit a lesson to memory.

Tips on how to manage your language learning expectations

Reality can seem harsh and quickly dampen your spirits, but as we’ve outlined above, it’s important to not get discouraged by the realisation that your expectations might have been a little high. We’ve compiled a few helpful tips on managing your expectations and remain committed to learning a new language!

  • Mindset: Keep your motivation up so you won’t stop learning. Engage with the language and question your expectations and ambitions to keep them in check. Learn how to mindmap your way to learning a new language.
  • Competition: Don’t compare yourself to others too much, whether you’re learning by yourself or in an online class. All learners have their own pace and their strengths and weaknesses. Focus on yours instead of seeing others as competition that you need to match.
  • Variety: Mix it up to not get bored with language learning! If you need a boost, do exercises which come easy to you, watch foreign language content, and match the length of your study sessions to your current level of concentration you can afford.
  • MotivationRemind yourself why you want to learn the language. Don’t feel obligated to study and learn, but focus on what you want to do with it once you’ve acquired the language.
  • Attitude: Many things in a foreign language won’t make sense to you at first, but rather than complain about it, accept it and move on.
  • Goals: Set realistic and achievable goals for yourself. They can be small, that way you’ll overachieve now and then instead of falling short again and again. Celebrate individual milestones instead of keeping your eyes only on achieving fluency.
  • Pace: Doing some practice every day benefits your language learning much more than one long cramming session per week without doing anything the rest of the time. Find out why learning a language improves your patience.
  • Curiosity: Find aspects of the language you’re learning which particularly interest you to keep up your learning enthusiasm.
  • Energy: Check your priorities and your schedule to identify time slots where you are receptive to learning and are not too tired or low on energy to retain knowledge.
  • Mistakes: Embrace your mistakes and don’t be disappointed if your progress differs from your expectations.

Do you still find yourself struggling with the difference between your language learning expectations and reality? Read our tips on how to learn languages as an adult!

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