The Biggest Mistake Language Learners Make


I’ve written about language learning mistakes before. There are many standard mistakes that we all make at different points of our language learning journeys.

But there is one big mistake that I think trumps them all. It’s a mistake that is most likely to stall your progress and prevent you from moving forward.

Do you want to find out what it is? Check out the video! Or, if you’d rather read about it, scroll down and continue reading.

The biggest language learning mistake I can think of is being comfortable.

For many of us, being comfortable is what we strive for. We want to be able to speak and understand, so that we can communicate comfortably. We want to know and understand. We want to avoid the anxiety of not knowing or not understanding.

It’s a natural desire to have – don’t get me wrong!

Whenever you’re learning something new, comfort is one of the goals. When you learn to cycle, you want to be able to do it flawlessly – not like this:

When you learn to play tennis, you want to be able to hit the ball without feeling pain in your arm every time.

When you learn to play the piano, you want to hear pleasant sounds, and you want whoever is listening to feel comfortable, without having to cover their ears every time!

So what’s my point? Why do I think that feeling comfortable when learning a language is a bad thing?

Because it prevents you from growing.

Take a look at this quote from Neil Armstrong:

 “I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face  challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul… we’re required to do these things  just as salmon swim upstream.”

Armstrong wouldn’t have walked on the moon if the default attitude of astronauts had been to feel comfortable.

We need to stretch ourselves, step out of our comfort zone and feel challenged if we want to achieve bigger things.

The same thing goes for language learning.

So how can you challenge yourself when learning a foreign language?

When deciding what to do next, think about what would be useful for you to know – rather than easy.

For example, if you want to be able to talk to a friend about your last holiday, it will be useful for you to know how to use the past tense. Perhaps it’s not the most intuitive thing to learn the past tense as a beginner but you will benefit from it in the long run if you do. You will challenge yourself and grow as a result.

The same goes for reading. You might think that you should stick to simplified novels, rather than their originals, for example. But nothing stops you from reading ‘proper’ novels or real newspapers even as a beginner. You might not be able to understand everything but everything you learn (even if it’s just a handful of words!) will be a bonus.

When it comes to speaking, don’t wait until you’re ready. Start before you feel confident. Saying anything is better than saying nothing. Challenge yourself, step out of your comfort zone, and notice the amazing things that will happen.

What are some other language learning mistakes?

So this was the biggest language learning mistake I could think of but it’s not the only one.

I’ve put together a list of 12 other mistakes that language learners make frequently plus advice on how to fix them in another blog post. Check it out!

12 Mistakes Language Learners Make and How to Fix Them

Good luck with your learning!

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