6 Things You Need to Stop Doing Immediately if You Want to Get Fluent 4


get fluent

If you’re really serious about making progress in the language or languages you’re learning, consider giving up all of these six things.

1.Stop thinking fluency is your only goal

Fluency is a big word. It’s actually massive. Let’s face it – if fluency is your only goal, you’ll be massively overwhelmed.

Imagine this: you’ve never been out for a run in your life and you want to get into running to improve your overall fitness. Do you enter a marathon straight away?

What’s your answer to this? Well, mine would be – no way! I’d probably give up my dream of being a runner the following day. I’d be crushed by overwhelm.

You need small goals first. Try downloading your free starter guide Learn Languages Like a Pro to get my advice on how to do that:

2. Stop learning randomly

Random learning is just learning for the sake of learning. Learning without a goal in mind.

If you want to be fluent, you need to stop this. You need to have goals. Ideally, SMART goals. Read my article about SMART goals for language learning for more details of what that means.

The other thing is purpose. With every piece of language you learn, ask yourself:

  • What’s the purpose of learning this particular word or phrase?
  • What’s the purpose of doing this particular language activity?
  • How is it going to help me achieve my goal?

If your answer is ‘I don’t know’, skip it and move on to something with a clear purpose. E.g. learning phrases that will help you debate a topic because you want to be able to have debates about politics with your language partner.

And finally, to avoid random learning, focus on functional language. This means that you should choose the language you learn carefully, e.g. by focusing on words that are so common that you will need them every single day. Read my article about how to choose which words to learn in a foreign language for more advice on this.

3. Stop translating from your native language when speaking

Many of us have done this before: think exactly what you want to say in your native language and try to translate it in your head before you say it in your target language.

Have you committed this little crime yourself? I certainly have. And I’ve seen other people do  it sooo many times!

Look at this example:

I want to say to somebody that I run a blog about language learning.

I could say this in my native language:

  • ‘I’m the creator of an online blog with advice for people who are hoping to become fluent in a foreign language.’

If I’m a beginner in Japanese, how on earth would I ever translate this sentence in my head before attempting to say it?!

I wouldn’t. I would say this instead:

  • ‘I have a language blog.’

Easy, isn’t it? What I did there was I took the basic language I already knew and I found a way to communicate the meaning of my message (rather than the exact wording of my message) in the simplest of ways.

Are you ready to stop translating in your head? I hope so!

4. Stop expecting perfection

Fluency is not perfection. Fluency is being able to communicate and share experiences with other people. It’s not about getting things right every single time.

Sure – it’s great to be ambitious, but if you always expect perfection, your progress can stall and you can get demotivated.

Think about it this way: you can either learn a few functional phrases to say ‘hi’ and introduce yourself in a foreign language after a week or two of learning, or you can wait a year before you say a word because you expect to be able to use very complex language and speak without any hesitation.

In the first scenario, you’ll communicate. In the second one, you’ll just wait and do nothing.

Making a step – no matter how tiny – is always better than doing nothing at all. Knowing five words is always better than knowing nothing at all.

5. Stop negative self-dialogue

Negative thoughts and limiting beliefs often get in our way when we learn languages. I’ve had them too – especially when trying to join in a conversation in a language I wasn’t too confident speaking.

What happens in situations like that, when you think you’re not ‘good enough’ to say something, is negative self-dialogue takes over. The little voice in your head subconsciously tells you that you’re not as good as you could be or that you know too little to be able to communicate.

Guess what I’m about to tell you.

You need to stop this.

Instead, frame it in a positive way – think about all the things you’ve achieved already. Turn the negative self-dialogue into positive thoughts. You can do it!

6. Stop feeling comfortable

Your comfort zone is your enemy when it comes to making progress with you language.

If you’re feeling too comfortable with the material and resources you’re using, it means it’s time to up your game.

Stretch yourself – learn new vocabulary, find a book or newspaper article that uses more complex language than what you’re used to, go out and speak!

Being comfortable feels nice but if you’re comfortable for too long, you risk stalling your progress.

So, which one of these six things are you going to give up first? Let me know in the comments below! 

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  • Duber

    I am aimed at stepping outside my comfort zone. It is challenging to boost my level from B2 to C1, but challenges are interesting.

  • flootzavut

    4 is my biggest issue, especially with languages I’m trying to regain. I have been doing language exchange in Russian, and because my Russian was once very fluent and at a very high level, I get frustrated very easily when I don’t remember words or get a case wrong, etc.

    (My second biggest issue right now is randomly talking Russian to Hebrew speakers and Hebrew to Russian speakers. I have yet to figure out how to compartmentalise well ? on the plus side, it means when I do language exchange, there tends to be a lot of laughter…)

  • Moisés Rocha

    Hi teacher! Could I say coach? Anyway, I like so much your tips on account of you know about struggling with another language. Thanks and keep it up!

  • Vivian Nehrkorn

    Number two, sigh, is my most difficult issue. I think organizing my learning is a mess! I do try different approach with the best intentions, but in real life it is not working 🙁