Giving up on Language Learning

February 23, 2021 by 5 Comments
Hand coming out of water to symbolise drowning in language learning and a need for help to stop us from giving up on language learning.

We talk about language learning and setting goals. I have written about the need to review goals and to make sure we stay realistic and honest with ourselves during the learning process. When it comes to giving up on language learning: How do you deal with the highs and lows of language learning.

Let’s get real!

I know that many people out there wonder what I am talking about when I say we need to be real with ourselves. It can sound a bit new age and wishy washy. I get it. I really do. Giving up on language learning is a real problem though!

This this is that giving up on language learning is a real problem. Sometimes it is referred to as a chapter 3 syndrome. You get through the first parts of the language course and then stop.

But why do we give up on language learning?

There are so many reasons for language learning to become too much for us. We can feel lost in the language and we get the feeling that nothing is sticking. The lack of momentum in the learning process can be demotivating for us. This is why goals and revising our goals can be truly critical in the process. We need to take stock of what’s realistic for us to learn and by what time.

Sometimes there are other, external reasons for not learning at any given time. I did a LIVE on my YouTube channel recently and started the video talking about this issue.

February has been an impossible month for me for a few reasons. Sadly there was nothing much I could do about the events that took place. But the effects of what happened impacted on my ability to study.

At first I took a week off quite deliberately. I recognised that I needed some time away from studying generally. The only thing I did was to keep up with the italki classes I had already set up. When I went to the lessons I told the teachers that I was not able to do much study, but wanted to keep in touch with it a little bit. My teachers were incredibly understanding and we agreed to just tread water with my studies.

I fell behind with my Talk To Me In Korean lessons and was happy with doing that for the week.

But what happens when you don’t go back?

The following week I was still not there with my studies. I was still unable to stick to my plan of getting back to my studies. The worst thing was that I was still behind with everything and the gap was widening.

In the end I had to accept that the one week I gave myself was not enough. I needed two weeks. I started getting back into things but then realised that I was not working at 100% still. Instead I resigned myself to the fact that a couple of weeks was probably more realistic to take to really get back into my studies.

What do you do after a break?

It’s important to go back to the lessons I studied before the break. I need to look back over what I have done, revise, repeat and then move on. Keeping my lessons with my italki teachers helps to move things forward too. There are always new words that come up to make you feel like you are getting to new material too.

The review of the old material is good to do quickly. It’s a review and not a time to attempt to master everything. Remember that learning a language means that you need to come into contact with the language many times until it becomes automatic.

As soon as you have had enough comprehensible input in the target language, you see that words begin to stick. The language sticks in context and in phrases usually too.

Onwards and upwards with the studies. I have no illusions that there will be no other disruptions to my studies over the year. In fact I would be quite surprised if I didn’t have to write about these types of difficulties again.

What have your struggles been in language learning? How did you get over them?

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This post was written by Richard


  • Connor says:

    I have been learning Spanish and Mandarin. i have routine where I get up around 7am, go for a run, then from around 8 til 11am I study at a table with no distractions. I have been working though my assimil Spanish book I started at the rate of 5 lessons a day but have dropped down to 2 lessons a day. I am writing out the spanish as I learn. With mandarin I am just focusing on the characters using james Heisigs book learning a few characters and making flash cards. I think having a set study time removing distractions and using one resource during the study time helps. After 11, I focus more on audio materials or video I like the Dreaming Spanish site. In the afternoon I listen to the assimil CDs. while drawing or doing art. Sometimes I listen to one of Serge Melnyks mandarin lessons pausing the audio regularly. not trying to do too much at once. before bed I may read some Italian or german on my kindle these are my stronger foreign languages. I have many breaks and daydream a lot breaks are important at least one every 30mins for 5 to 10mins. A good routine is key with resources you enjoy

  • Johnny Orr says:

    Great post, Richard, hoping you’re well and I’ve definitely taken some notes.

    I hit a wall with my Spanish recently, but I had a speaking exam looming, so I came up with a plan. I arranged some socially distanced walks and skype calls, and spent time with a different friend each day for a week.

    And when the exam came around, I was already delighted. I’d spoken Spanish for at least an hour a day for a week, and the evening before my exam I spent three hours talking to a friend. Three hours!! And it just made me think, ‘even if I fail this exam, I can have a three hour chat in this language! what more do I want?’

    I’m going to make the effort to remember that the goal of my language learning is connecting with people. I’ve just completed an A1 Swedish course, and next time I hit a wall, I’ll try to think of all the people I want to have a chat with

    p.s. this week I was complemented on my Spanish accent by two native speakers, and I passed my exam too

  • Dale Evje says:

    Keep speaking. Making mistakes and learning.
    It’s a forgiving process.

    My friends in Spain treat me like family because I try so hard and make them laugh!!

  • Paula Guard says:

    Really interesting post! I’ve had the same with both Spanish and Italian – particularly when I was studying for DELE / CILS exams and felt like I was just learning to jump through the right hoops to pass the exam format rather then improving my actual ability. I find that it helps to look for new resources that really engage and interest me (new podcast or book for example – something to get me excited about it again!)

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