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July 2017

5 Language Study Mistakes You May Be Making

Common mistakes that may hinder your progress

There are many methods with which to learn a foreign language, and different approaches work better for different people. Still, there are a number of common mistakes that students make when studying that can hold back learning. These are issues that may not be obvious, bad practices that hold back learning under the guise of learning. Today we’ll take a look at some of these common language study mistakes and discuss how to rectify them.

Studying only a few times per week

Learning a new language requires daily study to train the brain. Often, in our busy lives, we forget to study every day, and we end up studying in large chunks once or twice during the week. While this is surely better than not studying at all, it’s far better to study just a little every day as opposed to a lot once or twice a week. Studying helps train the mind to think in the foreign language, not something that can be done if studying is infrequent.

Sticking too long to the textbook

Language textbooks are invaluable for learning the fundamentals, however they can’t be relied on to prepare a student for real-world usage. Just think of all the students in the world who learned a foreign language in high school only to find their skills unusable when they visit the country of their target language. Sticking too long to the textbook does a disservice to the student. As soon as you can, include additional material like newspapers, movies, television, podcasts, and even conversations with real people. Follow your interests and utilize a variety of sources, aiming to take language learning out of pure academics and into practical real-world scenarios.

Not embracing errors

Making mistakes isn’t fun, and being embarrassed is even less encouraging. But if students play it too safe by sticking to easy-to-understand material or by avoiding uncomfortable language situations, learning is hindered. It’s also very easy to keep making the same mistakes if the student doesn’t seek out ways to get corrected. Speak with people willing to judge you or take a class so that a teacher can correct your bad grammar habits early. Don’t be afraid. Speak as much as possible and embrace all your errors. Embarrassment is a given, but, once the ego is placed aside, such mistakes can drastically help learning. Go out there and get lost and work on your weaknesses.

Not defining the need

We all learn languages for different reasons, whether it’s for work, to travel, or to have conversations with friends. But to approach language learning at all angles isn’t efficient. Identify why you are learning the language, and tailor your learning to achieving that goal. If you want to learn a language for travel, it’s not practical to spend hours learning office-related vocabulary or grammar that’s dedicated to literary study. Focus on the areas that are most important to you, the vocabulary that you would most likely use.

Not setting goals

Without goals, a student cannot measure progress properly. A good acronym for setting good goals is SMART; goals must be specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic, and time bound. Determine realistic goals for yourself and strive to achieve them while monitoring your progress along the way. Whether it’s to finish a book or learn a set of grammar forms, accomplishment, no matter how big or small, builds the necessary inspiration to keep us motivated.

BONUS: Being too hard on oneself

Language learning is like a marathon, one that seems without end. It’s hard work, period. And improvements often go unnoticed. It’s easy to have a bad interaction or watch a film you don’t understand and subsequently beat yourself up about it. But think back to when you first started and admire all the accomplishments you’ve made, how far you’ve come. Celebrate every victory, even the small ones. Avoid unrealistic expectations and keep working hard each day. As the Chinese proverb goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

What are some of the language learning mistakes you’ve made and how did you overcome them? Share your experiences and tips on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more articles on language learning!

Picture (c) Fotolia, pinkomelet