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10 Common Mistakes Language Learners Make And How You Can Avoid Them

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I started learning languages when I was 12-13 years old believe it or not, at the time, I really couldn’t understand the uniqueness of different languages and I just thought, every language is like English just with different words.

Fast forward to now after I started learning languages again, I’m still learning many new things but I understand so much more now!

Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s to illustrate that when learning languages, mistakes are pretty much inevitable just like with most things in life.

Some mistakes are good and maybe even necessary to help us improve but some are just stressful, frustrating and can lead to give up on that language you are learning.

That’s why I am writing this blog post, to provide a list of some mistakes you might be making that are preventing you from making progress or becoming fluent and some ways you can use to avoid those mistakes.

Now enough blabbing, let’s start.

Why are mistakes good in language learning?

Now, I already said this in the intro but some mistakes are good and necessary and they help us to improve the language or languages we are learning but some can be absolutely deadly (to your language learning journey that is).

An example that showcases that mistakes are good in some cases is when you make a certain mistake when you are speaking in a new language and you are corrected, it is very easy for you to never make that mistake again because you experienced it and as they say, experience is the best teacher. I hope this makes sense.

So not all mistakes are bad, some mistakes teach you and for those mistakes, learn from them and do better and do not repeat the same mistake over and over again because you will not improve.

10 Mistakes you are making in language learning and how to avoid or fix them

1. Learning irrelevant vocab

a collection of wooden word blocks

I am so guilty of this, learning vocabulary that I will most likely never use at least not as much as needed to learn it.

I watched a video by Nathaniel Drew where he talked about how he learned vocabulary, he explained that he doesn’t use the popular “1000 most common Spanish/Korean/Chinese/etc words for beginners” lists found on the internet.

He creates a list of his own words that he uses most of the time and learns them in his target language.

When I started learning Chinese, I started learning words like agriculture and other words I would rarely use because they were on the list.

This is so bad because it can make you feel stuck when you barely know any vocabulary that you use everyday because you fill your brain up with irrelevant vocab.

So ultimately, here’s my tip for you, learn RELEVANT vocabulary in your target language.

Don’t make it complicated, just make a simple list of words you catch yourself using a lot or if you want to talk about a specific topic, make a list of words you would use a lot or you see people use a lot and start learning those!

2. Learning too much at once or not giving yourself enough time

Another one I am guilty of.

When you start learning a new language, it is exciting and you are filled with so much motivated that you just want to learn and learn, as much as you can and hopefully get out of the beginner level.

This is not sustainable. Learning too much at once or not giving yourself enough time to digest and understand what you learn can be counterproductive because it can ultimately slow down your progress and cause you to burn out.

I love how one of my favourite polyglots Lindie Botes addresses this issue in this video.

Languages should be fun and not a chore, do not forget to keep it simple and have fun with it because that will help you continue to learn and improve for a long time.

The tip: give yourself enough time to learn and understand elements in the language you are learning and be sure to understand a concept before moving on to the next one.

3. Not having a language study plan

woman writing in a notepad
Picture by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

Having a language study plan is great to give you direction about what to learn without having to think about it every step of the way.

A language study plan does not have to be complex and have so many pages, it just has to be something simple with a clear plan of:

  • why you are studying the language (s),
  • how you will be studying the language (s)
  • and what you will be studying.

Pro tip: make a language study plan for yourself. You can use this video as a guide.

4. Not immersing yourself in the language

While researching this topic to seeing what other bloggers and other language learners think or observe what the common mistakes in language learning are, a certain post talked about the thought that people usually have that immersion only involves travelling to a country with native speakers.

While that is awesome, not everyone can manage to do it or afford it and even more important, it is definitely not the only way you can immerse yourself in the language you are learning.

Immersing yourself in the language you are learning can be a game changer in your language learning process because it allows you to develop intuition and a gut feeling like the one that allows you to use order of adjectives without even knowing that you are doing it perfectly.

It allows you to relate to the language like native speakers do.

How you can immerse yourself in the language you are learning without moving abroad

  • Listening to music in your target language
  • Reading articles/books in your target language
  • Using Toucan (more information in this blog post)
  • Watching shows/movies/series in your target language
  • Planning your days in your target language
  • Journaling in your target language
  • Passively listening to podcasts
  • And so much more!

Pro tip: start immersing yourself in the language you are learning right now!

Related: How To Practice A Language Without Native Speakers

5. Not prioritizing speaking and practicing

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Another mistake most language learners make is not prioritizing  speaking and practicing. Speaking and practice which go and in hand help to improve your language skills by a lot.

Practicing speaking eventually develops your other skills such as reading, listening (most closely linked) and writing.

You don’t have to speak to native speakers or proficient speakers or anyone as a matter of fact especially in the beginning. You can practice languages by yourself.

I wrote about how exactly you can do that in this blog post which you can refer you.

Pro tip: prioritize practicing your language especially by speaking more even if it is to yourself.

6. Inconsistency

Most language learners will get excited, start learning a language for a few weeks or even days, then put it off for weeks and then start again and put it off again and go on and on and on with the cycle and then complain about how they are not improving.

I know I have a few times and it has slowed down my progress so much and honestly stressed me out a few times.

Having to pick up a language again and again and again after procrastinating is not fun.

Now, I am not saying put language learning before your mental and physical health, just create a schedule that you can stick to, that fits your situation and that you can be consistent with.

Pro tip: try to be as consistent as you can.

7. Having the wrong mindset

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We’ve all heard it a couple of times “you have to be smart or have a high IQ to learn a new language and be fluent” and as language learners, even if we know it is not true, we still choose to believe this.

There are many other limiting beliefs that stops us, it could be saying you don’t have as many resources as others have or whatever, there are many.

And even if we know the truth of the situation, it is hard for us to move past that. I suggest you invest some time into really reflecting and journaling to get yourself into the right mindset when learning a new language.

You can also watch this video by Lindie Botes.

Pro tips: invest some time into overcoming limiting beliefs and thriving

8. Focusing too much on accuracy

I’m sure, you’re wondering, what does she mean?

I recently watched a video by again, Lindie Botes (I’m a big fan, can you tell?) about how to improve your listening skills in a language.

She explains that she does not categorize or take listening as a skills she has to invest individual or specific time to improve the skills by itself.

She further explained that she focuses on her speaking skills which also improves her listening skills more or less automatically.

Finally, she said people focus too much on hearing word for word, 100% what a conversation in the language learning is about instead of focusing on getting the gist of the conversation.

It is okay to understand 60, then eventually 70, 80, 90 then 100% of a language.

That is what I mean by focusing too much on listening accuracy.

Pro tip: focus on getting the gist of the conversation when listening.

9. Learning too many languages at once

woman infront of a bookshelf carrying a lot of books in her hands
Photo by Cottonbro on Pexels

One mistake language learners make (including me) is learning too many languages at once.

Hold on now, I do not mean the actual learning of multiple languages at one like how maybe Lindie Botes is learning several languages at once or how Anna Lenks and so many other language learners are too.

I am talking about, picking up several new languages when you are a beginner in all of them.

Learning a new language in the beginning takes a little bit of time and effort to get the hang of it and hence, avoid doing so for multiple languages.

I did not follow this rule though, I started learning Chinese and Korean at the same time because I love both so much and I couldn’t choose but it has hurt my progress in both languages and next time I will be picking up new languages, I will be sure to space them out.

Pro tip: get the hang of a new language before picking up another one

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Self-Learning A New Language For Free

10. Not having fun with the process

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Whether you are learning a new language for work, school or just for pure fun and enjoyment, you have to learn and remember to have fun with the process.

Language learning is simple but it can get tough sometimes and, in those moments, you have to remember to have fun with it because it will help you stick with it.

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Conclusion

Language learning does not have to be hard; it isn’t hard, it is supposed to be a fun and eye-opening experience.

I hope you got to evaluate yourself (I did too honestly) if you commit or have committed any of the mistakes above.

Good thing it is not the end of the world and now that you know, you can fix it using some of the ways I provided too!

Good luck!



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4 Comments

  1. Interesting take you took here. It was fun to read your article, the mindset part is similar to growth vs. static mindset. Perhaps it’s interesting to read about it. I’m a language teacher and even I’m guilty of some of these mistakes especially the useless vocabulary learning mistake. I feel as if the mistakes you mentioned were mistakes you made yourself on your language learning journey and it was interesting to read about it. Keep up the awesome work.

  2. Interesting and informative blog. I enjoyed reading it. I have made some of these mistakes too. I expect that most language learners will be able to tick a few of these 10 boxes.
    Thanks and keep writing we need more guidance like this.

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