We are full of good intentions when we decide to start learning a language, but at times we can prevent our progress by failing to apply certain systems that could help us thrive and move forward. It can be difficult to point the finger at our mistakes and find out how we can improve. Therefore, I’m highlighting some here.

Stop sabotaging your language learning.

Not prioritising

You lead a busy life, you’re keen and willing to learn this new language. It’s a skill you wish to acquire. But the desire gets buried at times within the infinite pile of activities you must achieve throughout the day, and language learning becomes the least of your priorities.

Therefore, if you start doing a daily to-do list, prioritising your tasks, and putting your 20-30 minutes daily study time as a high priority activity, you might be able to avoid neglecting your second language.

Secondly, you should do the same when planning what to study. Make a list of the items that are important for you to learn. Give them your undivided attention and then, move forward down your list of priority.

To-do lists are not difficult to make and it will be easy for you to allocate a number to each task according to their relevance: being 1 for the most urgent/important task to do and so on.


Failing to manage distractions

Distractions are everywhere. They come in different forms: emails, social media, you choose. It is often difficult to get everything done with these time-wasters. You must somehow reclaim your time and regain control of your day.

When studying, you should try to get rid of these distractions, as much as you can. Switch your phone and TV off, leave your messages and chats for later, to boost your concentration. This is when you will take advantage of whatever time you’ve got for language learning.

No distractions, no multitasking.

Procrastination

It is when you delay doing the task ahead, because you’re dreading it. One way to avoid it is to tell yourself that you will study only five minutes. This lapse of time goes by very quickly and you’ll see, once you start, you will carry on learning gladly.

Always focus on your “why”. Remember why you’re studying the foreign language, what you want to achieve once you master it, all the benefits that you will obtain.

Establish a reward system whereby you’ll be able to binge watch this TV series or go on social media only when you finish your tasks, for example. Instead of using these distractions to procrastinate, make them help you finish what you scheduled to do.


Not setting personal goals

You’ve got to have a vision of your “why “but also of “where” you see yourself in six months or one year. When you know where you want to go, what you want to achieve, it’s easier to establish your priorities and put in place a plan of action to help you manage time and resources so that you can reach the finish line.

"Language Learning is a marathon, not a sprint" You should pace yourself and plan your activities.

Taking on too much

Language learning is a marathon, not a sprint. You must learn to pace yourself. Trying to study too much at once, will only discourage you and push you to abandon. Binge study over two to three hours at a time will accomplish the same. Instead, try to divide your activities into 15-30-minute bite-size content, three to five time a week and this will guarantee your success.


Multitasking

In language learning this is a big no-no. you should focus exclusively on the language task to optimise your results. It ‘s the way to effectively learn. Your productivity levels will increase dramatically. Your thoughts will be more organised, and you will memorise the words and phrases more easily. Your brain will be more alert to grammar structures, and that will allow you to retrieve and use them when necessary.


Not using your target language

It is paramount to practice using the language from the get-go, even at beginner’s level. It’s an excellent way to progress. You’re actively applying the knowledge you’re acquiring, and this practice will help you retrieve all the information stored in your passive language pool. It’s a good motivator as well because you find out how to apply all these words, phrases and structures to achieve something as practical as communication.


Not choosing the right materials

It is important to choose the material that matches your learning style. You should identify which one (or combination) is yours.

Some people have a dominant style of learning, and others use different styles according to the circumstances.

There are seven learning styles:

Visual: you prefer using pictures, images and spatial understanding.

Aural(auditory): you prefer using sound and music.

Verbal(linguistic): you prefer using words, both in speech and writing.

Physical(kinesthetics): you prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.

Logical(mathematical): you prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.

Social(interpersonal): you prefer to learn in groups or with other people.

Solitary(intrapersonal): you prefer to work alone and use self-study.

When you know your learning style it is easier to choose the adequate materials to help you learn faster and more efficiently.


Not taking breaks

It is impossible to focus and learn effectively without giving our brain some time to rest and recharge. This goes especially to you “the week-end binger” who crams two to three hours of language study at once. This is inefficient as 25% or more of what you study won’t stick to your long-term memory. To succeed, short study periods spread over a week are proved more effective.

Not studying consistently is like going two steps forward and one backward.


Not studying consistently

As you already know, you reap more benefits by studying “little and often over a period of time”. Here consistency is key. It’s totally unproductive to study for three weeks to abandon your learning over the same period or more and restart again. With this system, progress is almost impossible, because you must go back to previously learned concepts to refresh your memory before being able to carry on. It’s like going two steps forward and one backward each time.

This is a waste of your precious time, effort and money. If this has been happening to you, you should reconsider, reset and restart.

These are only a few of the hundred ways language students have been sabotaging their progress. It is never too late to reassess your behaviour and pivot. I urge you to do so if you identified yourself in more than five points in this article.

If you know of more ways to hamper your language study, let me know in the comments.