I have met a great deal of language enthusiasts in these 22+ years that I have been involved in teaching/coaching foreign languages,and there are millions of language students worldwide. Unfortunately, not all will succeed at learning and mastering these languages because most will quit before reaching their goal.

Why do people stop learning a language?

Learning a language is a long endeavour, it is far from being a straight line taking you from point A to point B. I always compare it realistically as climbing a mountain. Some stretches are easy, some steep, but the driving force should be the promise of the spectacular view once we reach the top. But is it?

I live in North-West England. There’s a beautiful region called Cumbria with wonderful scenery. It’s a preferred spot for walkers and climbers.

One year, as part of a Birthday present my husband prepared for me, he organised a climbing trip to one of the peaks of Cumbria.

I am not the sporty type, to be honest, but I can walk kilometres on the flat.

We started the ascension. I was fine at first, but after half an hour the path was becoming steeper with lots of obstacles on the way and very irregular.

I started feeling very tired. My husband tried to encourage me. He promised that if I reached the top, I would be pleasantly surprised, he did not say exactly what it was.

At some other point, when an older woman passed by, he looked at me saying “look at her, and she’s much older”. This didn’t encourage me at all. At the contrary.

I abandoned the climb halfway there, to my husband’s disappointment.

Your goals should be stripped into manageable and achievable bites.

The same happens in language learning you might want to learn a language, but if your goal is unclear you will certainly take your focus off the prize. You should clearly define the reason why you wish to acquire this new skill. This goal should be as clear and concrete as possible so that you are often reminded of what you will obtain when you have acquired the desired language skills. So, unclear goals are a killer to motivation.

Your goals should be stripped into manageable and achievable bites.

Another reason why people quit is the alleged lack of time. Obviously at the beginning, you are highly motivated, and you are more than willing to swap over your time doing something else to learning this new language. But when the climb gets difficult it is very easy to go back to your default mode. To avoid this, creating a solid routine can be the solution.

Build your language routine around your commitments. Short period of time is better than hours invested in your language activity. Remember that to master a language, consistency is key. As I tell my coachees “little and often”.

The fear of speaking the language is a powerful reason for not carrying on studying it.

Language learners are usually shy when using the language for communication.

There’s this nagging feeling of being perceived as a fool when using this language.You should not let this hold you back. Bear in mind that this is just a perceived impression, not true. Most people will be understanding and will appreciate your effort.

Start small, for example talking to a friend who speaks this language or learn with a tutor who will by no means be judgemental and will correct you gently.

Another way is to record yourself speaking in your second language. Listen back to yourself. Make the necessary corrections. If you are brave enough, upload it in a language forum or Facebook group.

Learn a set of sentences and questions to use when you do not understand, like “Could you repeat, please?” Or “Could you speak more slowly?”

Practice makes perfect, the more you speak the easier it will become and having a language partner with whom to talk will help massively. There are online sites where you will find exchange partners for free.

Improve your listening skills.

Listening and speaking skills go together. Practice active listening. If you work at improving your listening skills, your speaking will improve. You will increase your vocabulary as well as your pronunciation. You will understand better the native speaker, and this will boost your confidence when speaking. The perceived improvement will help you continue your language journey.

Don’t compare yourself to others.

This is a great de-motivator and a cause for abandoning your language learning. Everyone has their own learning style, and progress at different pace. Keep on your lane, be persistent, find help and keep going.

Most people abandon studying a language when they reach a language plateau.

This is when you feel stuck and think that you are not improving. You are devoting the same time to your studies, but you are not improving that much. The thing is that the higher the knowledge in your second language the number of new things you learn is less and less hence the perception of stagnation. But I can assure you, although imperceptible, you are progressing.

Find a way to register your progress. Once again, make a video of yourself talking about different topics maybe every three months and compare them.you’ll be surprised to notice how far you’ve come.

Here is the end of my story.

11 years later, we were on holiday in the area and this time as a family of four. I had a 10-year-old daughter and a 6-year old son.

I don’t remember how, but we decided to try the climb again and this time my husband explained that the beauty of the exercise was that at the very top there was a beautiful lake.

The children were very pleased and enthusiastic. Halfway through the climb, I started feeling out of breath as I could not keep up with them. My daughter decided to stay with me and was very encouraging by constantly saying “you can do it Mum”, “we’re almost there”.

Long story short, I got to the top and could appreciate the view with my daughter by my side.

The first time I tried the climb, I didn’t know what I was aiming at.

Language learning is very similar. You must make sure that your motivation is clear. When you’re not sure why you’re doing it, you’ll soon abandon your journey.

Don’t compare yourself with anybody else. Instead of propelling you towards your goal, it will have the opposite effect such as it happened to me.

You need a language buddy to encourage you when the going gets though, cheering each other up, like my daughter did. It created accountability and I didn’t want to disappoint her.

It is not an easy climb, but once you get there you will experience all the joy of a job well done.

Have you ever quit learning a language? Let me know in the comments below.

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