Girl taking notes while learning

Foreign Language Learning: Avoid The 10 Common Mistakes


Unsure if you are learning a foreign language correctly? Finding it difficult to progress to the next level? Many language learners are in your situation.

The following are some of the top mistakes they usually make, check out how to avoid them:

1) Learning with Duolingo / Memrise apps only.

Learning a foreign language by using popular apps like Duolingo helping to memorize new words and phrases can be really effective and engaging. But there is a little danger. They only create passive vocabulary, which you need to activate with other methods such as language exchangeOtherwise, in a casual conversation you will find yourself being able to comprehend what is said but will have difficulty responding.

2) Long language learning sessions.

Many people partake in language courses 1-2 days per week, spending about 1.5 hours each time. This is quite a long session, and you probably find yourself becoming bored.

Instead of following this common mistake, try learning gradually every day by only spending 25 minutes practicing. Your brain in this case, will be ‘living with the language’ and will not make the unnecessary efforts of stressing your mind during long periods. Besides, you don’t need to spend as much time at once, so you won’t get bored with it. The only thing you need is discipline.

3) Using Google translate.

Have you just received a long message in your target language from a friend? Or maybe you’re reading something interesting written in that language from your news feed? Don’t be lazy! Try to translate the text yourself first instead of putting it into Google translate. Catch the moment to put your language skills to test! By the way, there is a good article which explains how to learn languages effectively through translation.

4) Always trying to speak.

When you meet a native speaker, training your speaking skills is wonderful. However, while communicating with this ‘treasure’ (the native speaker), your best benefit would be to listen to him and understand what he is saying! This will not only boost your audial language comprehension, but also help to get closer to your new conversation buddy. People like when others listen to them.

5) Fear of mistakes.

Trying to avoid mistakes and speak perfectly at once is probably the most common mistake you will never eliminate as a beginner. You create a language barrier when you are constantly afraid of making mistakes. So, what would be the solution? Yes, just let yourself make mistakes! Speak, even if you don’t know all the rules! In this way, you will acquire the language gradually and more naturally.

However, don’t throw away the critiques from the native speakers or teachers when they try to correct your mistakes. Listen to them and repeat a phrase correctly. This will help you not to make the same mistake next time.

6) Focusing on unnecessary vocabulary.

The vocabulary the app / tutor/ textbook has given to you can be very far from the reality of the context and environment you operate within. Learn the vocabulary related to your personal or professional interests first. It will empower your motivation making the process more enjoyable and the memorizing, well, easier!

The best way to find and collect the vocabulary that interests you most is to read articles on the topics you like. Use a Chrome plugin MyVocabu, for instance, to translate new words in articles on the go and add them to your vocabulary list.

7) Reading subtitles.

Learning languages by watching movies can be really fun. Many people use this method because subtitles help them enjoy the movie without losing the meaning. But the biggest mistake here is to overuse them. If you already comprehend on an intermediate level, you shouldn’t really look at the subtitles while watching movies. You should try to understand the phrases by yourself first. If you still don’t understand, repeat the clip and check out the words you didn’t get (maybe they are just really new for you).

There are special websites which provide the opportunity to learn a language while watching videos. One of the most popular among English learners is Ororo, it allows you to enrich the vocabulary though watching TV shows, TED talks or your favorite movies with double subtitles.

8) Unrealistic plan

Unrealistic expectations and goals that you can’t physically achieve can really demotivate the learning process. For example, don’t expect that you will be able to easily read books soon after you begin to speak. If you cannot achieve it then you become frustrated and can even lose your desire to continue learning the language.

Instead of looking at the ‘big goal’ all the time you open your study materials, split the goal into many steps that you need to make one by one. After each step give yourself some pleasant encouragement such as your favorite dessert. You can also keep a diary where you will write down all your mini-achievements of the day, including language learning.

9) Anchoring on other’s success

Measuring your success by comparing your progress to others’ (your peers, friends, fellows) can be really demotivating sometimes. Everybody has his or her own pace in learning. Competition is good, but you need to understand that you have succeeded by learning more than you knew yesterday, but not by how quickly you learn.

10) Learning alone

Struggling with language learning at home can be boring and  unproductive. The environment of same-minded language learners should spur you to learn more. Find some buddies and discover the world of the language together: explain each other new rules, play role games, make exercises, read and discuss news, watch movies, tell stories.  However, if you still decide to stay at home alone during a cold, rainy evening, open the Bilingua app and get connected to the world of the language learning geeks!


Why tools like Duolingo are not enough to learn a foreign language?


Well, let’s get back to the first mistake. Why popular language apps specialized in training vocabulary can be so dangerous for those who have a serious intention to learn a foreign language?

The answer is that it relaxes you too much and creates an illusion that one can meet the challenge of foreign language learning by simply ‘playing a game’. In other words, using only the gamification approach can turn you into a child who avoids thinking.

There were observed so many cases when people were practicing a foreign language with Duolingo every day during one-two months and then, in the real life, failed to remember simple words. And these were the words they faced so many times in the app during their exercises! It becomes obvious that it is just a very passive vocabulary which they had to activate in the real conversational practice.

When you interact with a gamified vocabulary-learning app, you mostly learn visually. In addition, you don’t use the words immediately in a real-life conversation.Then every time you are trying to speak, you have to imagine how the word is written in order to recall it. This takes time, and you look too slow in answering. Who would enjoy talking with you then?

Here are 3 simple advices for you to complement your through-app-language-learning, turn the passive vocabulary into active and finally start to learn consciously:

1) Join language learning community and attend the meetings every week, so that you can enjoy practicing with other active learners of your target foreign language and the native speakers. You will be always welcome to show off what you have learnt during the week. Besides, you can find new friends there or regular language partners to practice together. Community language learning has become very popular and exists almost in every city. At least you can create your own language club in your town and easily find the potential members through social media.

2) Practice online language exchange with Bilingua regularly to make sure you have really remembered the words and know how to apply them. Just if you don’t know – Bilingua app allows you to practice language online through video or messages with native speakers from all over the globe, for free. Online speaking practice saves time and is good for a homebody.

3) Speak the target language with your friends who are also learning it or already speak well this language. Yes, it will take more time and efforts to communicate your thoughts while having a rest with friends. Yes, you may look strange choosing the hardest way. And yes, you will face some psychological barrier to start. But just imagine how much time you will save while walking with friends and having your daily language practice simultaneously! And the biggest advantage: in a few hours of speaking, you realize that you begin thinking in the language you are learning! Your brain is magic.

The main idea of those advices is that you need to try using any available possibility to train the new words orally. And it will be three times more effective if you decide to follow all these 3 advices at the same time. Half a year will pass, and you will definitely level up.

Leave a Reply