6 Bad Habits To Avoid When Learning A New Language, And How To Break Them

Are you a binge-learner? Or maybe you’re a rut-walker? Have no fear, whatever your bad habit is it can definitely be broken.
6 Bad Learning Habits

We’ve talked about good habits for learning a language plenty of times, but just as important is avoiding bad learning habits. You can spend months not making much progress because you’ve run up against a wall. There’s no one best way to go about learning, but there are plenty of pitfalls that exist. Here are some of the bad habits that are easy to pick up, and how to break out of them.

Bad Learning Habits And How To Break Them

1. The Rut-Walker

Having a good learning routine is important whenever you’re learning a new skill. What’s also important, though, is knowing the difference between a healthy routine and a rut. You don’t want to be stuck in one of those bad learning habits where you waste a lot of time doing the same thing over and over again without making much progress. It’s frustrating, and it can start to feel like the language is unconquerable.

How To Break It

The first and hardest step is identifying you’re in a rut. Have you been doing the same thing for months but feel like you’re not making progress? Is your formerly healthy routine starting to feel stale? Are you focusing too much on only one part of the language and ignoring the rest? Once you realize you’re in a rut, breaking out of it is easy! There are so many options for shaking up your routine, like listening to podcasts in your target language or incorporating more culture into your language learning. Fortunately, this can be one of those bad learning habits that’s somewhat fun to break.

2. The No-Talker

Of all the bad learning habits on this list, this habit might be the most specific to language-learning. You have a great routine, you’re learning a lot and understanding more and more of the language, which is all fantastic. One problem: you’re not actually speaking the language. That’s not the end of the world, but if you hope to one day have conversations in your new language, you’re going to need to talk eventually.

How To Break It

The simplest way to break this habit is just to start speaking in the language, but that’s easier said than done. If the only problem is you need a conversational partner, there are plenty of online resources to help you find someone you can practice with. Maybe you could even convince a friend to practice with you! If the problem is a fear of making mistakes, however, that’ll be a bit harder to solve. Just remember that practicing speaking is the only way to get better, and there’s no shame in mistakes.

3. The Binge-Learner

You’ve got a language-learning app on your phone, and you worked on the language for three hours! Great! But then, because that took up so much time, you skipped studying the next day. And the day after that. Oh, and the day after that. But a few weeks later you studied for a few hours again! Oops, but then you don’t do it for a month after that. Basically, you keep binging every once in a while, but then don’t study at all on the other days (this might also be how you deal with your gym membership). When you don’t see much improvement, there’s not much mystery as to why.

How To Break It

It’s been proven that studying in small chunks every day is better for you than studying a bunch every week or so. It can be annoying to carve out time every day, but there’s bound to be a 15-minute slot in your day where you can devote yourself to the language. Whether it be on your commute, after you shower in the morning or when you’re eating lunch, you’ll notice the improvement that regular studying can make.

4. The Streak-Burner

As mentioned (a few times already), routines are ideal when you’re learning and breaking bad learning habits. And if you’re able to stick to a routine that you set for yourself, that’s great! Maybe you check off each day you learn and keep track of how long your streak is going. But the problem is you’re a little too rigid with your own scheduling. Perhaps you missed one day and now your whole routine has fallen apart. Or you’ll think that if you forget to study in the morning, there’s no way to make up for that. Obsessing over the minutiae of when you learn like this can get in the way of your real learning.

How To Break It

The first thing you have to do when you break one of your self-imposed learning rules is to forgive yourself. Yes, it’s a shame when you forgot for the first time to study the language that day, but that’s life. In an ideal world, you could study every day at the same time and steadily improve, but we definitely don’t live in an ideal world. Don’t fret over the small things, and be flexible when necessary.

5. The Plateau-Hitter

You’ve set your routine, you have hundreds of vocabulary note cards and you’re charging ahead in your studies. You’ve made so much progress and things are going great, but then suddenly it all seems to come to a standstill. You keep practicing your language, but it just doesn’t seem to be getting better. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; everyone hits a plateau when they’re working on a new skill. The bad habit is letting the plateau sap your motivation right out of you.

How To Break It

The first thing to realize is that a plateau is not really a plateau. Yes, it may seem like you’re not learning as much as you used to, but it’s all relative. Whereas in the beginning, every new thing you learn in a language is a revelation. After a while, though, it gets a bit more menial as you learn the intricacies, and so it just seems like there’s not as much progress happening. Just keep going. In the worst case scenario, your plateau means you need to shake up your learning a little bit. The techniques used when you start learning a language won’t necessarily be effective later on. Use your plateau as a chance to challenge yourself to see how much you really understand. You might just impress yourself.

6. The Abject Quitter

Let’s not mince words, we’ve all quit something. Maybe you quit soccer in the fourth grade, or you quit piano in college. And there are plenty of valid reasons to quit something, so it’s not always a bad thing. But quitting can also be a bad habit, and it happens with language learning. Maybe you’ve quit learning language multiple times, only to come back to it later. Or perhaps you’ve picked up lots of hobbies only to drop them later. Either way, it’s a hard habit to fix.

How To Break It

This one might take some soul-searching. Keeping up your motivation for learning a language is really the only way to avoid giving up on your goals. Why are you learning in the first place? To connect with other cultures? To challenge yourself? To exercise your brain? It’s great to want to learn a language just for the sake of learning a language, but that motivation can fall short when you’re actually doing the work of studying grammar and memorizing vocab. Learning a language is a massively rewarding experience, and it can be hard and frustrating but that’s all part of the process. Imagine the person you want to be, and chase that dream.

Pick up some good habits.
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