Stop Making Excuses! — 7 Language Learning Excuses Debunked

You have no time, no money and isn’t the language you want to learn too hard anyway? Nope! These are just excuses getting in your way. Let’s demolish them!
Illustration by Sveta Sobolev

It’s time for us to be honest. Many of the reasons we give for why we “can’t” learn languages are really just excuses. No money? No time? Maybe you hear yourself saying “I’m too old to learn” in the mirror every day? These are all just hogwash! Don’t believe us? You will once we explain what really lies behind the most typical excuses people give for supposedly “not being able” to learn a language.

Excuse #1: Some people just don’t have the talent for languages

You’re one of these people who believes that some people are real smarty-pants in math or science, while others are simply geniuses when it comes to languages. Therefore, if you don’t belong to that second group, then there really is no hope for you with language learning, and there’s no need to even start, right? Well, here’s what we say to that: This is nothing more than an itty bitty excuse! There are people who speak 5 languages but who have day jobs as programmers, and there are others who can juggle learning a language while at the same time studying for a Physics degree.

So, what if you’re convinced that math or sports is more your thing than learning a language? That doesn’t mean that you’re completely unable to learn a language. Perhaps you just need an extra bit of help in unlocking your hidden gift for languages — that’s nothing you need to feel ashamed of! Imagine if every hopeless student at math was barred from using a calculator just because geniuses like Newton and Turing didn’t use one? That would be madness.

Our tip: Take a deep breath, find your own motivation for learning a language and just go for it! Don’t measure yourself against others. Instead, set yourself goals that are realistic for you and your abilities.

Excuse #2: I can’t pronounce that!

You can’t roll your Spanish R’s properly? So what. Or maybe you’re having a nightmare trying to master the German “ch” sound? Big deal.

Sure it’s hard wrapping your tongue around sounds that don’t exist in your own language, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get there eventually! The source of your troubles is simply that you aren’t used to producing these sounds — yet. And here’s the good news: You already mastered the art of pronouncing new words a long time ago, when you were a baby! Babies try out all manner of sounds, and they only reproduce those sounds for which they receive positive feedback. Adults have the same speech organs as babies do (in fact, they have more because they possess a full set of teeth), and, like babies, they possess the ability to pronounce every type of sound. All you need is some training in order to master a new sound. The trick? Listen closely to how the sound is produced. With the tip of your tongue on the teeth? Or maybe through the nose? Once you’ve got a handle on how it should sound, you can start trying to copy this sound yourself. Keep at it, and soon you will be successful!

Excuse #3: The grammar is too difficult

Admittedly, a language’s grammar is not easy for an outsider to comprehend at first. The good news is that no one expects you to speak a new language without making some grammatical errors. If you bravely attempt your first words and phrases in another tongue, then your conversation partner will be very understanding, as they can see that you are still learning. Therefore: Go all out, there’s nothing to be afraid of!

Excuse #4: I just don’t have the time to learn a language

According to the United States Department of Labor, the average American over the age of 15 spends half of their leisure time each day watching TV (2.47 hours a day to be precise). So let’s be blunt: You do have some time in your day for language learning! The truth of the matter is that you just haven’t made language learning a priority. If you’re serious about learning a new language, you have to make this a priority. If you can’t find the motivation to continue learning a language, then maybe it’s time for you to change languages. If you just can’t get to grips with German, for example, because your inner-secret motivation for learning a new language is to travel to exotic climates and relax on sandy beaches, then obviously something like Spanish or Portuguese would be more up your street.

Once you’ve made language learning a top priority, you’re already well on your way to success. But, you shouldn’t think that you need to sacrifice watching TV or other leisure activities in order to focus on language learning — not at all — not when you can simply complement your learning by watching your favorite TV shows with the subtitles in your learning language! Or better yet, you could immerse yourself in a series of your learning language!

Excuse #5: I’m just too old for language learning

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right? (Claxon sounds) Wrong!

If it was impossible for people to pick up a new skill in their adulthood, then surely no one would be able to drive a car. After all, we all learned to drive when we were adults! And what about smartphones? Unless you’re under 20, it’s unlikely that you grew up with one — yet you learned how to operate one, right? You’ve probably already figured out what we’re getting at here, namely, that you don’t need to be a child in order to learn a new skill, or learn a language. You can learn a new language no matter how old you are.

Excuse #6: Mañana, Mañana

“Tomorrow, I’ll start learning a language.” Or, “Today I didn’t manage to get around to doing a lesson, so I’ll make up for it by doing two lessons… oh, but then there’s that company party I need to go to, so actually I won’t be able to to do it tomorrow after all…” Does this sound like you?

There was a time when your parents had to force you to brush your teeth, but today you do it twice a day (I hope) without so much as a second thought. At no point would you ever say, “I’ve not got the time to brush my teeth today. I’m tired, I’ve spent too much time playing sports and partying with my friends… I tell you what, I’ll do it tomorrow.” The fact is, brushing your teeth has become a habit, and there’s nothing stopping you turning your language learning into a habit too! Fit your language learning into your daily routine no matter what distractions might come your way. Trust us, you will always have time to learn a cheeky bit of vocabulary.

Excuse number 7: I don’t have enough money to learn a language

I hate to break it to you, but the argument that language learning is too expensive just doesn’t cut the mustard. Perhaps if you were living in the 16th Century — where education was restricted to the upper-classes — then you could argue that language learning was too expensive for the masses, but nowadays there are a ton of ways you can become fluent in a new language without breaking the bank. Language learning apps like Babbel are not expensive, and premium services like this can easily be supplemented with free services such as watching Youtube videos or reading blogs and websites in other languages. Of course, the other fun way to learn languages on the cheap is to explore this crazy little thing called “human interaction.”

Long story short, we reckon that the real reason you’ve put off learning a new language is that you are simply suffering from a lack of motivation. Just ask yourself exactly why is it you want to learn a language, and make a point of reminding yourself of this reason every day. Then, all that’s left for you to do is to dive in and enjoy the journey! Once you stop the excuses and start speaking, it only gets better and better.

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