Learning a Foreign Language: 2 Pitfalls to Watch Out For

If you’ve finally decided to take that first step(Kudos to you, because most never get that far), you still have to be on the lookout for things that can hold you back from making any real progress. There’s two big pitfalls waiting for you on the road to learning a foreign language. And they come right at your very first step.

1. Action Faking

MJ Demarco, author of The Millionaire Fastlane (which I recommend anyone interested in entrepreneurship to read), defines an action faker as someone who  “actually does take action, but yet that action is not a part of a clearly defined plan, purpose, or process.”

I’ve fallen victim to this multiple times throughout my language learning career. It has been and continues to be a detriment to most of my new language ventures.

My typical approach for learning a language is to watch and read a lot of native content from the beginning. I’ll also scour the net for different courses to start and give me some kind of base in the language.

The action faking comes in when I say to myself, “Hey, I need to get a bunch of content or else I’ll get bored and will stop.” So what inevitably happens is that I will spend hours upon hours trying to find content to download(all of my avenues weren’t necessarily the most legal haha), and by the time I finally finish rather than doing anything with the content I’ll just dilly-dally in a language I’m already pretty good at.

The cycle will continue for some days. I may get in some actual study time in and may possibly watch a bit of the things I’ve downloaded for a few hours during the whole fiasco, but what usually happens is that I’ll drop the language after a few months and that’ll be that.

The way to remedy it is simple… in theory. I’ve done it sometimes but I haven’t always been effective. But that remedy is:

  1. Have a plan
  2. Write out said plan
  3. Define time limits for finding materials, when you hit those limits stop
  4. Whatever you have is what you have, you work with that until you’ve made some amount of progress. How much progress depends entirely on your plan

That’s it. Easier said than done I know. Keep in mind that step 2 is the most important part. For some reason writing things out seems to make them feel more real.

2. Analysis Paralysis

This is typical of the beginner language learner that has gained the confidence in themselves that they can learn the language, but still have a fear that they are doing it the wrong way.

What that fear materializes itself as is over-searching. Searching for the perfect course, the perfect framework, the perfect method, the perfect native media.

What we really fear is not doing it wrong, but the fear of loss. We think that if we aren’t doing it the correct way that it’s going to take that much longer to learn. And if we waste time doing that what are we missing out on.

It’s all about opportunity cost. So we make sure, and double check, and measure again to make sure we’re doing it right before taking a single step.

The solution to this one is dead simple.

Literally just do something. Anything that moves the needle. If you know one word more today that’s infinitely better than knowing 0 new words. Then do something again the next day.

You just continue on with this until you build enough momentum. Once you see results you’ll drop looking for the best whatever and just accept what you have, because hey, at least it’s working.

If you can find a way to sidestep these two pitfalls, you will still have challenges with your language, but you will be much better equipped to handle them when you know something as opposed to knowing nothing.

I hope these tips can be of some use in your journey.

Good Luck!

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