Let’s face it.
Learning a new language for the first time is confusing.
We often don’t know how to get started, nor do we have the time to commit to learning! This leads us to waste our energy, money, and most importantly, time.
That stops today. We’re going to show you the 5 most deadly mistakes all language learners make — and how you can avoid them.
1. Not knowing your “why”
Understanding your “why” is where it all has to start. As Simon Sinek explains in his book,
Start with Why that the reason why you’re doing something is far more important than the how or what.
This is because whenever we take on a new task or project, there’s always going to be an obstacle or struggle that we’ll need to overcome. Those who give up early on are the ones that haven’t clarified what their “why” is.
Let’s come back to language learning. Whatever your target language is — Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, etc. — what’s your “why?”
Here are some questions we recommend you ask, as explained in our free language learning course:
What you will achieve?
Who will you be able to connect with?
Who will you become as a person?
The next time you’re facing difficulty or losing motivation, just come back to these reasons, and you’ll get right back on track.
2. No clear end goal
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”
— Tony Robbins
It doesn’t matter if we have the fastest car in the world. If we don’t know where we’re going, we’ll just end up wasting precious energy, money, and time going nowhere.
All of us have a desire that we want to fulfill; we just have to clarify what that is, and make it the driver to our success.
There are 5 key components to setting goals. Your goal has to be:
a. Visually specific — Get as visually clear as possible about what your end-result would look like, to the point where you can close your eyes and imagine it.
b. Slightly out of reach — There is a fine balance to picking a goal that’s way out of reach, to one that is within reach. This mini-goal should be something you can visually imagine, but a goal that you would need to push yourself to accomplish.
c. Measurable — What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get improved. The easiest way to do this is to put a number on it. This could be number of words memorized, the length of conversation you can have with a native speaker, etc.
d. Goal oriented — Focus on the results, not how much time you spent getting there. For example, instead of measuring how many hours you studied every week, only measure what measurable result you achieved.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how much effort you put in, unless you don’t get the results from the effort
e. Deadline specific — As Parkinson’s Law states, the time we spend completing a task will depend on the time we allocate to the task. This means that if we give ourselves 30 days to complete a report that should only take 30 minutes, that’s exactly how long we’ll take to complete it.
Whatever goal you set, make sure you have a deadline to accomplish it.
Let me share 3 examples of goals that are bad, good, and great, so you can get an understanding of how your goal compares.
Bad goal: I want to become fluent in Spanish so I can travel to Spain by next year.
Good goal: I want to become conversation fluent in Spanish so I can travel to Spain by next summer.
Great goal: I will have a 15-minute conversation in Spanish with a native Spanish person over coffee in a cafe in Madrid on July 2016.
Do you notice the difference?
Compared to the first two goals, the great goal is written as if it’s already accomplished (I want vs I will), and includes all the components of the goal-setting formula including deadline, measurability, visually specific, and results oriented.
3. No schedule
The most successful people and top-performers in their industry focus on the process, not just the deadline. Optimal performance is less important than the daily practice of taking action, no matter how hard it is or how tired you are.
If you want to write a book, this could mean waking up each morning in order to write 500 words, no matter how bad the first draft is.
If you want to double your business sales, this could mean spending every week with your team reviewing your sales numbers, and executing a new growth experiment.
If you want to lose 10 pounds, this could mean running 30 minutes every morning.
For many of us, learning a new language is not the #1 priority in our lives. It’s our family time, careers, or other side projects we may be working on.
This is why scheduling your learning time is even more important than scheduling your work time.
Here are some practical steps we recommend to schedule your learning time:
- Pick your language learning activity — this could be memorizing 30 of the most common words on your own or working with a private language coach at Rype.
- Figure out your free times — when are the vacant times during the day?
If you’re a morning person, it could be before work. It could be during lunch break, or even in the evening (the most popular time for Rypers).
- Add in 15–30 minute buffer time — schedules never go according to plan. This is why we want to make sure we add some buffer times, so if we happened to wake up later than usual, or get held from traffic on the way back from home, we can still use the buffer time to stay on track.
- Set reminders — because we probably have a dozen things we need to remember during our days, setting notification reminders goes along way.
This could be done through any digital calendar software you use (i.e. Google, Outlook, etc), and you can even receive them on your phone.
4. Being an information sucker
We’ve all been there. We spend hours attending a conference or reading a book. The excitement overwhelms us and our body is filled with motivation ready to master anything!
How often do we actually master it?
Research from NTL Institute has shown that people learn:
5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from a lecture.
10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading.
20% of what they learn from audio-visual.
30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration
50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion.
75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned.
90% of what they learn when they teach someone else/use immediately.
The key to learning a language is to learn by doing! This means actually going out there and practicing your skills with other people (preferably native speakers). If you don’t have anyone in your inner circle, then work with a language coach online!
5. Doing everything yourself
Ever heard the saying, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together?”
According to best-selling author, Seth Godin:
Five Reasons You Might Fail to Become the Best in the World (In Anything)
1. You run out of time (and quit)
2. You run out of money (and quit)
3. You get scared (and quit)
4. You’re not serious about it (and quit)
5. You lose interest (and quit)
It’s easy to resort to going at it alone, this is how we’ve lived most of our lives.
But if you observe the best performers and the fastest learners, they have someone who works with them, whether it’s a mentor, advisor, or coach.
In almost any aspect of our lives, we have a coach that we work with, whether it’s a fitness trainer, financial advisor, business mentor, or sports coach. This is the best kept secret amongst the best performers and the fastest learners in the world.
Language learning is no different.
If you’ve truly discovered your why, and have a clear goal that you’ve set for yourself. It’s time to get outside help, to guide you through each step of the way, keep you accountable, and accelerate your learning speed.
Anyone can learn a new language, no matter how old you are, how busy you are, and even if you’ve tried before. It’s finding the right strategy that works for you, and avoiding the most deadly mistakes that language learners make.