How to simplify your approach to language learning

June 30, 2017

Take my word for it – learning languages is easy

For me learning languages has always been easy. At least, that’s what I’ve always thought (or told myself).

I don’t find language learning boring or demanding – quite the contrary. I think it’s interesting and fun. I constantly want to learn more and improve. I believe that with this attitude learning really does become easier.

In my opinion, one of the greatest problems with learning languages is the belief that it is difficult. If you think that learning a language is strenuous and boring, then you subconsciously make it strenuous and boring for yourself.

If you think thick text- and workbooks are depressing, forget them. Try a learning method that you personally think is fun (see a blog post on the best self-studying methods here). It’s most likely going to work best for you!


Don’t focus on grammar

Grammar is not meant to be learned by reading a grammar book from start to finish or by learning every grammar rule by heart.

However, this does not mean that verb conjugation tables, for example, are useless. In fact, they are extremely useful, but learning them by heart shouldn’t be an end in itself. Instead, grammar rules should be considered tools with the help of which you are able to produce full sentences and get your message across.


There is no need stress about grammar.

For me the main purpose of a grammar book is to answer questions that arise when learning languages by other means or when using them. I might, for example, want to know how a verb is inflected in the formal form, so that I am able to be polite when going to a café in Spain.


Vocabulary is the foundation for everything

When you’re learning a new language, focus on topics that are meaningful to you or that you need in your everyday life. Learn how to talk about your family, your hobbies, your hometown and your dreams.

If you’re interested in cooking, for example, start by learning vocabulary that is food-related (also see our post How to learn languages through food). If you have a passion for traveling, focus on topics that you need on your trip.

food vocabulary

Nobody cares about your mistakes

Finding the courage to start speaking is a terrible experience for most of us.

I’m really nervous about speaking in a foreign language, too – especially with native speakers! It’s truly awful in the beginning. Because I panic, I make a lot of mistakes, I have to search for words and I use funny expressions.

I’m embarrassed but in reality, no one cares.

Nobody else is in the least interested when it comes to my mistakes.

Try to invert the situation: if a tourist or an immigrant tries to speak your mother tongue and makes mistakes, what do you think? You would most likely think that it’s great that someone has the courage to speak the local language. You might even find yourself wanting to help them by completing their sentences or by answering slowly and clearly with the help of gestures.

The fear and shame of making mistakes are strong and restrictive feelings that you should try and get rid of in every way possible. Instead of thinking “What is the worst that could happen?”, think “What is the best that could happen?”



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