Avoid making these mistakes when learning a language

Erin O'Connor

Erin O'Connor

Hi! My name is Erin, and I'm both Irish and English. I'm currently studying French literature at King's College London, soon to graduate! Being able to speak two languages has opened so many doors for me, be that through socialising, travel, and work. I'm currently taking on the challenge of learning a third language, Spanish!
Erin O'Connor

There are many ways to learn a language. That’s the beauty of it! You can tailor it to your lifestyle and learning preferences. Whether you’re someone who likes to spend hours reading or someone who prefers a more on-the-go learning method, languages can suit anyone! However, there are some common mistakes that many people make when trying to learn a new languagel  mistakes that might actually be preventing you from progressing and reaching your goals. I am going to show you 5 mistakes you might be making while learning a language, and ways to prevent these from happening!

1. Inconsistency

No matter if you have a jam-packed work schedule or all the time in the world, consistency is so important when it comes to learning a new language. More often than not people starting up a new language forget this, and their learning becomes sporadic and inconsistent. If you aren’t designating sessions regularly throughout your weekly routine, nothing will stick! It doesn’t mean you have to spend hours every day practicing grammar and memorising vocabulary, nobody really has time for that! Instead, consider spending two hours a week dedicated to improving your language skills.

2. One-sided approach

If you are learning a new language, and expecting to become fluent just by reading in that language, think again! Learning a new language means attacking it from all angles. You need to be reading, writing, listening AND speaking. Pick up a good book, practice writing out some simple phrases. Listen to some foreign radio and sign up for a language session with JabbaJabba! The combination of all of these is a sure-fire way to achieving your linguistic goals.

3. Languages = work?

A common misconception people have about languages is that the process of learning is endless and tedious. But it doesn’t have to be! If you aren’t enjoying the method(s) you are using to learn a language, you are more likely to give up than continue! Find new and fun ways to incorporate language learning into your schedule, be that through hosting foreign movie nights with your friends, or even listening to foreign music on the way to work!

4. Going solo

One mistake you may be making is trying to tackle a language on your own. It is very easy to do your own studying now with the copious amounts of language resources available online, but sometimes it is better to work with others. Sharing the language learning experience with others has been proven to be a very effective learning technique, as you can bounce ideas off each other and correct each other’s grammar etc. Grab a friend and get learning!

5. Stuck in a rut

Something that often happens when learning a new language is that you get stuck on a certain level and can’t seem to progress. This happens to all of us, and it just means that you need to set yourself challenges to ensure that you are progressing in the language. One thing I like to do is every month attempt to read a more challenging novel in a new language. Don’t set yourself goals which you will never be able to achieve, but instead set small, regular language challenges that will push you further in your learning!

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10 actionable steps that will motivate you to learn another language

Trisha Collins-Dunbar

Trisha Collins-Dunbar

Trisha Collins Dunbar is the founder of Language Learners Journal.Com and the Positively Productive Project. She has a postgraduate background in psychological research with the focus on positive psychology. In her spare time, she loves learning languages, spending time with her family, drinking coffee and traveling around the UK and Europe. She hopes to inspire more people to learn new languages.

Currently Learning Chinese Mandarin and Spanish.

Previous Languages: French, Icelandicand BasicBritish Sign Language (BSL)
Trisha Collins-Dunbar

Latest posts by Trisha Collins-Dunbar (see all)

Motivation is basically, in a nutshell, the desire you have to get things done! The lower the motivation, the less able you are to do things. Learning a language is in no way an easy task. It takes a huge amount of motivation and even the most motivated of people can feel unmotivated at times – me included! Sometimes we can get so low that even just thinking about getting started again can seem like too much effort. The good news is that research has shown that motivation levels can be consciously controlled. Here are some tried and tested techniques that can get help get you back on track…

Continue reading 10 actionable steps that will motivate you to learn another language

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How to stay motivated when learning languages: top 5 tips

Katherine Lucas

Katherine Lucas

Kat has spoken Italian for several years and has a keen interest in the process of learning languages.
Katherine Lucas

Latest posts by Katherine Lucas (see all)

Stay motivated when learning languages

Learning a language. It can be a bit like going on holiday. You just want to arrive at the destination, but getting there can be pretty exhausting. This post explores how to stay motivated when learning languages.

It’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s important to keep plugging away,  bit by bit. Here are five tips that can be useful for maintaining focus.

Start with the basics

One of the biggest confidence lifters is the feeling of being able to speak a language, even if at first, it’s just a very basic conversation. There are plenty of YouTube videos available which outline the essential phrases in your target language. These posts from elsewhere on the JabbaJabba blog give you the top phrases for Spanish, Italian, French, and German. Explore them today! It might be tempting to rush ahead. But learning the fundamentals is the best way to feel like you’re getting a grasp on the language.

Focus on what you love

In all areas of study, it’s usually easier to stay motivated if the subject interests you. Hopefully, that applies to the language itself, but you can also look for materials relating to something you’re interested in. Personally, my passion is football. So when I was learning Italian I would watch press conferences from Inter Milan and AC Milan and try to understand as much as possible.

If you’re not sure what interests you, try reading a newspaper from the country and see which stories grab your attention. In Italy, La Repubblica is a popular paper and it has stories on politics, sport, and the arts. Listening to music is another obvious way to immerse yourself. Sites like Billboard chart the top 20 songs in different countries, and there will often be Youtube videos to accompany them with a translation, like this one of the Spanish song Despacito.

Set yourself a word goal

A big misconception is that becoming fluent means knowing every single word in the target language. The reality is that upwards of 4,000 words is advanced. That number might sounds daunting, but it can be achieved wiin a year if you learn just 10 words a day. That’s not so daunting. Break these targets down into bite-size pieces. The series of books Parola per Parola or Palabra por Palabra are some of the best for learning vocabulary.

Don’t panic

People ask what words mean all the time in their native language and it shouldn’t be taboo in another language. All isn’t lost if you’re without a personal tutor or a native speaker, as several sites exist that offer better translations than Google Translate. Word Reference is quite possibly the best because it not only offers several translations of a word to make sure you get the correct one, it also gives examples of when they might be used.

Get the grammar out the way 

Grammar can be soul-destroying. Few people find it the most interesting aspect of learning a new language! Dedicate a few minutes at the beginning of each session to understanding how the language works and everything else should fall into place. For a basic grasp of grammar, the BBC has split its Italian page into 15 small sections that cover the most important topics. The site Italian Verbs  is more helpful once you’ve got a general understanding and it’s a great way to test yourself when conjugating verbs.

Have you got any tips for how to stay motivated when learning languages? Pop them in the comments section – we’d love to hear from you!

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All work and no play? Here’s how to learn Mandarin Chinese by watching TV

Nikita Hayward

Nikita Hayward

Nikita is a History graduate with an interest in Asian languages, travel and education. She enjoys foreign films, blogging, and cultural exchange projects.
Nikita Hayward

Watching TV (films, features and news) in your target language is a brilliant way to learn. This post zeros in on how to learn mandarin watching TV online but the process outlined can be applied to any language!

Watching foreign language television can help consolidate what you’ve learned elsewhere. It can help you perfect your accent and, because it’s quite entertaining anyway, can be good for those moments when you’re lacking motivation in your language-learning routine, or if you’ve been on a break from a language, and now returning to it.

A word of warning before you throw away your books and cancel that meet-up you had scheduled, though. Watching films and TV in another language will only be effective when combined with practice in speaking and writing and when done in the right way.

Do it incorrectly and you’ll just end up reading English subtitles and watching TV as mindlessly as usual! (That’s assuming you usually watch it mindlessly, of course).

Continue reading All work and no play? Here’s how to learn Mandarin Chinese by watching TV

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How to remember vocab: top ten tips to make it stick!

Anna Gevorgan

Anna Gevorgan

Hi. I am Anna. I am a currently a postgraduate student at University College London Institute of Education. I am studying lifelong learning and I am a lifelong learner myself. My native tongue is Armenian, I am fluent in Russian and I have a good command of Spanish. Professionally, I am a qualified teacher and have been teaching English in universities and language schools for more than 12 years.
Anna Gevorgan

Ok, so. You’ve got your vocab list. Now what? Successful learning of a foreign language is often associated with efficient use of vocabulary. But learning new vocabulary is a tough task: you have to be able to make sense of the new words in the first place, then you have to retain, reproduce and recognize them. In this post, I offer you ten of my top tips for how to remember vocab.

Continue reading How to remember vocab: top ten tips to make it stick!

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Top games to learn a language: why you should be using them

Anna Gevorgan

Anna Gevorgan

Hi. I am Anna. I am a currently a postgraduate student at University College London Institute of Education. I am studying lifelong learning and I am a lifelong learner myself. My native tongue is Armenian, I am fluent in Russian and I have a good command of Spanish. Professionally, I am a qualified teacher and have been teaching English in universities and language schools for more than 12 years.
Anna Gevorgan

Why you should be using games to learn a language

Language learning can be hard work. Whether you are a beginner or well advanced in your foreign language practice, you will have to go through a lot of effort to comprehend, adapt and produce the new language in your conversation and  writing. But language learning is also a fun and stimulating activity that will promote higher thinking skills, creativity and interaction. While you may already have developed strategies that work best for you, you should consider using games to learn a language as well.

Games will help you sustain your motivation and they are effective. Whether you engage in solo games or play them with your peers or friends, they are a great supplement to your studying. You absolutely should be using games to learn a language. Here is why:

Continue reading Top games to learn a language: why you should be using them

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Language Learning Strategies: 5-a-day to supercharge your learning

Erin O'Connor

Erin O'Connor

Hi! My name is Erin, and I'm both Irish and English. I'm currently studying French literature at King's College London, soon to graduate! Being able to speak two languages has opened so many doors for me, be that through socialising, travel, and work. I'm currently taking on the challenge of learning a third language, Spanish!
Erin O'Connor

Language Learning Strategies

Having the right language learning strategies is important if you’re to succeed in getting fluent in another language. That’s because learning a new language can be daunting, time-consuming and it can be difficult to fit easily into our busy schedules. But it doesn’t have to be! I’m going to share with you 5 easy learning routines that you can incorporate into your day-to-day. They should help you on your language-learning adventure! They certainly helped me.

Continue reading Language Learning Strategies: 5-a-day to supercharge your learning

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Learn languages fast: How to get fluent in less than 6 months

Johnny Ridd

Johnny Ridd

Johnny is Co-Founder of JabbaJabba. He's lived in Beijing, Seoul and currently calls London home - as he ever will. He speaks middling (but rapidly improving!) Mandarin; but is determined to keep improving in a world that doesn't always make it that easy to (that's why he set up JabbaJabba!). Loves coffee, travel and expanding his horizons.
Johnny Ridd

How do you learn languages fast? Say, in less than 6 months? It’s possible. So says Chris Lonsdale. And he should know; he did it. Back in 1981, apparently. In China. As a mandarin learner myself I can’t help but be impressed by that. Very well done sir.

In case you’ve not seen it already, here’s Chris’ answer to the question “how can you help a normal adult to learn a new language quickly, easily and effectively?”

We’ve summarised Chris’ talk for you here: Continue reading Learn languages fast: How to get fluent in less than 6 months

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Learn languages fast: 5 killer ways to learn a language in no time

Johnny Ridd

Johnny Ridd

Johnny is Co-Founder of JabbaJabba. He's lived in Beijing, Seoul and currently calls London home - as he ever will. He speaks middling (but rapidly improving!) Mandarin; but is determined to keep improving in a world that doesn't always make it that easy to (that's why he set up JabbaJabba!). Loves coffee, travel and expanding his horizons.
Johnny Ridd

Here are polyglot Sid Efromovich’s top 5 tips on how to learn languages fast, taken from his must-see TEDx talk: Continue reading Learn languages fast: 5 killer ways to learn a language in no time

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Learn a language: the best new (old) way to do it

Johnny Ridd

Johnny Ridd

Johnny is Co-Founder of JabbaJabba. He's lived in Beijing, Seoul and currently calls London home - as he ever will. He speaks middling (but rapidly improving!) Mandarin; but is determined to keep improving in a world that doesn't always make it that easy to (that's why he set up JabbaJabba!). Loves coffee, travel and expanding his horizons.
Johnny Ridd

This is a blog about language, learning, culture and coffee. Over the coming weeks and months we’ll be bringing you posts that are useful, thought provoking, and, at times, irreverent. We’ll be talking to “Everyday Polyglots” (those quietly getting on with the business of speaking several languages) to understand how they got there. We’ll be unearthing killer language learning hacks and resources to help you #GetFluent and learn languages. Finally, we’ll be sourcing culture shock moments fresh from the press (because we believe they bring us closer together; as well as making us chuckle at times).

E-mail hello@jabbajabba.com with the subject line “Blog” if you’re interested in becoming a guest blogger.

Happy Learning!

About JabbaJabba

We’re busy building a movement to change the way people learn a language and think about learning languages. We do this by connecting language learners with hand-picked native speakers for tailored in-person, on-demand language training sessions. Book your session today and #GetFluent in a foreign language! E-mail us hello@jabbajabba.com if there’s anything we can do to help!

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