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The language learning block – Overcoming the mental hurdle

One of the biggest hurdles to enabling adult learners to speak with a good accent is purely psychological. That is, we are afraid of sounding silly when we speak. The result is we default to the way that sounds the least silly to us—the sounds of our native language. It’s important to understand that good pronunciation will initially feel very weird to you.

A helpful tip is to try speaking your target language with an exaggerated caricature of how people from that country speak your native language. More often than not, you will land much closer to a good estimation of the correct pronunciation than by starting from the default of your native language.

What is a language block?

This term came from the phrase ‘writer’s block’ which writers use when they can’t put their thoughts on paper. 

The same issue is with learning languages. Let’s take a look at an example: 

You want to learn Spanish, and, naturally, you want to become fluent in it. You started your Spanish lessons, and after some time, you became very good at grammar, your vocabulary became impressive, and pronunciation as well. 

However, you can’t keep a conversation going for more than five minutes. You have a blockage in your brain that prevents you from saying what you want. 

You might start panicking and getting depressed, but that won’t help you. You have to find a way to solve this issue. To be able to solve it, you have to understand why it is happening.


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What is the language learning process?

Language learning is a process of acquiring a language. It starts when we’re born and it lasts our whole life.

Why do we have a language learning block?

This issue is common among language learners, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, more present among students who learn languages on their own than students in language schools. 

Not that learning a language by yourself is not good, but learning in schools and tutoring platforms allows practicing and improving conversational skills. 

There are two main reasons why mental blocks in language learning appear: The first and most common one may be that you already achieved your goals. 

Here, we don’t mean your general goal, ‘to be fluent in Spanish,’ but we mean specific targets, such as setting a deadline when learning common phrases or improving pronunciation in the following two weeks, for example. The second reason for brain blockage can be because you have no goals.

Don’t force yourself to learn all the time

Many benefits come from learning a second language. However, it can’t be exciting learning all the time. In fact, it can be quite monotonous until you get to that point you wanted so much. Don’t study the language all the time. 

Take a break. 

Relax with a cup of coffee or tea. Find some entertaining movies on Netflix, pick some of your favorite songs in the target language, and enjoy. Repeat this often to keep the feeling of excitement fresh and to be motivated to keep learning.

Try Learning Another Way

Let’s imagine that you are a Spanish learner. You found some of the best channels to learn Spanish on YouTube, but no matter how hard you are trying, you can’t progress. Just like people are different, books and courses are, too. 

The way you’re learning a language might not suit others. Some people learn easily by listening to podcasts, while others find it useless. The point is that if you feel that something doesn’t help you improve your language skills, you should try another way.

Don’t Hurry

If your classmate is super talented and they can learn new rules with no effort, and you can’t, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. 

Don’t be discouraged. Perhaps your pronunciation is much better than theirs, or your vocabulary is impressive, and they are struggling with it. 

Don’t rush because learning a language isn’t a competition. It’s really not.

If needed, spend twice more time understanding those grammar rules instead of just looking at them. Besides your classes, try additional learning on your own. Luckily, there are many useful textbooks for self-study, so you have a chance to choose.

Connect with other learners

No matter if someone is an intermediate, advanced learner or native speaker, find people and talk to them as much as you can. Conversation in target language is essential, and you don’t have to hide or to avoid speaking with others even if that means that you will be making mistakes. 

While sharing your experience with other learners, focus on their pronunciation, phrasal verbs usage, or their choice of words.

Accept advice that can help you learn better and faster, especially if those are the methods that polyglots use to learn languages. Learners who got to the advanced level of proficiency are the best teachers.

Let go of perfection

In this world, nothing is perfect, so forget about perfection when you are learning a language. The truth is that you can never get to the fluency point if you don’t make mistakes in that way. So, the sooner you start speaking, the better it is for you. 

Yes, you will be making mistakes, and, yes, it can be devastating, but you just have to think about your goal and the point where you are now and where you were, for example, 10 days ago. Embrace your mistakes and learn from them.

Be patient and don’t give up

This mental block happens to most language learners. If you want to become fluent, it will take a lot of time, effort, maybe even tears. Learn to be patient and to know that there is always ‘a light at the end of a tunnel.’ We all have good and bad days. So, if you are having a bad day, cool off, do something else.

Tomorrow is a new day. 

And don’t give up. Always remember your goals, such as why you started learning that language in the first place. It will help you stay motivated.

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