Mistakes to Avoid When You’re Learning a Language

If you’re serious about mastering a new language, maybe you’ve already adopted some good learning habits to help you succeed.

But . . . what about bad habits? Are you avoiding the things that could be standing in your way?

Mistakes to Avoid When You’re Learning a Language

To be an efficient language learner, make sure to avoid these six mistakes at all costs!

1. Forgetting to set goals

Goals are essential for monitoring your success. The best time to make goals is before you even start your language journey, but it’s never too late! Wherever you are on your learning path, take some time to decide what you want to achieve. Your language practice will become more manageable and you’ll stay motivated as you meet your goals. Not sure where to start? Check out our article on setting SMART goals.

2. Aiming too high (or too low)

Whatever you’re using for your self-study time (from blogs to podcasts to TV shows), it should be at your level. If you select material that’s too easy, you won’t learn and improve. If your materials are too difficult, you’ll likely lose motivation and give up. Start where you’re comfortable, be patient, and only move to the next level when you’re ready!

3. Focusing too much on study sessions

You can’t study your way to fluency. Taking an hour or two each week to quietly review grammar, learn new vocabulary, or even practice writing probably won’t be enough.

To become fluent, you need to include the target language in as much of your daily life as possible—from watching movies to chatting on social media. Focus less on studying the language, and more on living it!

4. Using the wrong methods 

Everyone learns differently. You might be better at listening, for example, or maybe you learn best by reading. It’s a good idea to figure out your learning style and do practice exercises and activities that match that style. This will help you learn faster and retain information better. Don’t waste your time using a method you’re not comfortable with!

5. Translating too much

Every language is unique and some words just can’t be translated easily. For example, if you input a slang expression or an idiom into Google Translate, you may not get the right meaning. You’ll end up frustrated and confused.

On top of that, translating won’t help you become fluent. Stopping to use a translator every time you want to say or understand something will slow down your conversations; they’ll be unnatural and boring. Once you stop translating, you’ll be able to train your brain to start thinking in the target language. And that will get you one step closer to fluency!

6. Waiting to be ready

It can be scary to try to speak a new language: What if you make a mistake? It’s natural to want to keep your mouth shut until you know enough to speak perfectly.

We hate to tell you this, but you’ll never feel completely ready. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to begin. The best thing to do is to practice speaking from the very start. You’ll get regular feedback from others (so you can correct yourself and improve), work on your pronunciation, and build your real-life conversation skills, from body language to slang. 


Learning a language takes time, so make sure you’re not wasting yours. Having good habits is just the start: Don’t forget to avoid the bad ones, too!

Andrea is a Gabby Academy coach and education technolgy writer based in Vancouver, Canada.