Some people say if you love what you’re doing you won’t get bored or burnout easily. Wrong! Burnouts in language learning are pretty common and most of the time what causes it is the method(s) you use and/or the way you use them. It’s rarely about the language itself.
In this post, you’ll learn why it happens and how to deal with such situations.
What Is A Burnout?
I’m assuming not all people know what burnout is so let’s start with that. Have you ever felt like your motivation is slowly fading out in just a matter of weeks of starting your language journey? Do you procrastinate a lot when you want to begin your everyday lesson? Do you find yourself not enjoying your lessons? If yes, then you’re probably experiencing burnout.
Why Does Burnout Happen?
As a language enthusiast myself I’ve seen these typical reasons over and over again. It’s either you’re setting ridiculous goals or you’re using the right method but not the right way.
Setting Ridiculous Goals
You’re excited and want fast results. I get it. We all want that otherwise why else do you think there are so many of ‘how to learn a language fast or how to learn a language in X months? Sadly, our brains can only take so much.
Everything takes time.
Be smart. Set short-term goals and long-term goals that are pressure-free. You’ll feel a lot happier.
Back then, I used to do grammar an hour a day every day. I study one topic and do all of its exercises no matter how short or long they are. On the next day, I start with a new one. I never revised them thinking I already understood some of it. In the end, I felt burnout.
So, I changed everything. On Monday, I just do one topic. On Tuesday, I do short exercises. If the topic is quite long or if I start to lose my focus halfway through I’ll stop. I usually continue the other half on Tuesday and do the exercises.
If the topic is a bit difficult I’ll study them for weeks and only continue once I get a good grasp on it. This works great and I no longer hate doing grammar.
Using The Right Method Incorrectly
Let’s say you’ve been using textbooks to learn grammar but it doesn’t seem to work. The explanations are difficult to comprehend but you stick with it thinking it’s normal because hey, grammar is never easy.
I’m not saying a textbook is bad because it isn’t but it won’t be as good as if there’s someone to explain to you what this and that means which can reduce the stress and raise the chance of it being an effective method.
5 Ways To Deal With Burnouts
Look At Your Accomplishment
At this stage, you’re probably emotionally tired and don’t care anymore and ready to close the book but just do this one before you do so.
Look at your accomplishment and how do you feel? Was the time you spent learning the language worth it? If it is wouldn’t it be a waste to stop now just because you have some inner conflicts?
Don’t run from it. Face it.
If you run you won’t know how to fix it when you encounter the same experience again.
When I look at mine I for sure feel satisfied. I come this far without attending classes. I simply use online resources. When you self-teach yourself you’re your own responsibility. That’s something I want to brag to my friends.
Of course, I’m not 100% satisfied but I won’t let that bother me. I went from not knowing anything about Spanish to actually learning something. I started with the reason for wanting to watch Telenovelas without subtitles. What I achieve is a lot more than that in just 5 years and counting.
I can understand some comments written in Spanish. I can speak with native speakers and understand them although not fully. I’m proud of all these and that’s what matters. If you’re not happy with yours then something is wrong.
Find Your Learning Style
Aim for quality over quantity and consistency over velocity. – themalaysianpolyglot.net
People learn foreign languages for many reasons. Some may say as simple as “I need to learn Spanish so I can understand what singer X’s songs are about.”
In that case, you identify entertainment as a major reason. What you have to do onwards is align your goal with the right methods. Do lots of research and whatever you choose make sure to diversify them. While doing so keep this in mind – Can I see myself using this for years and not get bored?
The other day, I was listening to learn Spanish con salsa podcast where Tamara Marie talks about forming Spanish language learning habits. There she talks about the four tendencies people have which are based on Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies and tells you how to best use and tailored such tendencies to your learning style.
I took the quiz and my result is upholder which is not a surprise. When I set my learning schedules I always succeed in meeting them. If I don’t I’ll double my learning lesson at once the next day at the same time to cover what I missed.
For example, I only do one page of Arabic grammar every day. If I miss a day, I’ll do two pages the next day so I don’t feel bad at missing them. For me, this works great so far.
If you like a certain style of learning continue and if you don’t stop it. There’s no point in keeping them only because you’ve been using it for years or other people are using it and whatnot.
Switch The Skill
Perhaps you’re just getting burnout on that one skill you’ve been focusing on. Try a different one. Don’t keep practicing on the same thing because then the four skills are not balanced and that will cause problems down the road.
Let’s say you’ve been watching Telenovelas with English subtitles. Try watching with Spanish subtitles. This way you can match what you hear with what you see even though you don’t understand what the heck the drama is about.
Not only you’re training your ears to be sharp you’re also improving your other skills. Because you choose the Spanish subtitles now you know the spelling and can easily write when you hear those same words again.
When I go to Twitter or Reddit I always see someone post their frustrations with their progress. There’s a better idea. I don’t know if this has been done before. Record yourself speaking in Spanglish or your target language.
Don’t worry if your Spanish is wrong. The point is to vent out your frustrations. It’s like writing diaries but with videos. You don’t have to post to your social media. Just keep it to yourself.
Once you’re okay and decide to start learning again watch them back. Perhaps with a clear mind, you can see the problems and find a solution.
Take A Walk/ Break
Do you know what a writer does when they hit ‘writer’s block’? They either take a walk or take a break. Why not do the same? Rather than keep sitting and forcing yourself and gain nothing better do something else.
Sometimes when you come back after doing so you might feel fresh and relax. Remember, language learning is not a competition. It’s a constant battle with yourself not with others.
If even after taking months of break and assessing the problems you still hate the idea of going back to your language study then just quit. Perhaps your will isn’t ready yet. If you’re learning a language or anything in a limited time this is a great article for your reading.
Language learning is supposed to be enjoyable and not a burden. You know how they are many types of learners right? Auditory learner enjoys learning that way because it’s effective to them. Visual learners like anything imagery because it’s easy to remember things. Sometimes all you need to do is a few tweaks here and there.
Share with us if you have your own tips and advice on conquering burnouts.
This Post Has 16 Comments
Those are definitely some great tips on how to overcome burnout. Especially the part about doing what interests you. It’s more important to enjoy it and get quality learning over forcing it and just getting a bunch of exposure. These were some good reminders for me in my journey. I might need some tips for good Spanish podcasts and Arabic grammar resources from you!
Así es. Estoy de acuerdo contigo. Sometimes, people just want fast results but forgot to enjoy the process. Currently, I only use Language Transfer for Spanish Podcast. I have yet to find another. As for the Arabic, I’ve been using the resources from LQ Toronto. It has an intensive course that comes with DVDs. They also use Madinah books which is part of it.
I like the way the teacher explains the grammar. He analyzes word by word and also tells us what role each word plays in the sentence, etc. It’s my second time reviewing these books and so far, at the time of writing, book 1 has been easy. The concept becomes clearer each day. This is one of the best free resources I’ve come across.
Hope this helps!
Thanks for all the helpful information!
You’re welcome. What language are you currently learning?
Currently making my French better and learning Russian!
Uff! French pronunciation is difficult. How long have you been learning it before you start learning Russian?
I’ve had over 10 years off and on with French lol I started learning Russian recently although I took a class about four years ago. What are all the languages you’re interested in?
Apart from Spanish, I’m interested in Arabic (currently learning this as well), Italian, German, Korean, Thai, and Mandarin Chinese. How about you? How’s Russian so far?
Russian is cool. I can see a lot of root words that they use in different contexts. I want to take a fill in class, but haven’t for several years. What’s your native language?
It’s Malay. I’ve been told that it’s difficult to find the resources. Oh well, let’s just say it’s not as popular as other languages. What’s your French level?
Aw, I taught a little boy from Malaysia over the summer. He would just tell me he loved me all the time. Haha! It seems like an interesting language, but yeah I’m sure there aren’t as many resources to learn 😕 I’m a B2/C1 with French.
Nice! That’s pretty high. With Malay, you just need to know the right prefix and/ or suffix and that’s it. Just kidding! I got C for my own native language 😂
Lol! How would I say something like, “Hi! How are you?”
There are a few variations and it depends on the person actually. For me, that would be:
– Hi. Apa khabar kita? (Formal)
– Hi. Apa abarnya? (Informal)
I missed this! Thank you!
My pleasure! 👍