How to Manage Unhelpful Thoughts When Learning a New Language

Sometimes when we learn a new language we can be our very own worst enemy. This can impact on our ability to learn, decrease our motivation levels and increase the risk of giving up. So what are these unhelpful thinking habits we apply and what can we do about them?

Compare and Despair

Being part of a language learning community is great! However, sometimes we might start to compare ourselves with other learners. Seeing only their progress and comparing ourselves negatively against them. In order to overcome this remind yourself that you may not know their backstory. They might have studied the language longer or they might even be thinking the same and comparing themselves to you! It is a good practice to monitor your own progress. Record videos and watch them back and regularly test yourself or keep a journal. The time spent comparing with others could be better used to learn some new vocab!

Critical Self

Saying to yourself that you can’t do this or you are not good enough is a sure way to put yourself down! However, I have news for for…there is no such word as can’t. Even if you think something is impossible then remember that ‘even impossible actually says I’m possible’

Bad Learning Experiences in the Past

Remembering the bad experiences we had of language learning in the past can be very off-putting. However, you can learn from the past just don’t stay too long that you start to dwell! Remind yourself ‘that this is now and that was then’. Take what you need from those memories and leave them. Things to take are the lessons learned from those negative experiences. If it was the teacher or resources that did not work for you then don’t use them again. Don’t be afraid to try something new. ‘If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got’

Predicting the Future

Telling yourself that you will not meet your future targets could almost lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy! Stay in the moment and set lots of little targets that will lead to the bigger target. My current goal is to hold a conversation in Spanish for about 15 minutes in 3 months time. However, my focus is learning just a few simple sentences and keywords a day. I will then work towards my day 30 and day 60 videos before moving on to the final day 90 video. If you jump straight to the main goal you will lose sight of the little goals that will get you there.

You Should, Must and Got to be Doing This…

Actually, should, must and got to put a lot of undue pressure on us. If you miss a day of studying, just pick it up from where you left off the next day. Putting too much pressure on yourself is one way sure way to burn out quickly.

Emotional Reasoning

You have had a bad spell at learning a new language. Well just because you had a bad spell at learning a new language does not mean you are bad at it. Maybe the routine or resources you are using are not working for you. Also sometimes we can be very good at talking ourselves out of things. So let’s talk ourselves into meeting set targets.

You can do this!

What negative thinking habits are you currently applying?


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The Mindful Language Learner

Trisha, is the founder of Language Learners Journal.com. An award-winning blog dedicated to empowering and promoting a more mindful approach to independent language learning and teaching across the UK and beyond. Trisha has a professional and academic background in psychology and well-being. She has been practicing mindfulness for over 20 years and has professionally taught CBT-based mindfulness for the past 7 years. You can follow Trisha on her official Facebook Page, Instagram or Twitter accounts to discover how to apply simply mindfulness practices and scientifically proven strategies to your language learning...

5 thoughts on “How to Manage Unhelpful Thoughts When Learning a New Language

  1. […] If someone is being rather negative about another language learner refuse to join in. My trick is to turn the conversation around with some humour or telling a story of something else thus changing the topic. Joining in with negativity not only hurts those around you but over time you could develop a 'toxic' mindset too. A toxic mindset is detrimental to your own well-being. There will always be people who like to dwell and suck up positive energy like a vacuum and leak out negative vile. They think that the world is against them and they have a right to have whatever they want with little regard for those around them. They always complain and are quick to criticise others. Be aware of these people and try to avoid them because their pessimistic outlook will start to impact your own. Although sometimes it can be our very own thoughts that are negative check out this post to learn how to manage negative thoughts.  […]

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