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How I learned Two New Languages in Spite of Myself

mind mapping in language learning

Have you ever noticed how certain behaviors repeat themselves?

You try to learn a new language and the same things derail you again and again.

Or you promise yourself to do at least one language-learning activity each day and the same kind of thoughts and feelings prevent you from actually doing it.

So you try again.

This time, you’re 100% sure you won’t fall in your old traps.

However, just a few weeks later, they strike again — shattering your dreams and your self-belief.

So the big question is:

Can you do something about it?

You bet!

There’s quite a simple way to blast these obstacles out of your path and set yourself up for language-learning success.

Sounds like a lot of hype?

Let’s Have a Closer Look

When I first tried to learn a new language, I was hindered by the same kind of patterns I mention above.

I tried and tried but there always seemed to be obstacles I couldn’t get through.

And after failing a few times, self-doubt took over.

“All these people I see succeeding in language learning — I’m not like them. There must be something wrong with me.”

I did notice that many of the things that threatened to derail me were recurring, and most of them were psychological.

So I thought about all that and sometimes I would find solutions to the obstacles that were bothering me.

For example, realizing that sometimes you’re actually progressing more when it seems that you’re at a standstill helped me get through an apparent progress-less period.

Or when I slipped up on my self-prescribed language-learning regime, I learned that discipline isn’t so much about not falling down, but rather about refusing to get back up.

So, from then on, every time these obstacles appeared — ready to kill my language-learning adventure — I just had to remember about what I learned and I would be alright.

Problem is…

There Are Just Too Many Obstacles

Shortly after I successfully evaded one, another obstacle would pop up.

I noticed, for example, that doubts about my language-learning materials were distracting me.

I would read on the Internet about some new method that was supposed to be superior to all others, or at least, they made it seem that way. And it would sometimes make me start anew, effectively rendering my earlier language-learning efforts close to useless.

I quickly found out that the difference among *good* materials and methods is very small. And I just needed to remind myself of that every time I was bound to get distracted by the next shiny object that promised me fluency in a month.

There were plenty of these obstacles and I needed a way to collect them all and put them in some kind of system that reminded me of them.

Initially, I created a big list of all obstacles and their solutions or disputing beliefs. But I quickly found out that a big lump of text isn’t consulted very often.

And So I turned to Mind Mapping

A mind map is a visual way to outline stuff. But it’s superior to outlining because you have a better overview and, if you make them on a computer, you can move things around easily. Usually the main idea appears in the center of it all.

Here an example of a basic mind map on what to eat for dinner:


After I started using this method to document recurring obstacles and their solutions, I noticed great improvements.

Everyday before I started to do my language-learning activities I would review the map to reinforce my awareness of the obstacles that were standing between my current state and my goal of speaking another language.

Suddenly, I was able to keep studying when the going got tough and I was also procrastinating a lot less.

From time to time I would add, remove or improve something and with time, the mind map grew into an incredibly useful tool.

If I felt there was something wrong with my language learning I would do a little introspection to find out more about it. If it was something that was already on the map, all I had to do was look it up and implement the solution or disputing belief.

If it was a new obstacle, I would analyze it and look for a solution. I would then add both to the map.

I’m sure you can see the power here.

Learning from experience is a great way to learn but not always as easy as it seems. You will always remember a few of the prominent lessons you’ve learned in life, but if you need to remember ten, twenty or even thirty things, it becomes almost impossible.

It’s not likely you’ll remember all of them when you need them most.

And then we haven’t even talked about the weight all these things have on your mind. They unconsciously sap your mental resources just by having to hold on to them in order to not forget them.

Which you will do with most of them, anyway.

So what do you?

It’s simple, really.

You document them in an easy to reference manner.

That’s what I did and it worked amazingly for me.

And it can do wonders for you too.

It’s like having a manual for your psyche!

And the best part is that if you do it right, it gets better all the time.

The Language-Learning Obstacle Buster

Now, I have a gift for you.

If you subscribe to the (free) Smart Language Learner Email Updates, I’ll give you the Language-Learning Obstacle Buster absolutely free.

The Language-Learning what?

The Language-Learning Obstacle Buster!

It’s exactly the kind of mind map we’ve been talking about. It includes many general language-learning obstacles that you may come across and what to do (or think) about them.

I have included things like:

  • Boredom
  • Distractions
  • Frustration
  • Lack of confidence
  • Methods
  • Procrastination
  • and even Social Pressure

Here’s how the section on Methods looks like:

Your Personal Language-Learning Obstacles

Now, the Language-Learning Obstacle Buster as-it-is will already be a great help in your language-learning journey, but it is likely that you have some obstacles or solutions that are more personal.

Therefore, I recommend that you personalize it.

First, you add the obstacles that you already know are going to molest you . Then, while you continue your journey toward speaking another language, I want you to observe yourself and your surroundings, find new obstacles and their antidotes, and add them to your mind map.

In order to edit the Language-Learning Obstacle Buster or make your own mind map from scratch, you’ll need some software to help you with that.

There’s a plethora of mind mapping software. They come in all shapes and sizes.

I use a free tool called Blumind. It’s a very simple program. Anyone should be able to handle it comfortably.

If you want to edit the LLOB, you’ll need Blumind.


In order to successfully discover your personal hurdles, it’s necessary to be very honest with yourself.

You need to have an excuse detector.

It’s easy to come up with tens of reasons not to learn another language even if it’s a dream of yours to be able to speak one.

Your supposed:

  • Lack of talent
  • Lack of discipline
  • Lack of time
  • Lack of a young brain

…can all come up in different disguises.

The best way to get to the bottom of any obstacle is to ask yourself questions.

Let’s say you’ve failed to do any language-learning activity for the last two days:

When did the problem begin?
What did you tell yourself about it?
Look deeply — did you lost motivation because you compared your progress with those of other people?
Were you finding it hard to actually start your study sessions?
Was your self-belief waning due to a lack of progress?
Were there any warning signs that your dedication was to about let up?
If so, what caused them?

If you keep asking yourself questions like the ones above you should quickly get to the root of it.

Sometimes though, the obstacle has to appear a few times before you recognize it.

So the first few times that you get off track, make sure you get back on it. Consider it a fantastic opportunity to learn (about what holds you back) and a step closer to making your dream of speaking another language a reality.

Don’t expect all solutions to work all the time. Sometimes you’ll need various solutions. Other times, you’ll need to improve one. But as you go, your mind map will get better and better and more personalized until you basically have a manual on how to achieve your dream of speaking another language.

Just make sure to review the map every day before you do your language-learning activities and when the going gets tough.

When it does, analyze.

Already on the map? Implement solution.

A new obstacle? Analyze, find solution, and add it to your mind map.

Let’s Do a Quick Recap

  • In order to overcome obstacles in your path to learning a new language, you need to know what they are and then document them.
  • The best way is to use a mind map. Use the Language-Learning Obstacle Buster as a starting point.
  • Spend some time thinking about personal obstacles that you know will occur.
  • Add them to the map.
  • Think about possible solutions or disputing beliefs and add them as well.
  • If there’s something on the LLOB that isn’t helpful to you, remove it or change the solutions.
  • As you progress in your language-learning journey, new obstacles will pop up. Analyze them and add them to the map along with the solutions.
  • Review your mind map everyday and every time your language-learning threatens to go bad.

Your Mind — a Tool or a Handicap?

I strongly recommend you start implementing all this, right now.

Look, if you don’t learn from your experience, if you don’t document your obstacles and their potential solutions, they’re likely to happen again and again.

It’s even possible that you are stopped in your tracks by an obstacle you have a solution for but don’t think of in that moment.

I’m sure you’ve read some self-help book or article where they give you a solution to a problem you’ve had and you actually knew that solution but it didn’t occur to you when you needed it.

You may have asked yourself:

Why didn’t I think of that!?

Well, the reason is that you can’t have all those solutions ready in your mind.

You need to store them in an easy-to-review format so you can free your mind and use them when needed.

Doing something as simple as identifying your language-learning obstacles, learning from them, documenting them, and finding effective solutions to them, can make all the difference between learning to speak your target language comfortably and disappointing yourself continuously.

Would You Do Me a Favor?

Ok, to wrap it all up, I have a favor to ask of you:

Do you have suggestions — general obstacles to language-learning success — that can be added to the Language-Learning Obstacle Buster mind map?

If so, let me know in the comments or send them to me directly through the contact form.

Let’s make it better together!

I promise to make the updated mind map available to all subscribers.

Thanks and until next time!


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