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How Unrealistic Expectations Hurt Your Language Learning


It’s not your fault that you think a language should be learned quickly.

They’re all in your face about it.

In order to sell courses, the claims they make can’t get much crazier sometimes:

  • Learn a new language in 10 days
  • Remember everything you learn
  • Learn a language while you recover from the worst hangover of your life

With so much hype, you may actually start to believe you can learn fluent Mandarin in 3 weeks…and without any effort on your part.

Some of these snake oil salesmen defend themselves by saying you gotta have a positive mindset — they’re right on that one — but a positive mindset is not the same as a deluded one.

Unrealistically high expectations have the power to make you feel like a loser because you couldn’t “hack” your target language in a single afternoon.

Expecting Too Much is a Slippery Slope

When you start learning a new language, you always have certain expectations.

When those expectations are unrealistically high, you come to your language learning with an impatient mindset.

And when you then realize that your expectations don’t match with reality, frustration kicks in and you feel like a failure.

Now, apart from the fact that stress is bad for your memory, your language experience probably turns into a miserable one…

Which eventually may make you quit and never try again.

The saying: Shoot for the moon and you might end up in the stars would be more truthful if it said: Shoot for the moon and you might end up seeing stars.

This may not be true for all endeavors but it certainly is when it comes to language learning.

Learn a Language Faster by Tempering Your Expectations

Ironically, when you temper your expectations somewhat, you’ll be able to learn a language faster.

If you have realistic expectations, you are a more patient, self-forgiving, and outright better language learner.

And one that’s much more likely to stay the course.

But what if it turns out that your expectations were lower than what you’re capable of?

No problem:

In case you can learn more than expected, then that’s a bonus, a win. You’ll feel good about yourself and your language learning.

But if you learn way less than expected, you fail, you lose, and you’ll feel bad about yourself and your language learning.

I guess I don’t have to tell in which of the two scenarios above you’re more likely to reach fluency.

By being a realistic language learner, you give yourself the best chance of successfully learning another language.


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