How to Move Past Language Learning Burnout Like a Polyglot
I’ve tried learning about six or seven languages at different points in my life, and if I have to be completely honest — my pace has slowed down a lot over the last two years. I don’t always find the same success I had before. Concentrating on language learning isn’t something as readily available to me as it was a few years ago. I have a family now, and that takes priority. But this doesn’t mean I have to forgo language learning altogether.
If you’re finding it difficult to keep making progress, here are some tips for making the best of your language learning journey.
Keep going even when you stop
Learning a language is not a one-shot deal. You will experience waves of acquisition. There are times when it comes naturally and times when you burn out.
There will be times when you consider giving up, it’s the nature of the task. Even if it’s extremely enjoyable, it’s still a daunting task.
It’s important not to let yourself burn out completely. Take the time to slow down and remind yourself that you’ve been putting in a lot of effort — this is great preparation, but there will also be moments when it’s harder for you to keep it up. Remind yourself that language learning isn’t something that can be done in one sitting. Just because you get to a point where you can’t make as much progress as you were before doesn’t mean you have to give up.
It’s okay to take a break and try to enjoy some of the things you’ve learned in the meantime. In fact, it’s often beneficial to take breaks, especially if you’ve just completed a milestone, step back for a moment.
How you take a break is just as important as what you do when you’re focused.
Maintain good non-study habits
We don’t always have the time or the energy to pick up a textbook and learn a new grammar point. These are an essential, non-disposable aspect of language learning. You will need to pick up a book at some point. But in those moments when you can’t find the time, make your relaxation habits language-learning productive.
One way of doing this is finding great music in your target language. Finding the music that you vibe with will keep you engaged when you’re on your daily commute or just washing the dishes.
I’ve always found that it’s also a great way to connect with my spouse — I love explaining a lyric that stands out or why some phrase might be clever in that language.
Watching subtitled movies and shows is another great way because we’ll practice our listening skills while we’re mostly engrossed in the plot. Making language learning a background activity is a great way to stay in tune when you can’t devote time to formal study.
A little bit of burnout is inevitable, especially when you get to the later stages and it’s difficult to notice your progress. There is a lot that can be learned in two months of studying the right way — using textbooks and classes, conversation practice, and having a language exchange can make learning go quickly. But immersion can quickly become exhausting.
It’s important to remember to let yourself feel tired sometimes — and get the right type of rest for your mind, just as you would for your body. Breaks are great chances to re-group and re-organize yourself so that you can make the best progress possible.