Top Language Learning Excuses and How to Beat Them Posted by on Mar 30, 2016 in Archived Posts

Itchy Feet: Acqua Alta con Mozarella

That’s right, my peanut-shaped drawing of an Italian waiter: in Italy, there’s never a good reason not to eat.

The same is true for language learning! There are plenty of excuses we dream up for why we can’t or shouldn’t or won’t learn a foreign language. Believe me, I’ve heard them all before, mostly because I’ve said them all before. As I’m still here, grinding away, it means I’ve also become adept at beating back those excuses with a large, language-shaped stick. And now here I stand before you, ready to share my secrets so that you too may arm yourself against the inevitable excuses that shall arise.

So allow me to present to you: common language learning excuses and how to beat them. I’m sure there are dozens more common excuses you tell yourself, these are just the ones I commonly hear coming out of my own mouth.

It’s too hard
You know what else is too hard? Everything. Pretty much everything worth doing is really hard to do. That’s because very little that doesn’t take any effort is worth anything to anyone, because anyone can do it! Are you following me here? I’ve never in my life met anyone was a 100% couch potato, too lazy to work hard at doing anything, with absolutely no skills. We humans like to work. We do it all the time (whether we’re paid for it is another question entirely)! However, sometimes you just want to complain. Okay, fine. Beat this one back by giving yourself five minutes to whine and moan about how much trouble you’re going through. If that helps, back to your language learning. If it doesn’t help, back to the language learning anyway!

I don’t have the time
You’ve got too much on your plate. So much, in fact, that you don’t even have time to call your grandmother or clean the cat’s litter box, and at some point, one or both of those things is going to catch up with you in a nasty way. Where will you find the minutes to squeeze in the thousands of hours required to learn a foreign language? Everywhere! The best part about language learning is it’s just communication, so you can do it while you do any number of other things. Taking your laundry to the laundromat? Ask the Russian lady who fixes the coin machine to teach you some phrases. Stuck in traffic on your commute? Why not tune in to that Spanish-speaking radio station? Got a new client from Asia? See if you can read their notes in their original language. Yes, you might get laughed at, you’ll definitely make mistakes, but all you need is the guts.

I don’t have the guts
Hey, it’s not easy putting yourself out there. After all, you’ve spent your entire life just trying to sound smart in your native language. It’s tough to open yourself up for ridicule in a language so foreign, you don’t even understand what they’re saying when they’re making fun of you! But you know, at the end of the day, whoever you’re speaking or writing to is more impressed with you than you think, even if they’re not showing it. Effort is almost always appreciated, especially if you’re trying out a rarely-spoken language. Plus, the only way you can beat your fear of something is to do it, and realize you had nothing to fear in the first place. It’s not like the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

It’s not fun
Well, make it fun! Jeez, do I have to spell all this out for you? Language learning is as fun or as grueling as you make it. After all, you set the goals. You set the bar for success. You get to decide what activities to take part in. These days, there are so many apps and games and software programs and online communities of people just dying to talk to you, there’s no excuse not to have fun with it. Fun isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something you decide to go out and have! What do you enjoy doing in life? Sports? Watching movies? Reading books? Being the center of attention at a party? All of the above are possible to do, learn, read about or watch in another language. Just pick what you already like, and do it while language learning!

What about you? What excuses do you tell yourself? What solutions have you come up with, if any?

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About the Author: Malachi Rempen

Malachi Rempen is an American filmmaker, author, photographer, and cartoonist. Born in Switzerland, raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he fled Los Angeles after film school and expatted it in France, Morocco, Italy, and now Berlin, Germany, where he lives with his Italian wife and German cat. "Itchy Feet" is his weekly cartoon chronicle of travel, language learning, and life as an expat.


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