12 Strategies For Language Learners


If that’s a word that describes your state of mind as you  approach the idea of working on learning your target language, then this post may just be for you.

Don’t worry, I know you’re a little lazy.  You’re not completely committed either.  And you aren’t exactly passionate about learning the target language – it’s more like a homework assignment.

And that is okay for now.

You moved overseas, or took a new job or married a native speaker and now you have to learn the language.

Or you took Spanish in high school – and learned nothing – and now as an adult you wish you would have worked harder, would have learned to at least carry on a simple conversation.

It’s sort of like piano lessons in that regard.

Stop Trying

Your main problem right now is two fold.

First, you probably associate learning another language with that class back in high school – bad idea.  Go ahead and drop that idea in the trash.

Second, you probably have not connected learning another language with any definite major purpose in your life.

So, my advice to you mr. or mrs. reluctant language learner is to go ahead and stop trying to learn another language.

Stop for now.

Later, after you pick up a little momentum and find a little success you’ll want to start trying again, but for now, stop trying and have fun.

I’ve shared John Assaraf’s quote here perhaps a hundred times and I’ll share it again:

 If you’re interested, you do what’s convenient. If you’re committed, you do what it takes.                 (

If you are like me, that quote doesn’t bring a whole lot of hope.

Maybe for the gunho, pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get a tattoo while your at it types – but not for me and I suspect not for many of you.

Who really has that kind of commitment anyway?

But I have chosen to look at that quote in another way and it is the way of hope.


If I can do what is convenient, then I am doing something.

Something is better than nothing.

Something often leads to something more and then to something a little bit more.

It’s how couch potatoes become runners.

They do easy, convenient things like putting on their running shoes and stepping out the front door for a walk.

A walk that may turn into a run, that often does turn into a run.

Doing what is convenient is about creating momentum that one day will lead to commitment.

12 Strategies for Reluctant Language Learners

12 ideas seems like a fitting number.  They won’t all be for you but they are all designed to being to build momentum, to begin to get you into the language learning journey without trying, to give you convenient steps to do something.

Because doing something is more than doing nothing.

1. Watch a Movie

Find your favorite movie dubbed in the target language, pop some popcorn and enjoy an evening at the cinema.  Just watch the movie.  Don’t worry about understanding everything, just relax and have fun and pick up what you can.

If it gets you excited to learn some new words, well then watch it again and take notes next time.

2.  Listen to Music

Find music you love in the target language.  Fill up your iPod or burn a CD for your morning commute.

Enjoy the beat. Sing along when you can and if you want to.

3.  Eat at an Ethnic Restaurant

Find a local restaurant which serves great food and is owned and operated by native speakers of your target language.

Eat lots of good food.  Learn the names of a few new foods.

4.  Buy your Favorite Board Game

You may not be able to find Monopoly in every language, but it is available in most.

Play a round with friends who also want to learn the language, or better yet . . .

5.  Hang Out with Native Speakers

Play that board game with native speaking friends.  Go to a movie.  Go out for coffee and just hang out.

No pressure.

6.  Join a Club

Do you have a hobby or passion that you could find a club or a public class to join?

Take a painting class taught in the target language.  Join an online forum about VW Beetles – in the target language.

Find what you are passionate about and find a group of equally passionate native speakers.

7.  Shop at Ethnic Grocery Stores

If you need to get groceries, begin shopping for them at your local ethnic grocery store.

Everyone carries eggs, right?  And everyone loves a surprise – so buy that can of something with flames on the label.  It can’t kill you.

8.  Buy Your Favorite Audiobook

Have an all time favorite novel that you’ve already read several times?

Find it as an audiobook in the target language and listen on the commute.  Don’t take notes and don’t worry about what you don’t understand.

Just listen for fun.

9.  Fill the Fridge

You could of course fill the refrigerator with lots of good food from the ethnic food store (see #7) but what I am really talking about here is filling your home environment with lots of target language materials – magazines, DVDs, CDs, books, catalogues, etc.

This way, if you ever do get the itch to dive back in and study a bit or read a bit, it’s all right there.

10.  Become a Gamer

I am not a gamer – a video gamer that is.  But I know many who are and who swear by playing video games in the target language.

It’s fun (so they say) and you have to figure out the language to move ahead.

11. Buy a Ticket

Dust off your passport and buy a plane ticket.  There is nothing like landing in country to spark the language learning bug anew.

It may cost a bit, but it will certainly be fun.

12. Pick Up the EDLL Guide to Getting Started

Okay, shameless self promotion here, but the EDLL Guide for Getting Started was written with reluctant language learners in mind.  It’s an ebook but the First Class edition also includes 20 audio lessons, three great interviews, worksheets and another great ebook, The EDLL Guide to Self-Assessment.

It is a great place to begin if you don’t know where to start.

 Commitment Will Need To Come

Lest you think language learning is all fun and games, commitment will need to come.  I won’t lie to you.  If you want to learn another language and learn it well, you will need to be committed to the hard work and dedication that will get you there.

But right now, you may just need to have some fun.

Do something.  Build momentum.

Get started with fun and games and convenient steps on the road that leads to commitment.

Get Started. Don’t stop!

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