What are the most common mistakes in language learning?

Bonnenouvellejonny fr France
Recently I transferred from Korean to French. My French has been going well and I think I noticed a mistake that I had been making while studying Korean. I kept reading the same stuff over and over again (reviewing way too much) in Korean. I wasn't exposing myself to enough new words all the time and I wasn't giving myself the opportunity to see words that I half knew in different contexts.
Because French and English use the same alphabet (and also because I've studied French before), I was able to read a lot more material a lot faster than I was in Korean. This is how I noticed the benefit of reading a wide range of material and also of seeing words in different contexts.
Anyway, I was curious as to what you feel are the most common errors that people make when they learn languages.

(This is a general question and does not apply only to Lingqers)

All thoughts from the community are of course welcome.
July 2012
  • Johnnyjoyhardin us United States
    With reference to "e" in the comment above: What kind of a person learns many languages to try to be impressive to others? Learning a language foreign is such an arduous task to think of one doing such a thing out of a vain desire is crazy! But then... I recall in high school I enrolled in French, in part, because I thought it might be get me somewhere with the ladies...but the class was full so I took German instead (an equally sexy language in my opinion)... so never mind... I withdraw my criticism...

    But in answer to the question, one of the biggest mistakes I made early on with French (which I began studying in college) was thinking I would learn the language simply by coming to class and doing all the lessons. It was only after I realized I had to depend on myself and my own personal drive to succeed in understanding the language did I really get anywhere. There is no escalator to take you to the summit of comprehension... it is a crawl to the top, not unlike Dante's (though it feel likes an endless Inferno) into Eden, and even then there is no end to knowledge. In my case, I found Michel Thomas to be my Virgil (though I suspect I'm still in Pergatorio). You have to want it, and have patience, and sleep every night confident that each day you will wake up further and farther from the flames of Hell.

    That or just go live in a country that speaks the language you are studying. Either way.

    July 2012
  • Administrator
    steve ca Canada
    I think a major mistake is the illusion that we can or need to master anything, or try to study lessons until we master them or learn them. Futile in my experience. I agree with jonny that we just need to keep moving along, and let the chips fall where they may. Eventually things will stick.
    July 2012
  • dooo ca Canada
    "I would learn the language simply by coming to class and doing all the lessons."

    July 2012
  • LFJ cn China
    We often hear Steve talk about the "silent period" and the mistake of speaking too soon.

    There is a saying in Chinese: 耳熟能详, which means "what is frequently heard can be repeated in detail". Literally it is more like "what the ear is familiar with....".

    When people speak too soon they usually end up with terrible pronunciation and fluidity because they haven't spent the time tuning their ears to the language before trying to produce it. In the worst case this can lead to unintelligible speech. At best you will just sound really strange. Sounding like an absolute native is not necessary for communication, but a decent accent and accurate pronunciation goes a long way.

    I also think it is equally a mistake to start speaking too late. You may spend years amassing a large number of words and phrases, but if you don't speak soon enough and often enough, it is difficult to turn this passive knowledge into fluent active ability. You will find yourself in awkward situations where you understand very detailed conversations, but are unable to fluently participate.

    Timing is so important.
    July 2012
  • [Marianne10] aw Aruba
    I think the most common mistake that I have come across and that is holding people back from progressing is the belief they have to speak a perfect grammatically correct sentence every time. This means they end up focusing on grammar and word order and rules and exceptions :-)

    With regards to your experience here, I think it depends on the language you study. I found I had to change my whole way of studying in order to progress in Chinese. All of a sudden my previous methods went way out of the window. This was a tone issue. I probably spent 80 percent of my time listening to hear the difference between the tones in sentences.
    July 2012
  • Imani us United States
    I agree with Steve that the biggest mistake in language learning is the "illusion that we need to master anything." Yet I think that we can "master" certain aspects of a language on micro levels, i.e. numbers, days of the week, greetings, etc. Yes, we do not "need" to master anything, but we can master parts of the whole; the rest being new and wonderful.

    What's more, I think that language learning is an ever evolving lifetime study. When we pressure ourselves to "master" that which naturally evolves over time and with constant effort, we create an environment rife with frustration and anxiety, impeding the learning process.

    Among the common mistakes in language learning is relying 'too long' on one's native tongue. (I'm guilty!)

    It is my understanding that learning a language requires taking a leap into that language. At some point in our familiarity with the target language, we need to let go of our native language, stop translating in our heads. (Here, I am not referring to the work of translators, or translations.) When we have built up enough "identifying markers" through intense listening and reading, it may be necessary to begin a different kind of mental training: developing and deepening our knowledge of the target language via the target language, learning how to meld one's mind and spirit to the body of the target language.
    July 2012