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«I understand you»: 5 effective ways to learn a foreign language

05.06.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

One of the most desired things for many people is to learn one or even several foreign languages at once. And we are talking not about travel lovers only, but also about people who cannot imagine their life without self-development. However, experienced students know how difficult it is to achieve good results.

Tutors, modern teaching methods and courses are just the technical side. But when studying foreign languages a psychological aspect is also important. Usually it is the wrong personal attitude that prevents you from acquiring new knowledge. Even people, who have already found the best way to learn a foreign language, are faced with “stagnation” and a lack of desire to learn over time. How to overcome psychological barriers and easily learn a new language? Let’s figure it out together.


What prevents us from studying a foreign language?

What prevents us from studying a foreign language

Money wasted, stress, self-flagellation and guilt are the negative consequences that lead to failure in trying to learn a new language. And it’s not the “wrong” textbooks or the inability to remember a lot of information that is to blame. Most often, subconscious beliefs prevent learning any foreign language.

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1. «Why do I need it?»

Someone who claims that “I do not need English / French / German” in most cases experiences fear and insecurity. Self-development and personal fulfillment are inhibited by negative feelings from childhood. It could be a belief that learning a foreign language is the prerogative of the successful and rich people only, while they’re not.

These emotions, as a rule, are not actually well-warranted. Money and success in other ventures do not automatically translate into success in learning foreign languages. And new knowledge can be useful not only in travels not everyone can afford. People like that are simply envious deep inside of those who have more courage to begin learning new things than they do.

2. «What if I fail at it?»

Excellent student syndrome is the enemy of any undertakings. This makes you feel aggrieved and despaired, which leads to hesitation to act. Many people assume that their whole life is a trial in the courtroom with strict jurors. Fear of making a mistake prevents you from focusing on what is important and enjoying yourself. Learning a foreign language is not an exception. To avoid stress and negative emotions, a person obsesses with the idea that it’s better not to start at all, even though he recently longed to enroll in English courses.

You need to get rid of the excellent student syndrome. It cultivates self-doubt and numerous fears towards socializing with people. Polyglots are not born, they are made.

3. «I’m too embarrassed to speak with native speakers »

Dialogue with native speakers is one of the main ways of productive learning. But not everyone succeeds in using the accumulated knowledge in practice, even if before that there were no problems with remembering foreign words and grammar rules. People like that have difficulties getting into a conversation and clearly expressing their thoughts. The main cause of this situation is the fear to look ridiculous. It is necessary to get rid of it; otherwise the feeling of stiffness and constraint when trying to communicate in another language will never go away.

There can be another reason for the mental block that person experiences when communicating with a native speaker. Active articulation (and you can’t do without it, trying to learn foreign dialect) can bring you pleasure. And if in the mind of a person this action is sexualized, they will most likely forbid themselves to feel positive emotions from relishing individual words and phrases in a foreign language. In the best case, this will make it difficult to obtain the ideal accent, and in the worst case, a person won’t be able to open their mouth when communicating with a foreigner entirely. A powerful block against receiving pleasant experiences related to articulation can prevent people from successfully learning a foreign language. [2]

4. «It’s difficult to study a foreign language»

In most cases, the alleged difficulty of learning foreign languages is an excuse for those who cannot motivate themselves to acquire new knowledge. Learning the grammar and syntax of a foreign language is difficult only for those who do not want to learn it. Of course, it takes time and effort, but there are no insurmountable obstacles. All you need is to read, listen and review.

And very soon you’ll experience first successes, followed by a sense of satisfaction, which will serve as motivation towards new achievements [3]

Overcoming psychological barriers: how to quickly master a foreign language

how to quickly master a foreign language

“I have been learning English for a year already. I need a foreign language for promotion at work. I have been offered a well-paid position in a good company. But everything I try is useless. I can generally understand English speech and texts, I can memorize whole sentences, but I can’t speak fluently. And this is the most important thing for me. I can’t even say an easy phrase, although I understand how I must construct it. I am engaged with a private tutor. But it feels like they just pump money out of me. There is no progress at all. I can’t find a better way to learn a foreign language. Maybe I don’t have the ability? ”

— Irina, 27

What is the most important thing in learning a foreign language? You cannot learn language without courses, dictionaries, watching foreign films, a teacher who presents the material in an interesting way. Everyone finds their own best way of learning a foreign language. But learning a foreign language is not just a mechanical memorization of words and sentences that will allow you to communicate with representatives of another country. A competently constructed learning process helps to improve memory, mathematical abilities, and develops analytical and critical thinking. And the continuous improvement of cognitive processes is a trait inherent in a psychologically mature person. [1]

The productivity of learning lies in overcoming of psychological barriers on the way to your goal. The following recommendations will help you:

1. Reachable goals

Making a goal and competently motivating yourself will help you in any endeavor. This also applies to the study of foreign languages. Many of those who begin training make a serious mistake – they set themselves an impossible goal. And then, if it is not achieved, their self-confidence collapses. This is a lot of stress, which leads to a complete reluctance to learn.

Do not get hung up on thoughts about how to quickly learn a foreign language. You should better arrange some small tasks as steps to a main goal. Do not let it be “learn everything at once”. Plans must be achievable. Study grammar first, then train communication skills in a foreign language, then learn professional vocabulary necessary for work. When learning another language is not connected to any impossible global goals and arranged as a passage of possible tasks, it proceeds smoothly, reducing the risk of you losing self-esteem.

2. Target fixation

The most common mistake among beginners in any field of activity is concentrating on the auxiliary tasks. You think that you are doing sports from the moment you buy sneakers, and dieting from the moment you start planning the menu. The brain “adds” secondary tasks, giving them extreme importance. But it’s actually a peculiar way to move away from the goal because of fear.

Learning foreign languages is no exception. A person spends an incredible amount of time searching for courses, tutors and useful tips on the Internet, buying multivolume dictionaries. And over time, the classes themselves fade into the background. Motivation and desire disappear.

The person who is looking for a way to quickly learn foreign language must immediately immerse themselves in learning, instead of delaying this moment doing auxiliary tasks. As soon as you set a goal, immediately start working towards it.

3. Away with perfectionism

There are a lot of people who have been studying language for many years but still cannot achieve their goal. All of them are perfectionists. Trying to do everything perfectly and painfully experiencing each mistake, they sooner or later lose their motivation and confidence in themselves.

The desire to be the best version of yourself is useful. But when it goes beyond the bounds of the rational, it only interferes with productive activities.

4. Room for mistake

Fear to make a mistake often originates from childhood. And many of us upon reaching adulthood continue to be afraid to do something wrong. Internal fears are destructive in the development of personality. They cultivate acute guilt, shyness and self-doubt.

It is important to understand that outstanding results are achieved only by those who are not afraid to take risks and who are willing to try something new. And the study of foreign languages is an area in which it is impossible not to make mistakes. It is important to find the strength to calmly experience failure. This is not a collapse of hopes and, even more so, not a reason to quit what was started, but an incentive to develop further.

5. Self-confidence

By constantly repeating the phrase “I won’t succeed” people pre-programs themselves for failure. Then any efforts will be in vain.

Learning a foreign language requires motivation. You must always think “I will succeed!” When a person really wants to achieve something, anything is within the scope of their abilities.

How to learn a foreign language as an adult? The key to success is overcoming psychological barriers. Even the most advertised language course will not be useful if you do not change the behavior model and your reaction to the stresses that are associated with learning. When working on oneself does not bring a positive result and it is impossible to solve all psychological problems on your own, it is important not to delay, but to seek help from a psychologist.

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One of the effective methods for changing a behavior model is the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. The program is based on the scientific theories of I. P. Pavlov, B. F. Skinner, A. A. Ukhtomsky and others. The course will help to form positive attitudes that will prove extremely useful in learning a foreign language. You will cease to perceive the mistakes made as a reason for surrender, learn how to motivate yourself to succeed and fight fears. A pathological model of behavior that hinders the productive study of a foreign language will go away. Classes will be an important addition to the foreign language courses you are currently attending.

The program is designed for 2-6 weeks. The course is remote, allowing you to communicate with a psychologist by phone and e-mail, in online chat rooms. The course is confidential. You are not obligated to tell your tutor or teacher at a language school that you are undergoing a behavior modification program.

The important thing is that changing behavior model will make learning foreign language easy and enjoyable.


  1. «Kak naiti svoi put k inostrannym iazykam», 2016 g., D. Nikulicheva.
  2. «Ocherki po psikhologii obucheniia inostrannym iazykam», 1965 g., B. V. Beliaev.
  3. «Psikhologiia tvorchestva i odarennosti», 2018 g., D. B. Bogoiavlenskaia.