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5 "language learning blocks" that are keeping you from improving

In last week's post, we talked about some common difficulties that many language learners have, such as listening, speaking, remembering vocabulary etc. Today I want to focus on something more personal, more closely related to personality rather than skills or capability. Today we're going to focus on 5 "mental" blocks that could be keeping you from improving as fast as you would like. Every language learner suffers from these, so don't think you are alone! They're part of the language learning process, and everyone needs their own time to work through them. Trust me, I've been through all of them (more than once!) This is the introduction to a 5 week series in the blog, so for the next 5 weeks we will see in detail how to recognize what blocks you may be suffering from, and some tips on how to overcome them.


Identifying your language blocks

I'm just going to have you answer some questions today, as honestly as you can, so that you can start to identify your possible blocks. It'll take 2 minutes, ready?

  1. Do you often keep silent in a conversation because you can't find the right words to say what you think?

  2. Have you tried learning English in the past, but give up every time because it's just too difficult/boring/etc.?

  3. Is the only reason you're studying English to pass a specific level test (A1, B1, etc.)?

  4. Do you often promise yourself that, “when you have more time", you’ll dedicate more time to your language learning?

  5. Do you “hate” English because of a certain teacher you had at school, or an embarrassing experience you had in the past?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you probably could use a little motivational boost. I know exactly how you feel, so over the next few weeks, I'll share my own personal language learning story and give you some tips on how to battle these pesky psychological blocks.


The beginning of my language learning story

I know you're curious, so today I'll give you the first chapter of how I, teacher Claire, discovered that I enjoyed languages (and hated math and everything to do with numbers). I can probably thank my parents, because even though both of them speak English as their first language, I was lucky enough that from when I was just a baby, we often travelled to the UK to visit my dad's family. So, I was blessed with (what was😒) a European passport. My parents always talked about Europe, and my dad travelled often for work, so from a young age, I was exposed to the idea that there was, in fact, a world outside of the USA. When I was 12 (I think) we moved from Ohio to Texas for my dad's job. I was NOT happy, but in hindsight, it probably changed the entire course of the rest of my life. Here's how. I rode horses as a kid, and when I moved to Texas, I found a stable that would let me work to pay for my lessons (child labor, anyone?). The people who worked there full time were Mexican, and spoke hardly any English. So I learned how to introduce myself to them, to ask them how they were, to answer their simple questions like if I was tired, thirsty, hungry etc.). I have no recollection of how I actually spoke any Spanish to them, but my eyes were opened to the fact that communication is a lot more than just memorizing verb tenses and singing songs about prepositions (the horrible things that my teachers made me do in English class). After some years, we moved back to Ohio (I was again, NOT happy), where I started high school and excelled in my Spanish and English classes (everyone else hated them, I was the nerd and teacher's pet), and basically failed Algebra 1 and 2 and then quit math. Then, in my senior year of high school, I got a letter in the mail about an American university that offered a scholarship to go to study on their Madrid (yes, Spain) campus...

and that's where I'll leave you for today, more next week!



  • to work through [something]: to deal with something that is difficult or challenging

  • to overcome [something]: after working through a problem, if you find a solution, you overcome the problem

  • pesky: adjective - synonymous to annoying

  • in hindsight: understanding a situation only after it has happened

  • a stable: the structure where horses live

  • teacher's pet: the teacher's favorite student

  • a scholarship: money given to students to study

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