AFP 47 – Dealing with burnouts in language learning

On this solo episode I talk extensively about the dreaded topic of burnouts in language learning. I discuss how to prevent them, how to identify them and also what you can do if you have been hit by one.


Ah, burnouts. The bane of many a language learner. It happens for many reasons, it happens to (almost) all of us and the idea of a burnout can be crippling.

I've suffered from many burnouts in my life, and my language learning is no exception. So I thought I'd share some tips and tricks I've picked up lately, through research and by interviewing many of the most succesful language learners on the podcast.

I discuss how to spot burnouts, how to anticipate them and what to do if you suffer from a burnout.

How do you deal with burnouts? Be sure to let me know in the comments below šŸ™‚

The Episode

Show Notes

In this episode you will hear about:

  • Why we suffer from burnouts
  • How to anticipate burnouts
  • How to prevent burnouts
  • How to deal with burnouts once they happen
  • And everything else about burnouts šŸ™‚

Episode Resources

This lists the resources relevant to the episode. For other language learning resources please go to the resource pageĀ for more information.

  • Sara Tripp says:

    Great episode, and excellent timing, for me anyway! I’ve been studying French for about the same period of time you’ve been studying Russian, Chris, and just recently I’ve been having that, “I don’t FEEL like it!” syndrome come over me — thank you for the tips & motivation, and thank you for producing such an excellent show!

    • Chris Broholm says:

      Thanks Sara, and thanks for supporting the show! Means a lot to me.

  • acutia says:

    Yes, this is a subtle psychological aspect that independent learners need to grapple with.

    Thereā€™s at least two main aspects to it:
    1) how present or energised are our goals for learning the language in the moment we sit down to do a learning activity (what psychologists call our “level of motivational arousal”) and
    2) how stimulating, engaging, interesting, dynamic, surprising, and fun we find our learning materials and activities in themselves, and not in general, but in this minute right now.

    For myself, I’m trying to develop some quick gut check rituals i.e. a series of short questions to myself, before, during and after a session, so I can stay mindful of both these aspects and receive the warning signals before I am pushing through some activity or learning material on auto-pilot without enough arousal or interest.

  • Jorge Sivit says:

    Hey Chris, this is the second episode I listen to (I listened to episode 48 last week) and I find the content of both very interesting.

    The part when you speak about how sometimes, even when we are not studying or practicing a language, our brain keeps working and our language skills improve really resonates with me: I have experienced that myself in languages and sports too.

    Do you know any study that talks about that? Something that gives some neurological explanation?

    I recently read the introduction to a book called How We Learn by Benedict Carey that said that ā€œintegrating learning into the more random demands of life can improve recall in many circumstancesā€”and what looks like rank procrastination or distraction often is nothing of the kindā€. It was a Kindle sample and I havenā€™t read the whole book yet so I donā€™t know if there is any scientific explanation inside.

  • Ladan Jiracek says:

    Cool! It’s sometimes good to get away. I have a theory that it actually takes like a week for memories and new words to form! At least thats what I find with my German

    1) There is a drug to help you learn. Its called Provigil and is an anti-narcolepsy (randomly falling asleep) drug. Its generally safe and you have focus as well as clarity…like getting the best sleep of your life the night before

    2) I recommend studying away from home. I like to do it at the library and find my effectiveness can be much higher if I am in a place where I can’t start cleaning, cooking, or something else to distract me. Also being in an area where everyone is studying kind of forces me to study as well

    3) I find exercise really helps for getting past the 2nd hour of MemRise learning. Even 1 minute of ‘kettelbell swings’ every 2 hours is more than enough to get fresh blood back in your brain!!

    Otherwise keep on keeping on! Maybe get a study buddy to help motivate each other! Who wants to keep me on track in exchange for the same?!? šŸ˜›

  • […] In episode #47, “Dealing with burnouts in language learning,” Chris covered the issue of burnoutā€”just getting tired of studying. I felt that one. Studying became a chore recently, no longer my labor of love. I blogged about burnout a while ago here. ChrisĀ recommended finding new things to do, getting out of a boring routine. […]

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