Are you a Lazy Language Learner Like Me? No Problem.

I'm a lazy language learner, are you?

North American Polyglot Symposium 2016 Review (5)Spoiler: There's absolutely no problem being a lazy language learner.

Sometimes we can get a little carried away by basing our own expectations on vastly succesful language learners like Benny Lewis and Steve Kaufmann.

Ignoring the obvious motivational factors, as they do exist, what these success stories sometimes do is to falsely condition you to believe that you must also be able to learn a language quickly and without problems.

It's similar to these incredible stories of people dropping several hundred pounds of weight in no time, and then everyone jumps on the bandwagon, fails to see these huge numbers and immediately quit.

In fact, it's not similar, it's the EXACT same thing.

I'm a Lazy Language Learner and I Bet Some of You Are Too!

During my Russian studies, I did not set a goal of completing X number of hours per day.

I knew this was a silly goal to have, so instead I focused on doing something every day. By rewarding myself for consistency, I have accomplished a lot more than I would have if I tried to force myself to do a set number of hours per day.

I'm inherently lazy when it comes to things I have to do. That does not mean I don't enjoy the things I procrastinate from doing – trust me I've had times where I was too lazy to play video games.

This means that I really struggle with ‘putting the hours in' which is a topic I explored earlier on the blog in: How Long Does it Take To Learn a Language From Scratch?

My point is that I'm writing this blog not as another Benny Lewis or Steve Kaufmann, but as probably one of the worst language learners in the world. My hope is that by showing that even the worst can do it, then so can you or anyone else who are having doubts about learning a new foreign language.

Consistency and commitment

A question I often see asked around the polyglot communities is how fast can I become fluent in language X? Or how long does it take to learn Y? And to me this is by far the worst approach to language learning. I'm learning a new language because of the enjoyment and the experience, not to see how fast I could actually do it.

And even Benny Lewis says that his 3 months are chosen, not based on his average language ability after that period of time, but because most tourist visas are 3 months so that's all the time he had in a country to study the language.

Let me just underline that I'm not blaming Benny for using the name, as the confusion is generally by readers who seem to think that Fluency in 3 months is easily attainable.

It's not even easy for Benny who has been doing it for 10 years.

And that's the point , you should learn languages at your pace, for your reasons and if you need to take 6-8-12 months or longer to become fluent, who cares?

By picking up another language your are entering into an exclusive club of human beings who speak more than 2 languages. You experience new cultures and countries and you open up hundreds of doors that would otherwise not have been open for you.

What is important though is that your language learning is consistent and you have a schedule you commit to.

For me I want to do something in the language every day.

Even if it is just 10-15 minutes I think it is way superior over doing say hours of study one day a week. It's too easy to forget when you are in the early phase of learning a language.

The guinea pig of language learning

So with all the above being said I can add a final point that I'm not just a lazy language learner.  I'm also a guinea pig. All my experiences and stories on this blog are results of me trying to learn languages, so that you can do it too.

Sometimes I fail miserably, sometimes I triumph but no matter what you can always be sure that I will share the results here on the blog.

This concludes today's post. Now it's your turn: Are you a lazy language learner like me? Add your comment in the box below 🙂

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  • I like the analogy with diets. It’s more sustainable to make a slow and steady change that will last than to go rushing in all guns blazing.

    Just like you can’t lose weight overnight, you can’t instantly pick up a new language. However if you keep at it, you will make progress.

    • Chris Broholm says:

      Hey Ruth,

      Thanks for adding your comment! And you are totally right, keep at it! And adding to the diet thing, don’t get lured by false promises and other shiny sayings claiming you can be fluent in you sleep in a month!

  • Shawn says:

    Good stuff, keep it up! I’m liking your articles and interviews, too.

    • Chris Broholm says:

      Hey Shawn, thank you for the kind words and welcome to the site! 🙂

  • Gustavo Trajano de Moura says:

    I’m incredibly lazy to learn anything, but nevertheless I’m somehow considering learning a fifth language together with my fourth. I’ve been reading books in another languages and preparing a vocabulary notebook with the words that I didn’t understood, so I can read it and train my memory wherever I go (normally on the trains, as I need to go somewhere). That way I still get to train my vocabulary, even I was lazy too lazy to practice other things like speaking and such. But now I’m just wondering if it would mess too much with my head to learn so many languages at the same time haha

  • That share button on the left is blocking the text a bit on iPad.

  • Wonderful and honest post. I wouldn’t say it’s lazy though and it’s likely you’re not the worst language learner.

    I’d love to have 10 hours a day to dedicate to language learning, but I have other responsibilities that make this impossible. I try to do whatever I can, a little bit each and every day, and for now that’s enough because I am doing something I love.

    • Chris Broholm says:

      Thanks for your comment Shannon,

      And you are right, Im probably not lazy in the true meaning of the word, but I think it’s the word that fits best if I am describing my situation to people. And I would NOT like to do language learning 10 hours a day, that would be way too much for me. I need to enjoy the process as well 🙂

      • Okay, maybe not 10 hours a day, everyday, but I do wish I had a little bit more time/energy to study language than I do on most days.

  • Zeke Kornberg says:

    I am just like that, probably even worse. I can’t even commit to doing something every day, and there have been times when I couldn’t even manage to do something every week. By now I’ve learned that if I see I’m losing steam or interest I look for things that will ignite my interest again, whatever it may be at the moment. A lot of times it involves just doing some passive listening or watching movies for a while, but sometimes finding new people to chat with or an interesting subject to read about can help as well.

    As time goes on I have changed my goals totally. Instead of focusing on being fluent and always comparing myself to my ideal, I focus on not getting discouraged and losing interest. And I feel that for me going on that path is actually a surer path for me towards fluency. It may take me a year or two or three until I feel confident in a language, but it is a much more enjoyable and I feel like I learn more about the culture than if I tried speed towards “fluency”.

  • […] I cannot stress how much it means to just put in the work on a language. Generally I had done a fair share of lazy learning, for instance listening to Michel Thomas and Pimsleur. Listening to audio courses is not a bad […]

  • It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. > I love this analogy. Thank you for sharing! And yes, I am a lazy language learner too. I try not to be, but on some days, all I do is one session on Memrise while half awake. 🙂

  • james says:

    Yes i’m afraid this is my downfall to language learning, and also jumping from one course to another, hoping for a quick fix as they say. James

  • Jim Awofadeju says:

    I have had a lot of free time in recent years, which means that I haven’t been a lazy language learner. I am a student taking courses online, but I don’t have a full-time job or a family of my own. With all the courses I am currently taking though, I qualify as being a full-time student. I expect to be busier in the year to come, which means that some things will have to give (like learning or reviewing languages). I would also say that learning another language has been an interest of mine, but it’s not my area of expertise. I’m not pursuing a career in language or the field of linguistics, but I do want to be able to expand my horizons and possibly live overseas where the language(s) I’m learning is/are spoken.

    I dream of an international future.
    My long-term vision is to become an expat.
    My mission is to establish roots in Asia.

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