The Right Mindset To Learn a Foreign Language (+ 6 Action Steps)

If you think about it, there's probably one foreign language you have always wanted to learn. In the back of your mind, you've always told yourself “man, I wish I could speak it fluently”. 

I know how you feel. Let’s face it, speaking at least ONE foreign language is not just a cool skill you can use to impress your friends; it is a door that, once opened, will change your life forever.

That has been the case with every single language I have learned. It was through learning English that I achieved my dream of becoming a language coach, directly helping hundreds of people and spreading my passion to the world through my YouTube channel and blog.

It was through learning French that I found love, both for French people and the French culture. Each and every foreign language I’ve learned has taught me something incredibly valuable

So yes, I can tell you with 100% certainty that learning at least one foreign language has the potential to bring about major changes in your life. And for every additional language, you will grow more, and your lifestyle will continue to get better and better. 

However, there’s a big difference between wanting to change your life and actually making it happen. In fact, language learning is a lifelong commitment that requires daily practice and strong motivation. 

It’s not easy. In fact, this where things get complicated. But this is not due to the fact that language learning is difficult in itself. It is because of a deleterious combination of false beliefs and ineffective methods that you could be suffering from right now, as you read this article. 

Raise your hand if you’ve ever started a language and stopped because you didn’t know where to start.

Is your hand up? 

Well, you’re in the right place. Let’s move on.

The Difference Between Saying and Doing

We have an expression in Italian:

“Tra il dire e il fare c'è di mezzo il mare.”

Literally, it means “there’s an ocean between saying and doing”.

We can all relate to that, I think. 

We’ve all said we want to learn a language at one time or another, but later found that the actual doing of the language learning was much, much more difficult.

And even if we succeed at the initial doing, continuing to do something over time is not the easiest.  You get a bunch of resources, start learning with enthusiasm, and then...nothing happens. 

Well, actually, something DOES happen, but not quite what you imagined. You find yourself confused about what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and for how long. 

Despite the confusion, the bravest of you keep putting in the effort and end up with patchy skills, at best. Eventually, though, you get hit by the most frustrating realization: after all this time, you still cannot speak the language. 

What do you do next? You conclude that language learning is hard, boring, expensive, and worst of all, not your thing.

Ring any bells?

Don't Overwhelm Yourself with Too Many Resources

The Internet has become an absolutely incredible tool for language learning. Anything and everything you could possibly want—from courses, to bilingual books (affiliate), textbooks, movies, music, tutors, and a thousand and one other things—are available at a few clicks of your mouse.

In theory, this is the best possible environment to look for and find the right resources to learn any foreign language you could ever want. In practice, however, there are some hidden drawbacks that you need to watch out for.

First and foremost, let me ask you a question:

In your life so far, what do you think you’ve done more of? Shopping around for language resources (and not buying any), or actually sitting down and learning with any resource in particular?

If you’re like most people, you’ve done more of the former. Shopping online (even for language resources), creates that intoxicating feeling of wondering if the next best thing is waiting for you on just another page, another forum link, and at the end of another “Top Ten” list. Actual learning has little of that, at least at first, and requires a lot more effort and hard work.

How do you avoid this intoxicating feeling? 

To waste less time searching for resources and instead gain more time to learn a language, I suggest the following:

Before looking online for your next resource, grab a pen and paper and start brainstorming.

Ask yourself what kind of resource you’re looking for.

Then continue on, asking yourself questions like:

  • Do I want a video course, or a book-based course?
  • Am I interested in finding materials made for natives?
  • Do I want a physical product, or a digital one (affiliate)?
  • What level do I want to reach with my next resource?

Write down your answers, and then start looking online for something that suits your needs. 

If you don’t do this, you’ll fall prey to the indecision and overwhelm caused by the endless mass of resources that’s available to you on the other side of a Google search. And believe me, you don’t want that. 

You want to choose your resources quickly and effectively, so you can start your learning as soon as possible. 

You Already Own The Best Resource On The Market

Once you’ve taken action and gotten hold of a quality language learning book or course, there’s still one more resource we need to think about—your brain!

Your brain is truly the best resource you have available to you, and if you use it properly, it will help you learn as many languages as you’d like.

However, it’s not easy to use a brain properly. In fact, we use our brains in negative ways all the time.

Have you ever thought about how you wanted to learn a foreign language, and then said to yourself “Language learning is too hard!”, or maybe “I’m not smart enough to become fluent!”?

At that moment, you are using your own brain against you. You are telling your brain “no, I don’t think I can do this”. And the worst part?

Your brain believes you.

Let me illustrate with a story:

The Elephant and the Prison of the Mind

Have you ever heard the story of the elephant that, after years of being chained to a pole in a circus, suddenly found himself free? 

He didn’t run. 

He didn’t escape. 

He didn’t even know he could escape, because it wasn’t just the chain that held him back; his thoughts did, as well. He didn’t feel free in his mind, so he wasn’t, even without shackles. We have countless mental shackles that hold us, in both language learning and beyond. 

If you don’t believe you are capable of learning a language, then you are like the elephant. 

We all have been, at one time or another.

The human brain, as powerful as it is, is pretty gullible. If you think something enough times, or if you tell yourself something often enough, your brain will just accept it as fact. 

You, like the elephant, have enormous potential, and the freedom to develop it as much as you wish. However, you may have strong beliefs and misconceptions about the language learning process that limit you and prevent you from seeing that potential clearly

How Your Beliefs Shape Your Language Learning Goals

Your beliefs about your language learning ability are what will ultimately decide whether you succeed or fail as a language learner. Your thoughts matter, much more than you might expect. 

For example, in all my years as a language coach, I’ve heard many people tell themselves (and me) that they’re simply not fit to learn a language.

If, again, you’ve ever felt that way, then let me tell you this:

I’ve never met a person incapable of learning a language, only incompatible mindsets. Mindsets can be changed, and with the right one, anyone can learn a foreign language to fluency and beyond. 

Learning a Foreign Language: From Theory to Practice

The way you talk to yourself is critical. 

If you tell yourself you can’t learn a foreign language, you won’t be able to. Your brain will hinder you at every turn, you’ll eventually get discouraged, and then give up.

Let’s not forget, however, that telling yourself that you're incapable or untalented does serve a “useful” purpose: it unconsciously relieves you of any responsibility you might have had for making language learning happen. 

But what would happen if you told your mind something else? What if you told yourself that you don’t believe in talent and that you can do anything you set your mind to? If you do that, you will quickly realize that you have no excuses, and all there is left to do is just learn. 

It is as simple as that. I strongly believe that language learning is not about talent, nor is it about magic bullets, shortcuts, or secret recipes. It's about a strong belief in yourself and your ability to learn. It's about taking responsibility, and it's about educating yourself

By “educating yourself”, I mean becoming more aware of how your brain works, and how you personally learn best. Forget about methods and techniques for learning grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary, just for a moment. Instead, focus on how you can start changing your mindset and revolutionizing the way you learn.

6 Essential Steps to Take Action

I’ll now share 6 simple action steps you can take right now, starting today, that will change the way you learn languages forever.

  • 1
    First, choose one solid, enjoyable resource in your target language, and use it exclusively for three months, before moving on.
  • 2
    Second, take the time to learn your target language every single day—leveraging the compound effect to your advantage. Daily learning creates a proverbial “snowball” that becomes bigger and gains more momentum with each passing day.
  • 3
    Third, spend some time every Sunday planning out your language learning schedule for the coming week. Then, when you sit down to learn, follow that schedule as closely as possible. Removing the decision fatigue of actually choosing what to do every day is a powerful way to invest maximal energy into learning. 
  • 4
    Fourth, take handwritten notes of all of the important language knowledge you wish to remember for the long-term. This will help you stay focused, and you will memorize new things more effectively. 
  • 5
    Fifth, remove as many distractions from your learning space as possible. Keep your phone in another room, if you can, and rely on your computer only for playing audio files. One hour of learning while distracted isn’t worth more than a few minutes of focused learning.
  • 6
    And lastly, keep a daily journal of your language learning progress. Keeping a daily journal is essential for keeping yourself motivated. It is like a contract you make with yourself. To see an example of such a journal, check out my Danish Logbook.

Get Ready for a Language Revolution!

These six simple actions are just the beginning of an incredible journey. The more often you implement them, the more you’ll want to continue moving forward. 

Slowly but inevitably, you’ll acquire the clarity and vision necessary to take off in the direction of your language learning dreams. Trust me. Right now, you have everything you need to make it happen. You just need to believe and take action. In fact, believing will spur you to take action. And the more action you take, the more results you will see. And those results, in turn, will help you shape, mold and improve your beliefs. 

Are you ready to start a language revolution, right here and right now?

Written by Luca Lampariello

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  • Wow, tour de force! I enjoyed the video very much, and am working to follow the good advice. A few things I would add:
    1. Keep the learning process as fun as possible so I look forward each day to doing my daily work.
    2. look for opportunities to validate my learning by exposing myself occasionally to full-force versions of my target language and seeking even small bits that I can understand. If I can understand a small bit now, I should be able to understand a lot some day.
    Thank you Luca for encouraging me and so many others.

  • I couldn’t agree more with you. After teaching English for many years, I realized that course books were just there because of commercial stuff, what I mean is it is a huge business and most language schools around the world MUST use them because otherwise their students can’t sit for international exams, for one thing. Well, I could definitely go on and on talking about my experience and the moment of my epiphany but let’s end it here.
    Thank you for your enlightening videos and the articles here.

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