Learning French has been your dream since you don’t remember when, and now you’ve decided it’s finally time to go for it.
So you’re giving it your all: you started Duolingo, you bought grammar books, you have your Anki cards, your Youtube channels, you’re following tons of French Instagram accounts and you maybe even purchased a course online + some tutoring classes to practice conversation.
You’re all set.
Until burnout comes knocking at your door and you don’t even want to open your books anymore.
They are gathering dust on a corner of your shelves, just like your vision of sipping wine in Southern France with your new local best friend.
And that would make me really sad.
Here are 5 things you should quit today to avoid Language Burnout and continue on the road to your French dreams.
Language Burnout Symptoms
Language burnout is not something we speak about a lot, so you may not be familiar with what it means.
Maybe you’re already suffering from language burnout yourself without knowing it.
So let me explain what it feels like when you start experiencing language burnout.
When you think of the French language, you feel frustrated and stressed instead of feeling excited and engaged.
The materials, courses, lessons, and books you bought don’t seem as appealing to you as they once were. Looking at them doesn’t make you happy. Instead, it makes you feel guilty.
You may start to grow cynical towards the methods you’re using: a specific course, your apps, your teachers. Or you may even start feeling angry towards the language altogether, blaming its difficult pronunciation or grammar.
Most commonly, you start having low self-esteem as you doubt your capacities to learn.
You feel disconnected from French. You have lost touch with your reason why, the dream behind the practice. You don’t feel in love with the language anymore and you don’t think it’s possible to ever sound like yourself in the language.
If you pay attention, when you’re learning French, you may feel tense in your body. Perhaps you can feel the stress in your shoulders, or a knot in your stomach. Some people even experience headaches.
You start missing your French appointments, because instead you crashed on the sofa or you weren’t able to get up in the morning to meet your tutor. Thinking of meeting your language partner makes you tired. You’re emotionally drained of your energy and that prevents you from doing anything to progress. So you feel guilty and the cycle goes on.
You feel negative about the whole experience of learning French. You find it difficult to concentrate, and there’s no creativity or joy left in your French. Because of that, you’re not improving anymore. It’s also common to regress and forget what you’d previously learned.
Whether this is the first time you read about language Burnout or you’ve been experiencing it yourself, you’re probably wondering how you can avoid ever feeling this way about French.
Here are 5 things you must absolutely stop doing when learning French.
5 Things that Lead to Language Burnout
Make notes of these unhealthy learning habits that will cause you to burnout and eventually crush your dreams of French fluency and confidence.
Unreasonable expectations for time and result
We’ve all been there. It’s the beginning of a new adventure and you’re super eager to show your dedication, so you decide you will study French 2 hours a day, every day.
Unless you have nothing else to do during the day (like you’re not working and you don’t have a family to take care of), this is most likely unreasonable.
Be mindful of how much time you decide to dedicate to French, and make sure it fits your lifestyle.
Also, it is unrealistic to believe you will go from pre-intermediate to advanced in 3 months. Progress can definitely be made in that timeframe, of course, but not that much progress that you now master the language.
Three months is an example, but what I often observe is learners who feel frustrated because after one or two years learning French they don’t feel like they don’t feel confident using the language yet, especially when they speak.
But this is completely normal!
In fact, very few people are able to reach extraordinary results in shorter time frames. We shouldn’t take the exception and make it a rule.
Similarly, if you expect that learning French will be easy, you will more easily be thrown off by the more complex structures and turns of phrases.
Yes, learning a language is complex.
Yes, it does take time.
But it’s ok, you’ve got this.
Simply allow it enough time and don’t focus so much on the result.
Pushing yourself beyond what feels good
When we’re too focused on the outcome we want to have, some of us tend to push ourselves too much, beyond our own limits and beyond what feels good.
For example, you decide you will learn French conjugations every day + read a chapter of your book in French + study your Anki cards (flash cards with vovabulary) for 30 minutes + listen to a French podcast on your way to work + watch French youtube on your lunch break and take notes you will study at night, etc.
Making such plans is tempting because it’s reassuring. You believe that if you do all that, you are controlling your result and you’re doing everything you can to get there.
And we love control, don’t we? I sure do.
The truth is you’re doing too much, and the result you’ll have is exhaustion and burnout.
Focusing on the result
Imagine I want to lose weight. So I start eating healthily and doing physical exercise every day.
What’s the best scenario?
Should I worry every week about how much weigh I’ve lost and wonder if I should keep doing this, doubt that my body is even capable of losing weight? Or should I find the joy in a beautiful delicious diet and in a sports practice that I adore? And if I do find this joy, isn’t it more likely that I will keep up with my practice? And if I keep practicing, isn’t it inevitable that I will be in better shape?
Why should it be different for French?
We have been taught to put all our attention on the outcome of what we do.
We have been taught that it’s the only thing that matters. That if the result isn’t good enough, then the practice is worthless.
What a lie!
In fact, it’s the complete opposite.
The whole point of learning French is (or should be) that it brings you joy and pleasure.
Let me rephrase that: it’s not only the fact of speaking French fluently that should spars joy. It’s the actual process of learning.
When you find passion for this process, you start enjoying yourself and you stop caring about the result.
The result is inevitable anyways.
Using methods that aren’t adapted to you
It’s important that you know this.
Not all languge methods work for everyone, despite what they are letting you believe.
Mainstream language methods mostly folllow the pattern of one size fits all.
But following a method that isn’t adapted to your personality, or following a program that isn’t adapted to your lifestyle will lead you to language burnout.
You will feel inadequate, and you will blame yourself for not thriving in the classroom like the rest of your classmates.
And that isn’t fair at all.
For example, if you’re an introvert, it’s not a very good idea to enroll in a big group class that’s centered around conversation on broad general topics. Instead, pick a self-paced program that will give you plenty of me-time and space to process the language, test it and connect to French intimately, before you can share your thoughts and ideas in an small, exclusive group.
Not being supported by a group / a coach.
To be more complete, not being supported by a group and a coach who are like-minded people who understand you.
Sadly, when I was teaching languages in schools back in Belgium, I saw too many students feel inadequate or invisible in big 40-student groups, and not being able to be supported by their teachers either. This led many of them to quit their class and give up on the language altogether.
Self-study is amazing, but it doesn’t mean you must do it alone.
In fact, being supported by a group of learners just like you, who share your vision of what is pleasant, fun and engaging, while at the same time being guided by a coach that cares about you as a person and as a learner, can make all the difference on the quality of the experience you’ll have.
Follow the sun
There are many different ways to learn a language and it’s important that you research what will bring you joy, even if it’s very different from what you’ve been taught “works”.
We tend to believe that only hard unpleasant things bring us improvements, but that’s not true.
We tend to believe that we must absolutely learn the language in a systemic way through grammar rules and vocab list, but that’s not true either.
Be mindful of how you really want to spend time with French. So that your love story doesn’t become a nightmare. So that your love story is filled with joy every day.
Do you wonder what this could look like for you? Download the free Catalog Bulle de Français and discover a new, sustainable way to dive into French.