A lot of times the ‘use it or lose it’ mentality is drilled into us as language learners. We’re afraid that if we stop studying a language, even for a day, that our level will drastically drop and we’ll never achieve the proficiency we want. However, did you know that taking a break could actually benefit your learning process? That’s right! Experts say some down-time can make your better at learning a foreign language. If you’re struggling with a language and not sure if it’s time for a break or not, check out these 4 tips to picking up on the signs and approaching your time off the right way.
Sign #1: You’re not getting anywhere
A sure sign that you might need a break is if you’ve been studying a language for a long time but have been stuck on a plateau or don’t feel like you’re really getting anywhere with it. This can be incredibly frustrating—especially when you feel like you’re putting in all that time and effort and not really reaping any rewards. But don’t panic, language learning plateaus are something all of us face, and sometimes the solution is to take some time away from the language. This will help your brain recover and make it easier to get around the barriers that are keeping you from progressing in your chosen language.
Time off tip: Even though time off is healthy, don’t let too much time pass before getting back to your studies. A month or two should be enough to make you feel refreshed and ready to get back on track!
Sign #2: You’re just not into it
Being passionate and curious about a language is an important part of learning it effectively. But when learning your chosen tongue is starting to feel more like a chore than an enjoyable activity, a break might be in order. Learning a language is a lot like being in a relationship: you’ll experience ups and downs and you’re not always going to love it. Maybe the honeymoon phase has passed and you’re feeling lacklustre about the language, or perhaps you’re starting to realize that this particular language might not be for you. Whatever the reason, breaking away is a great way to take stock of the reasons why you’re learning it and to restructure your goals.
Time off tip: Don’t completely wipe your target tongue from your life when taking a break, just use it a lot more casually through activities like watching movies or TV shows.
Sign #3: You’re feeling discouraged
When you started out learning your target language you probably progressed pretty quickly, but as time wore on you found yourself moving at a slower and slower pace. This is completely normal, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be discouraging. If you’re feeling discouraged about your progress, it might be easier to stop and take a breather. Look at language learning as a marathon. When you begin you’ve got lots of energy and run faster because you’re still fresh, but later down the road you’ll be tired and your pace will slow. Sometimes what you need to get back in the marathon again with renewed energy is to just pause for a moment. Taking a learning break is the language equivalent of stopping for some Gatorade and a good stretch during a marathon!
Time off tip: It’s difficult, but avoid giving in to feelings of guilt when taking a break. Everyone needs a little R&R, and your brain is no exception. Just think of all the progress you’ll make when you’re back in the race.
Sign #4: You’re learning methods are stale
Languages are ever changing and you can’t use a rigid approach when it comes to learning any of them. It’s possible that if you’ve been learning a language for a while your learning methods may have gotten a bit stale. Taking some time off from your target tongue is the perfect way to give your system a complete makeover! Stepping away is excellent in that it allows you to get a little perspective and pick up on what areas of your learning need the most change. Do you need to try a new tutor? Or maybe find a language exchange partner? Whatever it is, you can fix it with a little vacay from your language learning!
Time off tip: When revamping your learning style, take stock of where you’re currently falling short. Is it reading, writing, speaking, comprehension, or something else? Tailor your new methods to give your shortcomings a boost!
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Are you feeling like you need a language learning break? Which signs and tips are the most useful to you?