Top 10 mistakes when learning English

Low motivation

Lack of goal and expected outcome is a downfall for any important initiative. Incorrect motivation: “it’s fashionable”, “my friends are doing the same”, “someday it will come in handy”. You need to understand why you need English and choose an appropriate program: for study abroad, for travel, for career development.

Also, pay attention to how you feel about the class itself: are you glad the class is canceled? Do you ask for no homework because you are too tired? If at least one of these two questions is answered affirmatively, then think about whether you need English classes.

What to do: choose a goal and identify the needs to achieve it. And to keep your motivation at a sufficient level, make a diary to write down the topics you have already studied. This way you will see that you are not wasting your time.

Excessive expectations

Most schools give promises which cannot be fulfilled: every teacher knows that you cannot learn a foreign language (even your native language) completely. And a level close to a spoken language does not come until a few years of regular lessons. There is no methodology, that would allow a common person to master English in a shorter time – the classic ALTE (The Association of Language Testers in Europe) scale is divided into 7 levels for a reason.

Generally, it takes a few months to master a level. To have an open discussion with an English-speaking conversation partner, you need a minimum of B2. However, you should not believe the commercials and sign up for a course promising you a conversational level in a few lessons.

What to do: stop hoping for a “magic pill”. Determine to what extent you need to master the language to get closer to your goal, make a plan, and prepare for the long work ahead.

Irregular classes

Frequent absences and long interruptions in your studies will negate all efforts. Even though we all have things to do and other hobbies, you need to study the language at least 3-4 times a week, evenly distributing the workload on weekdays and weekends. If this is very difficult for you, then we advise you to use the essay writing service that will help you with your assignment. The main thing is not to be afraid of difficulties.

What to do: Make a schedule and a list of things to do to improve your language skills. It is not necessary to study every day from textbooks – such lessons will do more harm than good (why we will tell below). If you’re not up to cramming on a weekday, a great alternative is to watch a TV series with the original voiceover (preferably with English subtitles), read the news, or have a conversation with a native speaker. The main thing is to arrange such “immersion” in the language environment as often as possible and not to take long breaks: the lower the level of the language, the more likely it is that after a long break you will have to start learning English from scratch again.

Shifting responsibility

The choice of a teacher is certainly important. But no person can make or interest a student who is not ready to learn. Shifting responsibility to a tutor, school or course is not productive. Only you know why you need English, and it is that goal that should drive you to work.

What to do: rely only on yourself. No matter how much you pay for a course, the language will not learn on its own. Try to imagine more often the privileges that will open up if you become a much better English speaker, and follow your goal by devoting at least a few days a week to lessons.

Uneven language learning

To become fluent in a foreign language you have to pay attention to different aspects of it: grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, how to express yourself, and how to understand the other person. Each of these aspects is equally important. Quite often, however, teachers and learners break this balance by focusing on one thing at the center of their methods, e.g:

  • Grammar. Without an understanding of tenses and sentence structure, you can hardly do even one task correctly. Students who are used to speaking correctly in their native language try to achieve the same mastery in the foreign language, but this often gets in the way. Scrupulous study of the rules will allow you to do well on written tests, but it slows down your speaking skills.
  • Vocabulary acquisition. A large vocabulary is a good indicator of erudition, but we rarely look at dictionaries in everyday life. Moreover, the most necessary and useful vocabulary is used so often that there is no need to memorize it – just read the news and keep a diary in English every day.
  • Reading. At the same time, diligent practice of reading is not a solution. Classic fiction uses old and rare vocabulary that most people don’t use in their everyday lives. Therefore, if reading is not only a hobby for you but also a part of your studies, choose modern authors and journalism: here you will find both topical vocabulary and up-to-date grammatical constructions.
  • Watch video content. Another great way to improve your vocabulary and practice listening comprehension. Unfortunately, understanding native speakers cannot be equated to a good command of the language without practicing your speech, a fact often forgotten by adherents of the method of learning English from TV series and TV shows.
  • And of course, the lack of attention to pronunciation. Getting rid of the accent is difficult, and not always necessary. But communicating with native speakers will be much easier if you train yourself in correct articulation from the start.

What to do: To master the language at a high level and be able to express yourself in different situations, you should keep this balance in your study and not go overboard with any of the skills. If you are studying on your own, try to ensure that each session includes the practice of different types, and also emphasizes knowledge of modern language.

Fear of making a mistake

Correct and clear speech makes the person you are talking to feel at home. But how many people do you know who speak as fluently as you would like to speak English? Mistakes are inevitable, especially in the speech of people who are just starting to learn. Don’t be afraid of it: every failure is just an opportunity for further self-improvement.

What to do: accept that the purpose of language is to convey information. If your interlocutors understand you, it doesn’t matter how grammatically accurate you are. With proper effort and regular speaking practice, your speech will become clearer and more accurate.

Focusing on translation

Students immerse themselves in the environment gradually, starting with the translation of simple phrases. This approach works only at first: every language is unique, so complex constructions are unlikely to be translated verbatim. Constantly comparing any foreign language with your mother tongue is useless: to speak English you have to learn to think in it.

What to do: Train yourself in literal translation. If you already have a vocabulary, do not rush to find a translation of an unfamiliar word: try to find the meaning in the explanatory dictionary. Try to express your thoughts directly in English, bypassing the translation stage.

Learning a classical language

Being able to speak Classical English is a rare skill that hardly any native speaker can boast of. By classical English, we mean the accepted standard of the British media, or “BBC English”.

It is an impersonal version of the “correct” language, a good base to start from when further digging into the culture. You should understand that Standard English is an almost lifeless language, spoken by a small percentage of the world’s English-speaking population. To reach the level of a native speaker, you should also pay attention to the idioms, slang, and cultural traits of the nation you’re speaking with.

What to do: determine the English of which country you are most interested in. Use not only textbooks but also informal sources of information – soap operas, shows, youtube channels, and blogs as a guide.

An aversion to repetition

Our brains are designed to retain only relevant information in memory whenever possible. It is difficult to call in demand the rules and vocabulary of a foreign language that one does not speak every day. That is why it will not be possible to take English by quantity. Sooner or later you have to shift the emphasis on the quality of the learned knowledge and repeat what you have learned.

What to do: Write down the titles of the studied topics in a diary, which will motivate you to conquer new horizons. If you add a date to these notes, you can make a schedule for repetition. The knowledge will transfer to your long-term memory if you refer back to the material over several weeks. The first repetition can be done after a day, the second after 3-4 days, and the third after a week.

Lack of practice

The human brain tends to get rid of unnecessary information. You can counteract this habit by practicing conversational skills in conversation with native speakers or other students. The earlier you start communicating in English, the better your chance of breaking through the language barrier stage, which is more often experienced by the honors students.

What to do: Don’t put off speaking practice until better times. Knowledge of grammar and a large vocabulary in conversation is definitely useful, but you will quickly get used to “passive” language learning. It won’t be so easy to switch over to developing communication skills.

No one is safe from making mistakes. So if, after reading our article, you find that you are learning English less effectively than you could, you should not get upset, just correct the problem.


Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets. You may also want to check out my other blogs IELTS Practice and NCERT Guides

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