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How can I be less extreme when it comes to learning languages?

I often find myself a little bit too extreme when I am learning a language. Sometimes I feel like super motivated and I can keep studying a language for 7-8 hours straight without breaks. It is particularly true when I actually have other far more important things to do in life (e.g. when I have 2-3 uni exams next week but all I care about is learning languages... I would do half an hour of revision on uni courses and then I am like "yay time for Italian!" when the fact is that during that 30 minutes I keep doing lessons on duolingo & only occasionally reading my uni notes...) And then sometimes I just completely lose my motivation. This happened to me before for Italian. I abandoned it once for like 5 months. Any suggestions on that?

December 6, 2017



Well for one I would suggest not doing 7-8 hours of a language. It is too much for your brain to take in and can exhaust you. I absolutely adore languages and I hope to get many more under my belt, however, it is necessary to take breaks. Sometimes the way I study is very covert and passive, instead of taking notes and reading new grammar points, I'll listen to a podcast or watch a movie in that language or even just do a video chat with one of my friends. I do SOMETHING with that language everyday. However, I am to the point with French that I know so much that I can literally immerse myself in the language for days without using any English but I rarely am taking notes on grammar points, it's usually listening to music, talking with my French friends, reading a book, writing, all in French. If there is one language you are more advanced at I highly suggest putting your phone in that language, you'll learn a lot of new vocab. Also write down as many reasons as you can for why you are learning the language and remind yourself of those when you are low on motivation. Sometimes for me it helps me to learn pieces of culture and those can re-invigorate me. Try to train your brain to associate happiness with language learning, if you are upset or stressed for one you won't learn as much but if you try to study more than once when you are like that it will make you not want to study the language. So put yourself in a good mood, then study. Do that enough times and you will start to associate the two and it will help with the motivation to keep going, just don't go overboard.


Thanks for the advice! I wish I could do the same! I tried to watch movies in Italian and German (B1 and A2 respectively) but I still rely heavily on the English subtitles. I'm trying to read short stories now and it's actually pretty good for me, I feel like I'm learning something but not pushing myself too hard. I agree with the changing the phone language thing! English is not my mother language but I changed my phone language to English a few years ago and I'm starting to feel like it is actually my mother tongue! Thanks for the suggestions on the motivation part, I will try it out!:)


No problem! ^_^ One way that really helps me to learn is by reading up on a movie in my native tongue (English for me) and then watching the movie in whatever language I am trying to learn without subtitles. This forces you to really pay attention and listen to what they're saying. You will not understand everything and that is completely okay, but your brain will fill in the gaps because you already know the general gist of the movie. It can be challenging the first few times but eventually you start to catch on. It also helps to maybe watch the same movie a few times, not in a row, but watch it once then wait a while and watch it again. It's fun to see how much more you pick up. And good luck!


You should only study in 20-30 min blocks. Taking a break of at least 20-30 mins before going at it again. With this method you will spend less time overall and get better results.

20-30 mins 5 days a week is going to get you better results then 7-8 hours 1 day a week. It is well documented best method.

What you are doing is a poor use of time management, you could be out having fun watching TV playing video games or whatever if you did shorter blocks of study but do it each day. Cramming does not work if the goal is long term memory.

Change your habits to match was works best.


I think that's pretty normal. Some people are very rigorous and try to force themselves to learn their language(s) every day but whenever I try to do that I get frustrated and make a lot of mistakes and it's just not fun for me. I've taken a break from French for a month or two but I always come back to it. In my case I tend to take long breaks when I have a lot of other things to do (work); I think in your case it's probably more that you're more interested in learning Italian than studying for exams. Motivation usually fluctuates and it's not exclusive to language learning.


Thanks!:) I guess I just don't know how to deal with the pressure in life, and I'm kind of using language as my way to escape...


You've diagnosed the problem and it's up to you now to take appropriate action.

Learning Italian you can do in your spare time at any stage of your life. The learning opportunities you have in college, you'll never have those again, and your future self might regret not concentrating fully on your college studies.

There can be a dark side to being an autodidact/intellectual magpie type. There can be a lack of discipline and focus, combined with a secret pride about being more clever than the average student, too clever to put aside enough time to do the prescribed homework. Because goofing off takes the guise of "independent study", the overall pattern of indiscipline is harder to spot.


If I were you, Id stop going on Duolingo after 1-1 and a half hours. as Lleuyaven said , to much work can exhaust your brain.


I think Duolingo is not that much of a burden to my brain, haha. Its content is still relatively easy, I'm usually doing the lessons just to reinforce my memory on vocabs:)


Its more about you're brain going into short term memory mode after about 30mins of intense focus, aka you are wasting your time.

Strange that its the same time frame as working out a body part go too far past 30mins of intense chest or whatever lifting and you are doing no good just wasting time.


I had this exact problem too...what I ended up doing was just setting my daily goal low (10XP) so that on days when I'm busy or unmotivated, I can just do one quick lesson or practice to get it out of the way. In general, I've found that it also helps me if I tie a new habit I'm trying to establish to an existing habit/something I already do every day. For example, if you decide you want to do Duolingo right before bed each night, or on the bus, or at your lunch break - any of these things might help to cement it in your daily schedule. As for the days when you don't want to do anything else, I don't have a certain cure for that yet lol...but sometimes for me it helps to go on a walk or cook something or do a craft, just to reset my brain a little bit.

Good luck!

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