Goal digger notebook

How to Get Back into Language Learning After a Break

ElzetteJanuary 3, 2020

So, for whatever reason, you’ve let your language learning slide.

You probably feel like you’ve lost all the progress you’ve worked so hard for and dread having to start all over again.

First of all, don’t be so hard on yourself. Life happens and we all fall off the wagon at some point.

The important thing is to get back on that wagon, kick off the driver and steer your own damn course.

It’s a brand new year and decade and now is the time to smash those language learning goals.

Here’s how to get back into language learning after an extended break.

Find the trigger for failure

Why did you give up on your language learning? Sometimes this is due to a situation completely out of our control, like an illness, work commitments, or a big life event such as marriage, the birth of a child or a death in the family.

Other times the reasons for giving up on our goals are far more subtle. Identifying the trigger for failure can provide important clues about the changes you need to make to ensure that you stay on track this time around.

Take a moment to sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and write down why you think you didn’t reach your goal. Then plot out a strategy for what you can do better when faced with the obstacle in the future.

For example:

Reason for giving up: I felt overwhelmed trying to fit in language learning around other commitments.

What I can do better: Set up a study schedule so I can manage my time and commitments better.

Reevaluate your goals

Now is a good time to revisit your objectives and motivators. Remind yourself why you wanted to learn the language in the first place. What were your goals before? How have they changed?

If you keep a language learning journal, you can create a new page for your goals and track your progress to help keep you motivated.

Assess your current level

Go back over past lessons and old notebooks to see how much of the information you’ve retained. This will help you determine where to start on your renewed language learning journey.

If you took an extended break (we’re talking months and years here, not days and weeks), you may have to spend some time reviewing older material before you can get back to your previous level of proficiency.

Kit out your study space

Having a dedicated study space is very important to me. I have a very short attention span and need to have everything in place so I can just sit myself down and focus on one thing for a second.

If you are like me, make sure that your study environment is conducive to learning before you jump back into your studies. You’ll need:

  • A quiet place with good lighting and minimal distractions
  • A comfy chair and desk
  • All the tools you need, like a notepad, stationery, your textbook, your tablet or computer, etc.
  • Snacks and a drink so you don’t feel tempted to get up and break your concentration
You've got this light box

Let go of perfectionism

If you’ve been out of the language learning game for a while, you may feel reluctant to start from the bottom again. The longer you wait, the harder it will become.

Embrace the imperfect start and just do it. You may be surprised at how quickly you get back into the swing of things.

Try a different approach

Switch it up your study routine. If working through a textbook didn’t work for you last time, try a video-based course, working with a language partner or learning through meaningful input with an app like LingQ.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Not every method works for everyone.

Take it slow

Just like when we don’t exercise for a while, our language learning muscles can get a bit creaky with inactivity.

You wouldn’t sign up for a marathon on your first day back at the gym. So start slowly with your new language learning routine and focus on getting better every day.

Re-establish habits

Consistency is key to language learning success. Cultivating good language learning habits will help you stay on track and make steady progress towards your goals.

Here are a few suggestions on how to make language learning a part of your everyday routine.

I hope these tips have inspired you to get your language learning back on course. 

Happy 2020! Now go get ‘em!

Have you ever returned to language learning after an extended break? How did you go about it?

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How to Get Back into Language Learning after a Break


  • Jenn Summers

    January 3, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    It sounds like you have figured out the key elements to make your goal a success! So much great info in this post. I also really like to have an accountability partner to help keep me on track when I get overwhelmed. No greater feeling than sharing your successes and helping someone else achieve theirs too!

    1. Elzette

      January 3, 2020 at 12:53 pm

      That’s a great point, Jenn. Teaming up with an accountability buddy is a fantastic way of staying on course and helping someone else to do the same.

  • Emily Adams

    January 3, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    I’d like to start up my language study again this year- I like your tip about using a language partner as I have a friend locally that is already willing to help me, so it’s much nicer than using an app.

    1. Elzette

      January 3, 2020 at 2:07 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Emily. Studying a language on your own can be very isolating so it’s great that you have a friend who can help. Good luck with your language studies this year!

  • Britt

    January 3, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    This is timed so perfectly for me! I recently decided that I want to learn another language (currently fluent in French and English). I haven’t decided what language is next, but with all the resources available in today’s society, the options are endless!

    1. Elzette

      January 4, 2020 at 8:11 am

      That’s so exciting, Britt. With so many resources out there, the world is your proverbial (or should it be linguistic?) oyster. Stop by and let us know which language you chose in the end!

  • Milica Vukadin

    January 4, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    Re-establishing habits and accepting that their current level of language has decreased are the hardest things for my students.
    Despite me being a coach and not just a lecturer, I still cannot always help them.
    The most important thing is that language learners do not lose sight of their learning goals, and that’s something adult learners need to do by themselves. :/

    1. Elzette

      January 6, 2020 at 6:51 am

      So true, Milica. It can be difficult to keep sight of your language goals when you are doing it on your own. I really like Jenn’s suggestion of getting an accountability partner for support.

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