Has your Brain Ever Shut up Shop on You?

I recently spent almost an entire month going at my target language for around 5-6 hours/day. About half way into week 4 I suddenly found it REALLY hard to concentrate on anything target language related.

I started to struggle with both reading and listening, like my brain had decided it’d had enough. This wasn’t a conscious decision, I simply found myself unable to concentrate. It was like what I imagine dyscalculia to be like, but for languages. It really felt like I’d developed a sudden disorder. After a few days off, I tried listening to an audiobook and it was a similar story; this huge aversion to the language has persisted.

Has anyone ever encountered this before? Is it simply burnout?

If it helps with your reply, I was spending about 50% of that time doing intensive reading/listening, looking up almost every word, repeat listening etc. No flashcarding; no speaking; no writing, just listening and reading whilst looking up words and structures.

Yeah, most probably burnout. I have never felt it that hard but it’s probably because I have no qualms about taking a break whenever it feels right. Streaks be damned.
Just take a break yourself and feel no regret whatsoever. Breaks are great:

When you do feel like going back, and you will, take it easy in the beginning

What’s your hurry?
Ofc it’s burnout. From the start you took a sprinter’s pace and ran out of power. Think as a marathoner or an ultrarunner and you’ll easily figure out what the intensity should be for such a long run as language learning.
It will be both a liberating and serious approach. Because even at walking pace you’ve got a better chance to finish the race, than in such a rush.

Definitely sounds like burnout. Sounds like you’re sick of it and need a break. Based on the activities you’re describing it also sounds like very demanding interaction with the language, and that level of focus is hard to maintain in anything really. I’m convinced that this is part of the reason why research suggests that language learning materials really are best when they are only just above your level, so that they’re interesting and challenging, but don’t demand so much focus from the learner that you can only do it for very short amounts of time (30 min to 2 hours) before your time/study efficiency ratio gets thrown out the window. If you’re doing intensive activities with the language, you’ll start feeling super fatigued and be less likely to continue. If you fight through some of this fatigue you’ll get better at dealing with it, but finding things more appropriate for your level should also help if you’re trying to get in 5-6 hours of quality exposure to your target language. I don’t know if you’re doing other work, but having a full work day and then doing intensive language learning activities will definitely limit how much you can push. You’ll burnout quickly. The unfortunate issue is that finding level-appropriate and interesting material is usually the hardest part of the journey. Best of luck and don’t be afraid to take a break when you notice your focus is simply depleted.


You should add in some passive activity in terms of watching television shows and movies along with your focused study. This passive activity is a reward for it. I always watch televisions series later in the day after studying on LingQ. Just take 2-3 days rest. Don’t do any focused study. You will be back to your normal self. Please, do add some passive activity in your TL where you can just relax and enjoy it.


I’ve never had it that bad before! I would chill for a few days then go over something easy to give yourself a reward it can be really fun going down in a level and helps more then you think and mix it up a bit more like the others said.

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it’s burn out. your brain is rejecting your efforts now. ive been there before but maybe not as bad. id definitely take a few days off without any reading. just try not to take like 2 months off. youll come back stronger. also, maybe focus on some easier readings that arent as strenuous. light reading will keep you engaged without having to push yourself and it’s actually better for language learning anyway.


The passive stuff is the other 50%. Judging by the comments, I think maybe I just went too intensively on the intensive stuff for more hours than I was ready for, or at least more hours than I’ve done before in such a short space of time. It probably doesn’t help that I wasn’t taking any relaxation time (in my native language), as I was working full time too.

Thanks. As you, and others have said, I was probably hyper focused and spending too much time doing really taxing things in the language. I’ll learn from this. Thanks for the help. :slightly_smiling_face:

Well, I’ve been learning Spanish for almost 8 years now, just not every day, or even every month. I’ve probably “studied” close to 1k hours (I honestly have no idea, but it can’t be far from that) over the course of that time. I just thought I’d see what it was like to go a little more ‘hardcore.’ It seems like I definitely overdid it, haha. That said, I keep hearing about x person doing like 8-12 hours/day full time immersion for x months/years; I’m guessing they did very little active study during that time, or else I’m particularly prone to burnout, lol.

Thanks bud. :+1:

Burnout. Happened with my French challenge. I had to take 3 weeks off.

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Good to know this happened to someone else. Sounds like you came out of it, so I’ll see how I feel in another week or two. Thanks for letting me know. :+1:

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The way I see it, getting exposed to new language requires an effort. It’s not very different from taking up a sport or a new workout routine: you need some adaptation, get those muscles used to the new demands. Overtime it gets easier, even enjoyable and you can achieve incredible exploits but if you go too far too fast you’re bound to feel the consequences. In a few months of moderate “training” you’ll also be able to go for intensive periods of immersion if you so choose.

The nice thing with our brain is it’s like a muscle, but it recovers a lot quicker. If one is feeling burnt out, then simply listen to your body and take a break. It won’t take long before you’re ready again.

The way I’m managing the potential for total burnout followed by complete abandonment is I’m considering these challenges as time bound: I’m pushing the limit only for a particlar period with the mental picture that I’m pulling way back at the end of it.

So right now I’m on three back to back six month challenges with the hope that I build a base in the three different languages.

I’m hoping that if I hit the hoped for base (low-high intermediate listening comprehension) I’ll be able to scale back to only watching youtube/TV/netflix and not need to do anything intense (unless I want to).

So for French I busted my nuts for six months and now I only occasionally watch youtube. I’ll probably lose some of it before I come back to it but I’m comfortable I got to a decent level.

Right now I’m busting my nuts on Russian and then I will pull back and do Chinese.

But the key piece of psychology for me that keeps me in is I know the difficult part is going to have a hard stop. If I had framed it as “I need to bust my nut to learn French, Russian and Chinese” as opposed to “I’m going to spend six months each busting my nuts” it would have been too psychologically difficult to continue for me.

Even as it stands, with Russian I had a period of “can I really even do this?”

Anyhow that’s my 2c.

PS on Spanish if you haven’t done it already and you want to get your listening up to speed I wholeheartedly recommend watching at least one full series of some Mexican telenovela. I watched “usurpadora” and “sonadoras” to the end and I reckon they were responsible for moving my comprehension to fully native. Spanish feels to me like a flavor of English since then and requires basically no effort to maintain it other than occasionally watching TV.