Language Learning Burn Out

Am I the only one who every once in a while (Every 3 months or so) feels completely tired of learning languages, and just needs a solid break. Sometimes I find learning a language feels more like a tedious job, rather than an enjoying hobby.


Yes somewhat, I rarely get full fledged burnouts anymore at least not in the past 3 months or so. Before I would for example say to myself that I am going to read for the next 2 hours a book in German and go on and read even if would get distracted, caveat lector, I don’t have any pressing need to reach a certain level by a certain point in time.

So, nowadays what I do is I might start of reading in German for about one or two chapters and feel that I start doze of, at that point I might turn my attention to grammar. For example go trough the infinitive in Spanish or prepositions in Italian and do that for about 30 minutes. If that starts to feel a bit heavy I might be in the mood to write something which take up about 30 minutes.

To cut a long story short I try to build momentum and for the most part this leads to enjoyment and I feel that I am less likely to burnout. My reasoning behind this sort of behavior is that since I want to at least reach B2-C1 (on the cusp of C2) level in my main languages, sooner or later I have to master grammatical features and have a huge amount of vocab, it doesn’t really matter if I learn some obscure grammar rules today and feel somewhat sort on vocab or if I have huge amount of vocab today but learn the obscure grammar later.

I should say that I love grammar so for me there is a natural tendency for me to put a lot of time in learn grammar even the stuff that most learners won’t need. In the last couple of days I have felt myself slagging a bit but it has more to do with the fact that I am quite stressed about work relating stuff and generally I don’t really feel like doing anything at the moment.

I guess part of it is plain laziness, I could easily read books in various languages and get maybe anything between 1-4 hours of reading if I really feel the need to do something.

Another factor is that in the languages that I study I have reached a point where I know a lot of grammar things and have huge vocab, I feels more of a long Sunday stroll at the moment rather then trecking the Himalayas. If I were to spend 3 hours a day doing stuff in Dutch or Latin where I am only starting out I am sure I would burnout at some point in time.


Hi MarkE!

I would not say that I need a lengthy language learning break in a while, but every now and then I start to feel weariness, just a trifle. That happens because what I currently read / listen to loses my interest. In such case, I simply find something else. So no, I never find it to be a problem.

By the way, once I saw a thread of yours and then it got deleted, why would you remove it?

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Yes, all the time. I’ve been learning Spanish now on and off for around 6 years, but if I broke it down it’d probably equate to around 6 months or so of study (assuming approx 2-3 hours/day). I might be way off with that figure but it probably isn’t far from the truth and it’s due to getting tired of “studying” and frustrated about slow progress. I must say, each time I’ve “quit” I’ve always had the intention of getting back to it at some point. Trouble is, I’ve had much longer breaks than intended, like months, or even a year or more of nothing.

I will say there does seem to be a trigger for me and that is usually when I’ve tried to listen to something that’s beyond my level and I can’t understand a word of it. I remember the last time was when I just happened upon an interview between a few people on YouTube, saw it was in Spanish and decided to take a look…

Everyone was talking at full speed with thick accents and they were all talking over one another. I literally couldn’t catch even a word of it and that was after all this time trying to learn the language, I just thought to myself that I’d wasted my time if I can’t even get a word from this. So yeah, things like that really discourage me so I should really make an effort to stay away form those types of videos, or else try to curb my expectations. It’s hard to accept not being able to understand native material after such a long time studying. That said, I know of people who are pretty good in the language who may even have lived in the country for a number of years who still struggle with films etc so I think it’s relatively normal, it’s just really discouraging at times.

FWIW, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a break if you feel burned out. If it’s just a hobby and you don’t need it for your everyday life then just do something else until you feel like picking it back up again. Yes you’d like to “get fluent” but if it’s making you miserable what’s the point?


If that’s the case, I would suggest cutting down the study time… I don’t think taking breaks are a good idea since learning a language requires constant input/output…instead, do 10 minutes of review and call it a day.

When I feel burned out, I usually read one short Japanese article and then passively listen to audio.


I completely agree with this. I have been studying Korean off and on for five years but there are some pretty significant gaps in there where I was doing very little, along with some long stretches where I was doing quite a bit almost every day. I do get burned out and I let myself dial the effort way back. Steve talks about “benign neglect” and how our brains consolidate what we’ve been learning and we get rested up so we can do intense study again. I have found that to be true. I am initially rusty when I come back to Korean after a break, but within a week or two I am not only back to where I was but I am amazed at how much progress I have actually made. And that makes me more motivated to continue.

I think some people think they will “lose” the progress they’ve made if they take a break. It’s true there will be some regression, but it’s not completely lost. You can get it back quite quickly and if the tradeoff is having much more energy and focus, I think that’s well worth it in the long run. And, like hellion said, if we are doing this as a hobby, we can’t let it become just a chore or we really will get burned out and quit for good.

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