What guarantees success in language learning?

I was just wondering what your views are on language learning–what are the factors that guarantee success, if there are any–based on your experience while learning or teaching a language please mention.

Spending a lot of time on language learning - that might be the only thing that all good language learners have in common.

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‘Practice, practice, practice’ - as told once a great guitar player B.B.King when he was asked about the success in music playing.


I’ll let you know when I eventually learn a second language.


There are no guarantees in language learning.

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@Wulfgar- So you believe that a lot of hard work and practice would not guarentee any sort of progress?

Hard work and practice often guarantee failure. Number of hours spent “awashed” with a language is the single best predictor.


Übung macht perfekt, or something like that…


“Übung macht den Meister”


“Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen”


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Hard work guarantees nothing when it is applied incorrectly. You may hardly dig with a spoon. But it’s easier to dig with a spade and much more easier with an excavator. But the excavator needs fuel :wink:

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Hard work, sincerity and devotion are the only ways we can succeed.

  1. A good attitude
  2. Lots and lots of comprehensible, meaningful input
  3. Meaningful use of the language (preferably with feedback)

I don´t think it´s necessary to “work hard” to learn a language. I learned French to an “okayish” level by playing video games, watching TV-Series and hanging out in France. That´s pretty much the opposite of “hard work”. The hardest part about it was staying motivated.


Paule- Couldn’t you say that keeping yourself motivated is the hard work?

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Maybe. I associate “hard work” with “mental or physical exhaustion”.In my experience, watching “The Walking Dead” in French is much more comfy than tearing down a wall with a sledgehammer xD

You´ll eventually make progress as long as you keep doing stuff in your target language, the rest happens in your head.
You know, things like accepting that you suck and believing that you´ll suck less and less as time goes by, allowing things like learning a conjugation of a verb you already know or learning the name of a city to “count”, not giving yourself a mental beating because you forgot a word for the fifth or sixth time, having fun in your target language right now and not in some nebulous “fluent future”…et cetera…

If you constantly fail to do that, you´ll feel mentally exhausted and language learning will become “hard work”. I guess things like confidence, patience, personal interest and “being fair to oneself” are muuuuuuuch more important than intelligence, “talent”, working “hard enough” or anything like that.

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Yeah! This is the point!

Enjoy learning without endless hard work!


Yolanda, your smilie-faced sun describes this attitude perfectly for me!

Paul and Bortrun, your pictures imply to me that you are open to new adventures!

I see success in language learning as the inevitable result of a positive attitude and time spent with the language. Here I mean interacting with meaningful and interesting spoken and/or written texts in the language. Every bit of new understanding is success! Paul, you are so right!

“You want a guarantee, buy a toaster.”

  • Clint Eastwood

Hard work guarantees nothing when it is applied incorrectly. You may hardly dig with a spoon. But it’s easier to dig with a spade and much more easier with an excavator. But the excavator needs fuel :wink:

I agree, I don’t think time necessarily guarantees your going to learn a language. I know people who’ve been studying languages for a long time but they’re still horrible because they are learning it the wrong way. I think what makes a successful language learning is a few factors. Motivation and perseverance probably being the most key but also the ability to learn how your brain works and figure out what methods work and don’t work for you. Language learning can be difficult because there’s so many people out there they say “This is the right way!,” or “No this is the right way!” There’s only one right way for the type of person you are and you know if your making progress in that way. It is a long process that requires you to understand more about yourself and requires a lot of flexibility and getting out of your comfort zone. Just my two cents…

Thanks guys for all your interesting reply.