How to NOT Learn a Foreign Language

As a self-described expert in failing at learning language, take it from me if you’re trying to NOT learn a foreign language.

I have vast experience, having failed at learning not one,

not two,

and not even three foreign languages..

I’m a TRUE BLUE not-learning expert.

I have NOT learned 4 different foreign languages (Spanish, French, Thai, and Portuguese)

Wanna be mono-lingual like me? Follow these easy peasy guidelines.

How to Not Learn a Language


Be shy

Always act really shy and feel scared to practice in the streets.

Don’t start by trying your hand at easy stuff, like hello, thank you, or excuse me.

And by all means, don’t even attempt conversation. That’s just impossible.


Get really flustered by mistakes

Agonize over every possibly wrong conjugation.

Beat yourself up for mispronunciations and even minor mistakes. You know you sound stupid when you make little errors, and everyone must be laughing at you.

How to Not Learn a Language


Don’t speak unless it’s perfect

If you aren’t sure how to pronounce something, or you’re undecided on the proper word, it’s better to just stay quiet.

Speaking up means you could be wrong or misunderstood. Even worse, you could accidentally curse and totally embarrass yourself


Tune out of conversations above your current level

If you don’t understand 100% of a conversation, stop listening. Don’t try to figure out unknown words by using context, and definitely don’t write down words to look up later in your dictionary.

And obviously, don’t politely ask the speaker what they mean or about a particular word.

How to Not Learn a Language


Arrive completely clueless

If you’re moving or studying abroad, don’t start practicing before you arrive.

Definitely don’t plan in advance, and get a teacher or attend a conversation class. Don’t check out cultural articles, or study a bit of vocabulary.

It’s better to arrive totally blank.

Don’t practice every day

After language class, go back to speaking and thinking in your native language. Don’t ever practice outside of class.

Don’t set aside a bit of time every day to study vocabulary and practice. You only practice language within the confines of the classroom.

Continue watching movies in your native language

Don’t even go the easy way out by adding your learning language subtitles to gain familiarity with new words.

Keep it all native language, all the time.

Of course, don’t change the spoken language to your learning language (maybe with your native language subtitles). Or, oh goodness, watch foreign movies in your learning language about your learning culture!

Don’t consume any media – music, literature, and yes, movies – in your learning language.

How to Not Learn a Language

Make excuses

Tell yourself that you suck at learning languages and it just isn’t for you. If you’re reading this, you already speak the most widespread, and by many accounts the most international, language already.

Soon, there’ll be a perfect translation app and all those hours spent language learning would be for nothing.

Plus, barely anybody speaks Language-You’re-Trying-Not-to-Learn outside of Country-it-is-Most-Spoken-In anyways. It’s basically a waste of time.

Give up

Get overwhelmed by the enormity of learning a completely new language. Jeesh, the last time you did this, it was decades ago and you were a baby!

It’s better to give up than to fail.

Pin How NOT to Learn a Foreign Language

How NOT to Learn a Foreign Language

Have you had any success in learning languages? Have you been as unsuccessful as me?

Any tips to share?


A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

Find me on: Web | Instagram | Facebook


  1. December 19, 2017 / 9:17 am

    Great tips ;)! Haha! I’ll be sure to do all of these….kidding of course!!
    This post made me laugh :)! Thanks!


    • Steph
      December 19, 2017 / 8:57 pm

      Thanks Kelly! Good luck in your language learning journey 🙂

  2. March 20, 2022 / 7:04 pm

    That actually sounds like a plan. You are right with “If you’re reading this, you already speak the most widespread, and by many accounts the most international, language already.” even if you meant it sarcastically.

    Most people do not need more languages in their life than english.

    I speak english and german. I started learning french but then I stopped because I realized there is no point whatsoever to learn that language. Or arabic. Or polish. Or finnish.

    I rather learn computer languages than foreign spoken languages.

    I know you were sarcastic in all of your statements, but for me they had a calming effect as in “you are good enough the way you are”

    Think about it.

    All the best

    • Steph
      March 29, 2022 / 1:22 pm

      This was such a lovely comment!! Thank you Alexander!

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