Language Learning Tip #14

A quick review; the following are the 5 signs of working hard but not smart as found in the book “Language Learning Difficulties.” Today we look at #5.

  1. Too much “brute force” in memorizing
  2. Very long study hours
  3. Lack of planning or system in study
  4. Low risk taking
  5. Mismatch between student’s preferred learning strategy and program expectation


“I am working hard, but I don’t seem to be making the progress that some others are making.”


You need to keep working hard but you can probably work more efficiently. The last of the 5 signs that students are working hard but not smart.

5) Mismatch between student’s preferred learning strategy and program expectation.

In some ways, this “mismatch” is unavoidable. Any time you are in a classroom with other people, your preferred learning style may be ignored or neglected. Any time you have a teacher or language helper, that person will not always do what you want to do. If you use a book, it may not match what you want. Even if you just work from a recording of normal Arabic speech, it probably won’t ‘scratch where you itch’. In fact, people regularly talk about things you are not interested in, or use words you don’t know, or speak too fast, or fail to read your mind, or …, or…

Whatever the nature of the mismatch, it can cause frustration for the learner. As I see it, there are only 3 possible remedies for this:

  1. Change the program to something that more closely matches your preferences, OR
  2. Be more flexible, OR
  3. Take ownership of your own learning.

First, I will briefly address the second remedy; be flexible. Many language learning studies have found a high correlation with good language learning and flexible personalities. If you have high walls of stubbornness, self-centeredness, or self-protection, you will limit what you can receive. If you tend to think ‘there is a right way and a wrong way for doing anything,’ you will be constantly frustrated. But we can easily excuse and rationalize our inflexibility.

  • “Well, I’m old and just a little set in my ways.”
  • “I know how I learn, and this just isn’t it.” (May also be a sign of a real learning disability)
  • “I just can’t … “
  • “I feel forced to ____ and I’d rather ____.”
  • “I can’t perform when …”
  • “I don’t see why I need to do this stuff.”

If you find yourself saying these things to yourself or to others, it may be a sign that flexibility is a problem and that you are working hard but not smart.

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