The North Stars of Learning a Language: 4 “Break at Your Own Peril” Rules

rules of language learning

Ever bought a language app… or program… or book…

…or two or three? Or possibly four?

And never quite finished them?

And hey, if you didn’t buy and are just downloading free apps — this is not for you. This is not for people who aren’t willing to invest. Because downloading a free app and never finishing is no loss. You’re not in an emotional and financial relationship learning a language — you’re just “looking around.”

Yes, this is for people who purchased a program or an app with their hard-earned money.

How does it feel?

To throw around money and have these resources, pile them up, not finish them… and still struggle with the language?

All that investment. All that money. All those resources. All this time. Still no results.

What are you doing?…

It’s like reading self-help books and never actually putting anything to use.

Months and years go by. You’ve read all about motivation and emotion. You felt smart in the moment as you read about it. And yet… that’s all there is — you know, but you never act — you’re still the same months and years later.

What’s the point? How smart are you really if you know but don’t apply?

And back to learning a language…

What’s the point? After all this time. Your language skills could have been so much better after all this time.


I’m not going to tell you how to build habits or routines because you know enough about that.

I am not going to give you productivity hacks because you’ve heard of a bunch.

And I am not going to tell you that there is a new, effective way to learn the language (possibly now with AI)… it’s magical… and your problem is just you haven’t heard of it yet — because that’s a marketing gimmick that you likely keep falling for again and again.

I’m going to be your surrogate father for the purpose of this article.

You and I are sitting down face to face. I’m looking at you dead in the eyes.

And kid, I am getting real impatient with your language diddling.

So, listen up son or daughter…

This is your fault.

It’s on you.

But hey, I’ve also been a lousy father.

I gave you some clear-as-day rules to follow: Say please and thank you to people. Get home on time. Clean your room. And if you didn’t follow these rules, you got punished. You knew the deal. You knew the rules.

But I didn’t tell you anything about language learning.

So, that’s what I am going to do now.

I am going to give you… the North Stars of language learning.

When you’re lost and wondering how to learn a language… you look up… at these North Stars and you follow them.

I’m talking clear-as-day rules.

Clear as in, do it and get results, don’t and you’re sinking your own ship.

If you break these rules, you’re the one at fault. So that now you clearly know what’s expected of you.

north stars of language

1. You must put in time – at least 10+ minutes a day.

Learning a language is a function of time. The more time you consistently put in — I am talking daily — the better you will eventually get. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about this.

If you’re not putting in time every day, at least 10 minutes, you’re failing yourself here.

If you’re sick or have a serious issue going on, fine. But if you skip a day for no reason, it’s on you.

And don’t argue with me about time. 10 minutes is short enough not to be overwhelming and long enough get yourself going. If you want to do more, it’s up to you.

2. You’re not learning if you’re not practicing.

Here’s another clear-as-day rule which if you don’t apply, you’re never going to learn anything. No way around it.

Every time you “learn,” you must “use” what you’ve learned.

Learning doesn’t come from reading or watching YouTube videos. If life worked that way, you’d be long fluent, those self-help books you read would have changed you just by reading… and all of us would be in-shape, rich, healthy, and not riddled with insecurities.

Listen, taking in new information is 50% of the battle. The other 50% is using and practicing.

If you just passively take things in… It’s like building 50% of a bridge… 50% isn’t 100% and it may as well be 0 because anyone crossing said bridge will still fall off.

There is no “learning” without the using, practicing, applying, speaking, writing, doing, or however you want to put it.

If you learn a new grammar rule but don’t come up with 10 sentences that you say out loud and it out 10x, you won’t learn it and that’s on you.

Learn and practice. Learn and practice. Learn and practice.

3. Up The Ante

Now, let’s say you were a good little Lingua Junkie and you followed the rules above…

But something is off.

Personally, I don’t think that would happen… but let’s say you’re unhappy with your progress.

Maybe because you’re diddling away on your LuoDingo app translating sentences like “I am apple” on a consistent basis…

But your progress is not meaningful. You can’t understand native speakers. You can’t speak well.

To which I say… well, good on you for sticking with the language but…

My child, you jumped into the kiddie pool and you’re not leaving despite having outgrown it. This is no longer for you. Just like doing “1+1” and “2+2” is no longer for you past the 1st grade.

You need to step it up.

You COULD up the time you put into the language… and that would be a wise approach if your study method was something more meaningful than a bubbly vocabulary app game with cute characters and funny sounds.

But you could also up the ante on your approach.

So, stop babying yourself. I didn’t raise you that way.

Go get a more serious program and/or an online teacher and continue following rules #1 and #2.

How to up the ante:

  • Put in more time into learning
    • Actually, I’d say you should put in more time into the practice side of things.
  • Get a more serious program or a teacher

4. Find native speakers.

This rule is related to #2 and #3.

It’s not something you need to do A.S.A.P…. but eventually…

Chatting with native speakers is the ultimate test of language and if you’re aiming for this, you may as well be practicing in this arena… instead of practicing with colorful vocabulary apps.

You get to practice, you make mistakes, you get feedback (apps don’t give you this) and you improve.

Plus, because you’re dealing with an actual person, it’s more fun and motivating.

We’re not learning these languages just to have them sit in our heads.

Again, this is not an urgent rule… but one that needs to be followed eventually.

Especially when you’re wondering why you’re not “getting to the next level.”

Are These Rules Too Extreme & Inflexible?

Hey, no-one’s asking you to put in 3 hours a day everyday.

These rules are not that extreme.

But if you’re put-off by how black-and-white and inflexible they are…

…and how you absolutely must stick with them…

Well, keep this in mind…

Past a certain age, success in language learning (and pretty much anything else in life) is abnormal.

Not many people are chatting away fluently a language they picked up in their 20s or 30s.

There’s always going to be an overwhelming amount of beginners and the rare few outliers that actually made it.

And 8 times out of 10, those outliers are there because of luck — they had the luck of growing up in the target country or being surrounded by native speakers from a young age.

Point is, you need to be unreasonable about your learning.

You won’t get above average results by diddling around with vocabulary apps for the next 10 years.

And you certainly won’t get anything if you don’t put in time and use the language.

So, break these rules at your own peril.

Final Thoughts

So, if you’ve bought program after program…

But didn’t quite finish anything…

…and are frustrated by your language progress, well, chances are you weren’t following some or all of these rules above.

These are the rules.

These are the North Stars of learning a language.

If you didn’t know that you were mucking up, you now know — because I told you so.

But it’s now on you to keep these rules in mind and look towards these North Stars every time you fall off. Let them guide you.

I’m sure we could come up with some more – but anything else would just become a slight or more specific variation of the rules above.

Done deal.

Your father just for the purpose of this article,

– The Main Lingua Junkie

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