Top 10 Excuses We Like to Give for NOT Learning a Language

by Corey · 8 comments

By Corey Heller
Photo credit: Mattastic!

Excuses, procrastination, avoidance… we all know these: Not enough time. Too many distractions. Life is simply too hectic.

Over the years I have uttered my own excuses for not working on my foreign language skills (and I still do!). I know that it is simply a matter of priorities but for whatever reason, language learning always falls to the bottom of my list.

Below is a list of the top 10 excuses people (myself included) use when explaining why they haven’t learned a new language. Come on, admit it – you’ve used a couple of these yourself, haven’t you? Even though we all know these are just excuses, we use them anyway with full conviction.

Let the countdown begin…

10. Wrong fit. I don’t like the language learning classes in my area and I don’t like any online language learning programs. If they had come up with exactly the right program for my unique learning style, then I would finally be able to learn a language. Until then I must wait.

9. Return On Investment: What’s the financial return on learning a language? If the only return is my personal satisfaction then it isn’t worth it. I want to see some real, hard financial benefits before I start.

8. Don’t Travel: I don’t like to travel so I won’t ever need to use another language. If I do travel anywhere, it will only be to places where my language is spoken.

7. Not good at it: I’ve tried over and over again to learn a language but I just can’t do it. My brain just doesn’t work in the right way that it needs to work to make this happen. Monolingualism is what I am stuck with.

6. Finances. It’s really expensive to learn a language. I can’t afford that private tutor! Forget the cost of that evening class at the community college. Rosetta Stone is way out of my price range. Free online sources can’t be any good if they are free.

5. Too old. There is no way I could learn a new language at my age. Children can remember things like vocabulary and grammar. Someone of my age is already past being able to do that.

4. Commitment: Who has months, or years, to spend on learning a language? I don’t know where my life will be tomorrow, how can I commit to years of language learning?

3. Consistency: There is no way I can set aside time each day for language learning. Even 20 minutes a day would be way too much. I know myself and this is not doable.

2. Embarrassment: I’d sound stupid trying to speak another language. I am too self-conscious to be in a class with other people. Everyone will make fun of me when I make mistakes.

1. Global lingua franca: Everyone around the world speaks my language anyway, so what’s the point in learning another one?

Which of these have you uttered to yourself, family, friends lately? Or maybe you have heard some of these spoken by someone else? It’s all about priorities and need, isn’t it? Check out the next post where I will share some resolutions to the above excuses.

Still haven’t learned a second language? What is your excuse?
Tell us in the comments so that it can be added to the list!

Corey Heller is the founder of Multilingual Living and the Editor-In-Chief/Publisher of Multilingual Living Magazine. Multilingual Living is the place where she shares her knowledge about raising multilingual and multicultural children. Corey, an American, and her German husband live in Seattle where they raise and homeschool their three children, ages 14, 12 and 10, in German and English.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 pierre December 7, 2011 at 8:53 am

I have read your articles and found it very interesting as in general english speaking individuals tend not to learn other languages. I would like to suggest a free website to the online community, it is called . 12speak is a free, fun and easy way to learn a new language online, with various entertaining features. visit and discover our amasing online community!


2 Corey January 3, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Thank you for suggesting these links, Pierre! I will check them out (and I’m sure others will as well). Happy multilingualism!


3 Claire December 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Good post! I’ve blogged about some of those myths… And some of them are hard to shift. I think with many of us, though, what it really comes down to is motivation. I make time for what I think is important, and I probably stretch the budget for it, too…


4 Corey January 3, 2012 at 10:58 pm

YES, you are so right, Claire! Not all of us have to want to learn languages but for those of us who do, motivation is such a key factor. I know this for myself as well – I NEED to work on my German more if I want to continue sharing it with my children. Thank you for this reminder! And I will check out your blog as well! It sounds like something I could use to stay motivated!


5 Barbara December 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Number 3 and 4 are defintely on my list!
I could add arrogance to this list: I already live a bilingual live and have learned to more languages as a child, so why bother learning just another language?
Or I could add resignation to the list: I learned French for 7 years at school, the last three on college level. Yet I have forgotten most of it because I have few opportunities to speak it here in the US. So why bother learning another language?


6 Corey January 3, 2012 at 11:01 pm

You are so right about #3 and #4. Even if we learn languages, keeping them up can be very difficult! I am learning this myself. The longer I am in the United States, the more my German seems to slip away! Ahhhh! Finding opportunities to use our languages can be so tough!

On the other hand, perhaps you have permission to be resigned after learning to many languages! Letting some fall away, strengthening others… the ebb and flow of languages is such a natural process, isn’t it?


7 Carlos September 22, 2012 at 10:59 am

I think your post reflects most of the main reasons why many people do not want to learn a foreign language. I would like to add one more though. Learning a second language involves, in most cases, learn also a new culture. There are many cultures in the world, and many of them are certainly different in several aspects. Some people are not interested in learning a language from a territory or country whose culture has characteristics totally opposed to their own. In some cases, we tend to underestimate anything that is different from what we are accustomed. Then, why should we learn a language from a country which has almost nothing in common with mine? From my point of view, I think that we still have many prejudices that negatively affect the learning of a foreign language. Anyway, I think the list about “ten excuses to not learn a foreign language” is, fortunately, much shorter than all the reasons that we have to learn other languages. Your “Benefits of Multilingualism” post is a clear proof of it.


8 Seanaldo December 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Thank you for always motivating me!!! I read this, and think of the converse–how many more friends I could have if I spoke Spanish better, and how much money I’d save teaching my children at home when they are best suited to learn! Time to find my headphones and start listening to podcasts in bed!


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