3 — 
Overcoming difficulties

"A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor"

Franklin D. Roosevelt

One issue with learning in a foreign language setting (for example, a language classroom), is that there is inevitably limited input as compared with a naturalistic setting, and what’s more, a great deal of the input that is received comes from classmates whose linguistic knowledge is restricted (Gass, 2013). So what can you do to overcome this, and other difficulties in the FI classroom? In this section, you’ll find some practical solutions to some of the most common challenges FI presents.

Limited Input

Unless you’re enrolled in a highly intensive course, the amount of time you actually spend listening to the target language may be quite limited. To resolve this, don’t limit your language input to what you find in the classroom. Support your FI, by immersing yourself in the language outside class: Watch films, read books and listen to music or audio books. Even if you have a lower level, there are usually plenty of free resources available online (especially for English!) for beginners.

Attention Span

One difficulty that learners often face is staying alert for the duration of the class. Classes can often be crammed full of new information, and this, combined with coming from a tiring day at work and going home to a busy house, can make it hard not to switch off at times. It’s important to be strict with yourself: leave everything else outside the class, and concentrate on your study. Make sure as well to sleep enough, eat well and stay active. Learning a language is a challenging task which requires a lot of effort, so you need to be fighting fit!

Overcoming Anxiety

Do you freeze up at the thought of your teacher asking you the answer in class? Avoid submitting written pieces for fear of getting back a page full of red lines and comments? Many students may feel this way in their language class, even to the extent that they may avoid going to their lessons. The first thing to do in these situations is to be willing to make mistakes. As a language learner, you’re going to make mistakes, and this is perfectly normal: even native speakers make mistakes sometimes! Next, try to do things that will help you feel less nervous. For example, plan what you’re going to say before you say it; make a list of linking and filler words that you can use to give yourself time to think; plan out your written pieces in detail before starting. Whenever you feel nervous, take a deep breath, and try to visualise yourself speaking your target language. You may make mistakes along the way, but the result is worth the effort it will take!

Lacking Motivation

One common issue the language learning classroom is lacking the motivation to improve your language skills. When there’s no immediate need to use the language, it can sometimes be difficult to motivate yourself enough to continue the effort it takes to develop your skills. One of the best things you can do to overcome this is actively use the target language. Whether it’s speaking to native speakers, reading books or watching films, try to find ways to use the language outside of your language classroom. Another thing you can do, if your teacher doesn’t do so already, is set yourself tests at the end of each unit you cover. Having goals that you have to achieve can help to keep you motivated, and encourage your autonomous learning.

"A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor"

Franklin D. Roosevelt

 Student Videos

1 — What kind of things do you find challenging in the FI classroom, and what kind of things do you do to overcome these difficulties?

 Expert Videos

Joan Carles Mora

— Universitat de Barcelona

"Anything that you can do to incorporate the use of language during normal class time is really, really important, so the more the language is used, the better."


Make sure that you go to your class prepared, especially if you suffer from language anxiety. As well as having all your assigned work completed, do a little extra yourself. Whether it’s looking over the next few pages in your textbook to look for unfamiliar vocabulary or solidifying what you’ve done so far, go that extra mile to prevent difficulties occurring during your language class.