What is the major obstacle to achieving fluency in another language?

major obstacle

I will be in Arizona and California for most of the next month. November is the rainiest month in Vancouver. My wife and I often head south for the month to play some golf and visit with friends. I will try to keep the videos and blog posts going.

But I have a question. Let me know what you feel is the major obstacle you face in trying to achieve fluency in another language.


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22 comments on “What is the major obstacle to achieving fluency in another language?


Hi Steve. I’m from Sweden and I’m learning Mandarin Chinese at the moment. One problem i’ve stumbled upon is that every book/site/LingQ/source of the language keeps learning me how to for example, ask questions. I want to learn how to speak everyday stuff, talk about myself, etc. What’s the best way to get this “everyday”-speak feeling? Sidenote; I work with Chinese people but still, issues arrise.

    Just keep exposing yourself to as much content as possible. Certainly it is not the case that the content at LingQ just deals with questions. There is a wide variety of content there.


Just having the opportunity to use it regularly, in context.

I’ve been studying Japanese for some time and it’s one thing to have a Skype friend to struggle through conversations with occasionally, quite another to use the language daily, as when I was regularly traveling to Tokyo for business. Here in the States I find I have a hard time just trying to retain the level I’m at, let alone improve.

    That is why I focus on listening and reading as an easy way to maintain and improve in a language. It builds up your potential in the language and prepares you for the face to face encounter, even though you will inevitable struggle when that happens. Just stay the course!!


Shyness and anxiety! I am learning Portuguese and am amazed at how much I can understand (both listening and reading) after only a few months – but I get so shy and nervous when I try to speak, that I can’t communicate at all. I have one-on-one classes with my teacher that are purely conversation-based, and that’s helping a lot, but I still freeze and forget everything when faced with speaking in everyday life.

    You just have to grin and bear it. It is always difficult when we start to speak. We just have to remind ourselves how great it is to communicate in another language, even though it is more stressful than speaking our own language. And things will improve!!


I am a 54 year old Spanish student. Right now my biggest obstacle is increasing my vocabulary effectively. I Skype with a friend from Spain about 2 hours three or four times a week. I am also involved with a Spanish language group here in Louisville, which I interact with weekly. I read daily and I listen to radio, TV and podcasts. I can tell, for the most part, that if I know a word I understand it when spoken. Of course other factors influence understanding of spoken Spanish, but I feel that along with needing to increase my vocabulary, I need to find a way to assimilate expressions and frases. They are hard to find for one thing. My Spanish helps a lot, but I love to find a website with a list of expressions and frases to study. Suggestions?


I have watched quite a few of your informative videos on youtube and really enjoy them. I have just started to try and learn Cantonese (not offered on LingQ otherwise I would join up). My goal is to try and understand what my wife, new family and friends are talking about.

I have 2 really great story books (Feng Shui Master and The Story of Mimami) that have the Chinese characters, Yale and English translation all on the same page side by side plus an audio CD and vocabulary lists at the end of chapters. They say they are for Intermediate/Advanced learners but I think they would meet the definition of interesting content.

How would you utilize books like this? Would you just listen to the chapter first and glance over at the English to get an idea of what is being said and then relisten more intently each time looking at the Yale and picking out interesting words. Maybe I should just listen for enjoyment the first few times and let more and more concepts wash over me and then get more active in trying to understand. I guess I am just curious about your process in utilizing audio stories and dialogues.

    I would do something like you suggest. I am now so conditioned to learning at LingQ, where I can look up individual words and phrases and save them, that I would be uncomfortable studying in any other way.

Yixin wong

Speaking and listening

I studied English for 8 years in primary and secondary school, but even in English class, most of the time teacher will explain the vocabulary in Chinese. I had difficulties to understand my profession and I can’t communicate well during my first year in college (of which English is the teaching language).

Now I’m learning German as a hobby, again, listening is the most challenging part. I don’t have much opportunities to talk in German yet.


Hi! I have recently taken an interest in learning German. I have watched many of your videos, but I’m still unsure where to officially START. I am a beginner and have not began learning yet because I do not want to start learning the wrong way. What I want to know, for now, is what should be my FIRST step? Should I look for a language learning application on my phone, should I buy a book, should I listen to lectures or stories through my phone, etc.? I have enjoyed watching your videos and I am truly inspired by what you are doing. Any type of answer would be much appreciated!


    I can only tell you what I would do. I would buy a small starter book, and then study at LingQ. After a while I would search the Internet for additional resources.


For me the most difficult thing is to choose the right word among all possible synonyms which will express exactly what I want to say.


    Some English synonym dictionaries provide clear usage explanations and usage examples for words with similar meanings.

    Below is the list of such really useful English synonym dictionaries:

    1. Choose the Right Word (by S.I.Hayakawa, E. Ehrlich, 1994, New York, USA, 514 pages and long index of words).
    2. Webster’s New Dictionary of Synonyms.
    3. Langenscheidt Pocket Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms (explains differences in synonym meanings, paperback, 1998, 448 pages).
    4. English Synonyms and Antonyms (book by James Champlin Fernald, paperback, 2010, over 7500 synonyms explained on 375 pages; 584 pages in total).

Sergio Rodrigues

My major obstacle is improving listening skills. In order to overcome my difficulties, I have subscribed several podcasts ranging from easy to more challenging ones, and it seems that there is no a consensus among bloggers and specialists when it comes to listening improvement.
Some people say we should listen to only we can understand most of what is said – lets say 90 to 95%. Otherwise, they claim, would be a waste of time.
Others, however, say we should listen to virtually everything, as long as the subject are interesting, even not understanding much, just to get in touch with the rythm and intonation of the target language.
My problem is how to get something in betwween: nothing so easy that gets me bored, but not so difficult that gets me frustrated, with the feeling I still dont know anything.
I would like to know your take on that.
Thanks for your time.

    I like to listen to content that I have a chance of understanding. This means content where I have access to that transcript. I can then read the transcript and study it at LingQ, and then listen again. It works for me.

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