9 Reasons Why People Fail to Get Fluent in English

Have you studied and had difficulty reaching fluency in English? Do you feel like something important is holding you back, but you’re not sure what it is?

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Today you’re going to learn about the most common excuses, attitudes and obstacles that prevent you from learning English.

Whether you´re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced student, this is a good chance to check yourself and understand how you can be a better learner.

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Excuses & Attitudes (to Avoid)

1. “I’m Not Good With Languages”

It’s true that some people are better at learning languages than others, but you have to accept that some people, with or without a gift, just want it more.

In this sense, the greatest gift you can have for learning is TO REALLY WANT IT. Unless you have some real serious learning deficiencies, you are fully able to learn English. It might take more dedication and patience, better strategies, study habits and awareness of your learning style, but to say that what is holding you back is because you aren´t good at languages is not a good excuse.

The grand majority of people who have learned English as a second language don’t have a gift. They’ve learned through persistent hard work, avoiding excuses, and overcoming obstacles that everybody faces.

2. “I’m Too Embarrassed to Speak”

If you don’t use it, you lose it. All the embarressment or laziness that prevents you from speaking will result in the forgetting of everything you´ve already learned up until that point in the process. This is the big problem with a lot of English schools. They don´t create enough opportunities to speak in authentic situations.

If you don’t use the basic stuff you learn, no amount of advanced grammar is going to help you remember what you superficially learned and forgot because you didn’t apply it.

Furthermore, not speaking contributes to the psychological blockage of your whole process. So what’s the best advice? Open your mouth. Whether it’s in the classroom, alone in the shower, with friends who speak a little or a lot, or even foreigners in real life or on Skype, just stop being embarrassed and OPEN YOUR MOUTH.

3. “Adults Don’t Learn Languages Very Well”

While an adult is not going to have the same ability as a child to learn a foreign language, I think many of us just don’t give ourselves enough credit. There are plenty of advantages to being an adult language learner, including more self-awareness about our learning processes, the fact that we know what we want, and we can plan out our process.

It´s true that the vast majority of adult language learners will never totally lose their accent, but you can smooth it out with intelligent methods, and if you are communicating fine, what the heck is wrong with having an accent? It’s who we are, where we come from, and an important part of our identity. And it often makes you appear sexy and exotic.

The world is full of successful adult language learners who do a beautiful job communicating and there’s no reason why you can’t be one of them.

4. “I Don’t Have the Time”

You don’t need to sign up for an English school and pay a lot of money, nor do you need several hours of free time every day.

Signing up for and attending the right program can help you a lot and give you some added structure, but if you don’t have the time, use your imagination and learn with the technology at your convenience.

English for Life is an excellent place to start, and there are plenty of free podcasts you can download to learn in your car, in addition to blogs, youtube videos, and a ton of other free resources. If you look hard enough, you will find a ton of resources that will help you learn English without paying anything.

5.“I Need to Go to an English Speaking Country”

You simply do not need to travel across the ocean to another country to have contact with the language. There are English speakers everywhere if you actually take the time to look, and when you get to the stage in your learning where “immersion” is something that would give you a big push, there are other options.

You can find foreigners in your city.  In addition to this, you can create a lifestyle with a constant flow of native speaking English sources such as podcasts, online radio, TV shows, movies, music.

The most important part is adding English into your daily life. Find ways to make it fun.

Obstacles (to Overcome)

6. Lack of Purpose

A lot of people don’t have a strong WHY to learn the language. Even if “I have to Learn English for my career” is the truth, if it’s the first thing you think about when you think about English, it’s gonna’ be a long, slow and painful process. This leads to a lack of love for what you’re doing and a mechanical approach.

People who think learn English in terms of external motivation don´t usually don’t enjoy learning English. They get bored and tired easily, and are often not very dedicated.

So what’s the solution? Look for a deeper purpose and cultivate it. Really look hard at why you are learning and use that as the source of your inspiration. Here’s an inspiring story of purpose and perseverance applied to language learning.

7. Lack of Responsibility

A lot of people want to pay somebody to learn English for them or to acquire the language as if it were a chip in the brain. They don’t understand that to learn a language, you need to take responsibility for your process, and stop placing it upon the shoulders of the teacher or school or life circumstances.

Of course, the school and teacher have their own responsibility they must follow through on, but the teacher is more of a facilitator and is only needed to show the student the door.   YOU must be the one to walk through the door by your own will power.

Learning English is not a chip in your brain, but an intimate process that you must participate in every day. Yes, EVERY DAY. Excellence (i.e. fluency) is not easily, quickly or even likely to be achieved with a haphazard twice a week effort.

8. Lack of a Good Plan/Method

If you’re going to learn English, you need to decide, and then clarify your motives, investigate well the path to success, and then set your life up and execute. People often don’t organize their lives in a way that will lead to success with their English learning process because they don’t have a very good plan, they don’t make the time to learn every day (outside of class), and they don’t investigate what makes a good school and/or method.

People look for quick, easy fixes to problems that they have to face. If you’re not successful in learning English, first stop and ask yourself, “Why am I not learning?” and take responsibility for your own process. ONLY THEN should you start looking for people that can help you.

Think about the things I mentioned here and then talk with your friends that have been successful in learning. Ask advice from them, research on the internet, visit several schools, watch a class or two, and learn to tell the difference between clever marketing and real quality.

9. Lack of Imagination

Life and English are not two separate things when you’re using your imagination to learn. The problem is that most people treat English like a school subject, which is the worst way to learn a language. English fluency is not to be attained through memorization or grammar or book exercises—not to say that these strategies (to a limited degree) can’t help.

Fluency is a dance, an art, a practice and a passion, and the learner must identify his life experience with the language in order to flow with her own imagination and learning style, to give meaning to the process. This goes along the lines of having a strong purpose (#6), because imagination often flows out of purpose.

Here are a few signs that you’re not using your imagination: You’re not having fun, you’re not excited to learn, you make excuses, and you’re not utilizing your natural abilities.

So how do you spark your imagination? Clarify your purpose for wanting to learn and connect it to what you already do and enjoy, including your natural abilities, your interests, and your life.  That is imagination.

What You Can Do Today

A challenge to you: Take 20 minutes to think about what’s holding you back. Do a brainstorm. Just throw down a million ideas on paper and don’t filter. Why do you want to learn English? What are you good at and how can you apply it to English?  How can you cultivate a pleasure for learning English?

Don’t let the excuses in. Take responsibility and accept the responses. Think about something that you absolutely love to do and imagine how it would be to have the same passion for English. Remember, “Life’s a journey, not a destination,” exactly like your English learning. The million dollar question: How could you enjoy each step and at the same time be sure that you’re on the road to fluency? This answer can only come from you.

If you liked this article, feel free to “like,” comment and/or share with your friends. Subscribe to our mailing list to receive our free monthly Real Life English newsletter, with language exclusive learning tips, updates as to events, and access to our vast database of articles. And finally, we would really appreciate it if you spread the word about the project and tell your friends about it. Thanks a lot!

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  1. Chad Fishwick on June 12, 2012 at 2:01 am

    Great work Justin. I use that NO TIME sphiel with a lot of students.

  2. Chad Fishwick on June 12, 2012 at 2:01 am

    Great work Justin. I use that NO TIME sphiel with a lot of students.

  3. Chad Fishwick on June 12, 2012 at 2:01 am

    Great work Justin. I use that NO TIME sphiel with a lot of students.

  4. Rodolfo Goncalves on June 12, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Great article, thx.

  5. Nabila on December 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    evry thing will be easy if you take it easy

  6. Muhammed Faisal on January 13, 2013 at 1:46 am

    as a beginner this advice helps me much for my effort to improve fluency, thank you.

  7. Hassan Qanbari on February 5, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    I really don't know how to appreciate you for these valuable advices. I'm an intermediate learner, and I really like to be fluent in english. I found out the suggestions above really helpful. tnx alot.

  8. Hassan Qanbari on February 5, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    I really don't know how to appreciate you for these valuable advices. I'm an intermediate learner, and I really like to be fluent in english. I found the suggestions above really helpful. tnx alot.

    • Justin on February 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      Thanks Hassan! I’m glad you enjoyed it. It seems like you’re on the right track to fluency. Keep up the good work and let us know if there’s anything we can do to help!

  9. Ethan on March 1, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Great article Justin! I can totally apply this to language learning (not just English). I hear students say all the time say, “I don’t have time to study/practice,” but I really hear, “I don’t prioritize learning English.”

    You must make time to learn English if you want to get better. All you need is 15 minutes a day, and everyone has 15 minutes a day.

    • Rotar on October 26, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      15 minutes per day it’s too litle for decent masteirng english!!!!!!

  10. Le Hong on March 2, 2013 at 6:59 am

    sincerely thank a lot for your valuable advice!

    • Justin on March 4, 2013 at 10:20 am

      Le, it’s my pleasure! Thank YOU!

  11. Anil Rana on March 12, 2013 at 9:55 am

    I really don't know how to appreciate you for these valuable advices.

  12. Shailendra on March 28, 2013 at 10:00 am

    This is so good information one who hesitate to speak this language. I really found good informative information to read this.
    Thanks for this!!

  13. Cuong Hoang on April 7, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Hmmm… At least I did get for myself some new vocabularies from reading this excellent article 🙂

  14. Art Thou Afeared on April 8, 2013 at 8:03 am

    amazing article
    rome was not built in a day.
    learning is a never-ending process. have patience and it will come to u naturally.

  15. Usha Yadav on May 8, 2013 at 11:46 am

    It really inspired me a lot and force me to speak English fluency….. thanks a lot.

    • Justin on May 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      Awesome, Usha! I’m glad it helped. Thanks for the comment.

  16. Justine Mae Talaoc on August 7, 2013 at 10:47 am

    thank for the info.

    • Justin on August 14, 2013 at 7:41 pm

      Thanks for reading!

  17. Asma on September 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    An excellent article.. The basic reason for not speaking any language fluency is lack of practice.
    PARTICE MAKES PERFECT, this words should be the guide for all of us to reach the perfection in every think we do

  18. Ahmed ba sahi on December 2, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks alot , realy i enjoyed , and got much ways to learn english

    • Justin on December 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      Thank you for reading, Ahmed! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  19. Murali on December 15, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    wow…. really a excellent article….

  20. Tiago Seidel on January 30, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    I enjoyed it a lot. Thanks for that I am sure I am gonna get fluent.

  21. Princess Bucawit on February 14, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Thank you so much for inspiring us, to never give up to learn about how to be good in english =))))

    • Justin on February 16, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      Thank you, Princess!

  22. princess on February 15, 2014 at 6:25 am

    oh thanks its a big help..to improve my english language and not to be shy to speak with someone 🙂

    • Justin on February 16, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      Awesome! I’m glad it was helpful!

  23. Get Into English on April 25, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    There's really only one reason why people fail to reach fluency – they don't speak the language with other people. It's that simple. If you can't manage to meet up with people (teachers or friends) for at least a few hours each week, then that's it, you won't reach fluency.

  24. ALI on July 16, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Hello Justin
    I started learn English since 5 years ago. I spent 3 years of it in USA and earned my AAS degree in medical filed but I feel my english still week and not good as I expect to be.sometimes people get confused when I talk to them in addition I have difficulty to write, speeling , structure of a word. I compere my self with other people who spent less years to learn but they do have perfect English then I do. based in your experience Why and how I improve it?


  25. Faísca Streetdog on July 24, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Great ! I Will think about

  26. Verpula Yakaiah on July 29, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    thanks for your suggestions……..

  27. Irudhaya Raja on August 5, 2014 at 8:17 am

    very useful. all the best. different with others

  28. andy on August 24, 2014 at 7:04 am

    How do I practice English at home? Do u have voice chat?

  29. andy on August 24, 2014 at 7:04 am

    How do I practice English at home? Do u have voice chat?

  30. Kenny on December 12, 2014 at 9:27 am

    They fail since of motivation lack,it take too long,but I found recantly good way to make it work.Its called http://www.bellsenglishonline.com/. seems to be one of the best online English courses around! The lessons are well build, interesting and interactive.The whole atmosphere gives a positive and motivating feeling, which is very important,but if You want to see real progress than probably you will need to spend good 2-3 months few hours a day.As they say "Everything takes time:)

  31. emily on January 17, 2015 at 7:11 am

    What can’t be measured can’t be improved.

    Why not aiming at a particular exam that you can prepare so that you have the purpose/ goal.

  32. Clayton S. Silvério on March 22, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    Nice Text. I've noticed here in Brazil that the main problem is the chase of perfection. People here want to speak English perfectly, and with that I´m saying accent, grammar and vocabulary all together. They are really afraid of mistakes. And, as we all know, it´s no easy task speaking like a native, specially the accent. When people realize that English is a universal language and, as such, it isn't necessarily essential to speak like an American or Canadian, they´ll start speaking freely and will see how funny and incredible it is to be able to use a language that you can communicate with people from all around the world. Until there, we´ll continue to struggle chasing perfection and get frustrated because we can´t speak the way the actors we see on the big screen do.

    • Justin on March 23, 2015 at 11:03 am

      Hey Clayton, Thanks for the thoughtful comment. You’re right, it is an uphill battle, but it’s up to people like you and me to illuminate the path and help people change their paradigm for English and the world. Great job with your English, my friend! Very well-written.

  33. Bijoy Mardi on November 13, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    you web site is very good Ethan…

  34. Bijoy Mardi on November 13, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    you web site is very good Ethan…

  35. chellini chellini on August 19, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    ?t is beneficial thank you so much

  36. chellini chellini on August 19, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    ıt is beneficial thank you so much

  37. Vijay Shelar on April 29, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Hi Justin I am so happy for your reply I would like to say that I have been learning English since 8 month ago I understood English grammar but not very well , I couldn’t speak in English well when I started speaking in English suddenly I forget English grammar rules I need to talk with someone in English who will be speaking English very well I liked your advice in this article that I need to go English speaking country but I couldn’t go I can go to Goa which is in India many foreigner can meet me in goa but how I can do conversation with them? have you any Idea? please tell me thanks for this article I will do try and study hard for learn English currently

    • Justin Murray on April 30, 2017 at 2:08 pm

      Hey Vijay, I’m glad the article was helpful. Of course it can help, but you don’t need to go to an English speaking country. You can learn from wherever you are. It sounds like Goa could be a good place. If I were you I would look for English speaking meetups and even Couchsurfing in that city. We’ll be launching a great solution for this soon too. Thanks again for the support and keep up the good work

      • Vijay Shelar on May 1, 2017 at 11:00 am

        Hi Justin how are you I have been waiting of your great solution I am very exacted after I saw your message God bless you have a nice day

  38. Jeffrey Rosales on June 5, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    Hello I’m from the Philippines mabuhay.Yes,this article helps me a lot.I am not a fluent speaker ,but I can speak English quite a little bit 🙂 .The only problem is there is always an embarassment everytime I speak the language .I don’t know maybe it’s fear.It become my daily routine and it just came suddenly everytime I spoke the language like Is this a correct tense form of the verb that I am going to use and all in all as a result I will be lost and then start not to talk anymore.

  39. Jeffrey Rosales on June 5, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Hello, I’m from the Philippines Mabuhay.Yes, 🙂 .this article helps me a lot.I am not a fluent speaker, but I can speak English quite a little :).The only problem is there is always an embarrassment every time I speak the language.I don’t know maybe it’s fear.It become my daily routine and it just came suddenly every time I spoke the language like Is this a correct tense form of the verb that I am going to use and all in all, as a result, I will be lost and then start not to talk anymore

    • Jeffrey Rosales on June 5, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      Please help me I want to know the secret to overcome this kind of feeling 🙁

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