Common Learning Barriers and How to Overcome Them

Common Learning Barriers and  How to Overcome Them

Learning a new language or skill comes with challenges and excitement. You might start out feeling encouraged and empowered about your decision to leap into something new. However, you can face many barriers over time that will make you want to throw in the towel. It’s essential to know that everyone has learning barriers and that having a set plan to overcome obstacles in your path is the best remedy.

Whether you’re met with social, instructional, or psycho-emotional barriers, you can overcome whatever is in your way. Here are some of the most common learning barriers and a few tips for achieving success:

Social and Cultural Barriers

Everyone should have the same opportunities to learn and grow. However, things like where you live, how much money you have, and what kind of support system you have around you can make it more challenging to master a new skill. Recognizing the social and cultural barriers in your life can get you on the road to success. 


If you live in a rural area, finding a class can be a geographical challenge. You might need to travel to a metropolitan area to access courses, teachers, or other learning tools. People who live in cities may have increased access to classes, but reliable transportation can still be a problem.

Carpooling, riding a bus, or other public transportation can increase your access to courses. If you live in a pedestrian-friendly city, consider walking or biking to a class at a local library or school. If getting to a course just isn’t an option, you might want to look into an online program or language-learning app. 


Have you ever considered the impact of income on student success? Dealing with financial stress can deter many people from pursuing the dream of learning a new language. Classes and programs often charge an instructional fee. Books and other tools can be another expense. Add in the cost of transportation, possible lost wages, and even a meal here and there and this can all add up quickly.

If you’re looking for ways to overcome financial barriers to learning, connect with social organizations in your town or community. Visit your local library to ask if there are any free or reduced fee classes that you can take. If you find a program that fits your needs, speak privately with the instructor or administrator of the program about your financial barriers to see if there are any grants or scholarships that you might be eligible to receive.

Language Transfer

When you learned your first language, your brain stored the essential linguistic rules you needed to speak, write, and understand it. When you try to learn a new language, you rely on those original rules and attempt to apply them when learning. The replication of rules from your first language to the second is called language transfer. If the styles aren’t similar in vocabulary, syntax, sentence structure, or spelling, it will be more difficult to learn.

A few ways to overcome this challenge includes listening to new words before seeing them in written form, participating in extensive vocabulary practice, and utilizing structured role-play activities with prompts. It’s essential that you immerse all of your senses into the new language. 

Psycho-Emotional Barriers

Think back to a time when you learned a new skill quickly. Now, consider what was going on in your life at that time. Were you in good physical, mental, and emotional health? Was life just going your way? Your mood, attitude, and motivation can affect how easily you can learn a new language.

Mental Health

Many people struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions that affect how easily they can acquire a new skill. Anxiety and depression make it difficult to engage and focus on the materials. If you’re struggling with these or other mood disorders, talk to your instructor to let them know about your condition. If you need special accommodations, be sure to discuss with the instructor before enrolling in the class. It’s important to keep your health in tip-top condition when learning a new language.


If you have a strong motivation to learn a new language, it will come more naturally. For example, if you’re learning French because you have an upcoming dream vacation to Paris, you will approach your classes with a sense of excitement and preparation. This motivation can make it easier to learn compared to someone who is taking a language course as a requirement for another program.

There are a few easy ways to increase your motivation. Technology can bridge the gap in language learning, which can help boost your engagement. Consider using technological advancements such as Google Hangouts or Skype to have structured conversations with others who are speaking the language you want to learn. You might also search out a local group of people who speak the language to practice using your new language skills.

Instructional Barriers

Understanding how you learn best and what you need from a program can increase your success and help you choose a program that focuses on your strengths.

Method of Instruction

You need to use all of your senses when learning a new skill. This means that you need to write, read, speak, and hear your new language. If you’re taking a class, but struggling to make progress, consider gamification as a way to achieve successful language mastery.

Gamification uses game elements and mechanics to enhance learning. Platforms like Mondly help you unlock new worlds through games and practice. These tech tools don’t just offer opportunities to learn but give you a safe space to use your new skills in real-life conversations.

Learning is exciting. It will remind you that you can achieve great things when you put your mind to it. While barriers will surface when learning new skills, remember that limits and obstacles are meant to be overcome. Use these ideas to break through barriers and achieve your dream of learning new skills and languages.

— Written by Magnolia Potter

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