Brain farts in language learning l-lingo blog

Brain Farts In Language Learning

Brain farts are when your brain emits flatulence.  Okay, maybe that’s too literal to be considered a serious definition. To really define what a brain fart is, we have to get more metaphorical.

So you know when you’re giving a speech or talking in long, exasperated breaths of information and then suddenly, your brain freezes? That’s a brain fart. It’s as if your brain just gets built up with gas and needs to release it before continuing the spew of information.

In this article, we’ll be discussing brain farts in language learning, what to do when they happen, and how to learn from them.

Okay, so you’ve just had a brain fart while discussing the history of the Eiffel Tower in your target language; you’re shocked, embarrassed and don’t know what to say next.

The 3- Step Brain Fart Survival Guide In Language Learning

  1. Pass on the topic to one of the listeners to see if they were listening.
  2. Give yourself time to think.
  3. Use your superior social skills to avoid continuing the topic entirely and direct your energy to another topic.

Image result for brain pixabay

Passing On The Conversation In Language Learning

Passing along the conversation is one of the more natural things to do when you have a brain fart. It’s as simple as asking someone their opinion and seeing where the conversation will carry on from there.

When you do this, however, be careful of who you pass the conversation on to. You can either end up extending the conversation or killing it entirely, depending on the details in the other person’s opinion.

We were talking about the Eiffel Tower in this example, right? So let’s continue to use that,

You: A long exciting speech on the Eiffel Tower.

Your Brain: *Flatulence Noise.”

You: … So (person name), what do you think of the construction of the Eiffel Tower?

Another person: I think that its sophisticated design really did a lot to maintain a cultural aesthetic while contributing to the robust framework of French architecture.

 Eiffle Tower, France, Monument, Structure, Landmark

This kind of person is the kind of person you want to pass your conversation on to. And if all goes as planned by the time the conversation gets back to you, your brain fart would’ve passed, and you’ll be back in the conversation!

However, should you pass your conversation on to the person in the following example, there is a 90% chance that the topic will die a painful death.

You: A long exciting speech on the Eiffel Tower.

Your Brain: *Flatulence Noise.”

You: … So (person name), what do you think of the construction of the Eiffel Tower?

Another person: Yeah, it’s beautiful.

Person B: So what did everyone do this weekend.

Are we all on the same track here? Brain farts are bad because they give your topic free roam, amongst others. Still, because they give your topic this freedom, it also allows for the opportunity for that topic to be expanded beyond what it usually would’ve been should it had remained only in your hands.

Give Yourself Time To Think

Brain farts are entirely normal, even in our native language. Having a brain fart in your target language only shows that you’re thinking hard. In fact, you’re thinking so hard that your brain needs time to catch up to what you’re saying. So it “farts” in an awkward moment of silence.

Use this silence to excuse yourself and then come back to the topic. This isn’t a sorry excuse to give up on the subject; instead, it’s a strategic ploy to re-affirm the points in your conversation.

You can say something like:

“I’m sorry. Give me a moment to think.”

“Pardon me; I’m just thinking about….”

“This topic has been on my mind for quite some time now…”

By saying these phrases, you not only give yourself time to think, but you also allow those who have been listening to you speak time to absorb the information that you’ve been spewing.

Can you imagine being in a lecture hall where the professor talks for 3hrs continuously, not allowing for any questions from the students? Or even time to critically think and analyze the message. Mind, this happens in college all the time, but college students are held to be responsible enough to practice self-study.

However, when in an open conversation where there are no such parameters, those involved have to be actively engaged in each other’s comprehensive atmosphere.

Is the speaker paying attention to the listener’s body language? And is the listener paying attention to the speaker’s message?

So when you have a brain fart, option number 2 is mainly there to give you and those around you a  break for the conversation, speech, lecture, etc.

Changing the Topic

Option number three of surviving a brain fart is probably the most straightforward way out. Option number 3 recommends changing the topic to something more familiar — one of which where you won’t have to have a brain fart in the first place.

Heaven forbid you to have a brain fart while talking about the history of the Eiffel Tower. But what if you had a brain fart then proceeded to talk about French pastries after your odd disruption of such a rich content topic?

Well, for starters, you may or may not be giggled at, but it’s not because of the topic you changed to but because of why you switched to that topic. At this point in the article, I’d just like to say that if you’ve managed to discuss the history of the Eiffel Tower in any way, shape, or form in your target language for an extended period, then you deserve a round of applause. But I digress.

Changing the topic suddenly can spark some mental alarms and can kill your conversations in the same way that passing it on the wrong person can. The only difference is that you’re not passing on the conversation your passing on the topic.

So if you end up changing your topic from the Eiffel Tower to French Baguettes, then you’re doing yourself a significant disservice. While Baguettes are delicious and we all wish that we could have an infinite supply of their carb-rich, 12-foot deliciousness, they aren’t a suitable topic change from that of the Eiffel Tower.

 Friends, Male, Men, Outside, Winter, Cold, Bench

On the other hand, if you changed topics from the Eiffel Tower to French Engineering, then you’ll gain some more traction, and people won’t give you a strange head tilt because of your weird obsession with baguettes.

The reason for a slight change but still relatable shift in a topic is because that high content, rich quality topics will always have the ability to interweave with other topics. When topics interweave, you’re likely to have already some information about one or the other topic that can further assist you in either of them.

For instance, a conversation about French engineering can easily switch to one about the Eiffel Tower vice versa.

Learning From A Brain Fart

Brain farts occur when your brain either doesn’t have the necessary information to complete the string of data you’re telling it to produce or when your mouth can’t keep up with the data output.

Compare it to coding on a computer. You can’t complete a basic Hello World code without the Hello. And if you’re writing even more complex code, and your processor can’t handle the power load placed on it from the code then your PC can freeze up.

So how do we learn from brain farts in language learning? There are several linguistic aspects we can look at here that can be improved on.

  1. Grammar
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Pronunciation
  4. Passive Vocabulary & Active Vocabulary

Let’s go through each and see what we can do to silence those loud, pesky brain farts.


Grammar, as much as I hate, it is crucial to constructing accurate and logically sound sentence structures. We may be able to get away with botching it up sometimes, but when discussing complicated topics, we need to have it 100% down a pact to convey our message with an undisturbed flow. When a brain fart happens, for this reason, you missed a grammar particle or rule that was needed to complete your idea/expression of thought.

To fix this, read more and pay attention to the nitty-gritty details in each text. Some grammar particles don’t even look like they’re supposed to be grammar (annoying I know), but learning how to recognize them and, better yet use them, will play a significant role in how you develop your speaking skills.


Vocabulary folks, this one is obvious. If you lack the vocabulary to discuss a topic such as the Eiffel tower, then you won’t really be talking anything for too long. You may get in a few good hits at it, but once it sees what you’re doing, it’s going to start bobbing and weaving, and you won’t be landing any punches on anything anytime soon.

To fix these kinds of brain farts, there is only one way to go, and that is up. Increase the number of vocabulary words you know tenfold, and you’ll find yourself filling in the blanks in these complicated kinds of conversations instead of “beating around the bush” with filler words.

Active & Passive Vocabulary In Language

While on the topic of vocabulary, let’s talk about passive and active vocabulary.

At any point in time, your passive vocabulary will be larger than your active vocabulary. Passive vocabulary is the words you’ve encountered and learned, but they aren’t yet readily available for use in conversations.

Remember when the new iPhone 11 was released, but they weren’t available in stores for like 1-2 months? Think of this scenario, like your passive vocabulary being available but not “available.”

Active vocabulary is the vocabulary words that are ready for use and always on the top of your tongue. They flow freely from though to mouth with little to no intervention of brain lags.

The transition of passive to active is important because it can boost your vocabulary usage by quite a lot. Even though passive vocabulary words are words that are already known, it will feel like you’re learning new words by making an effort to drill them into your memory.


Now, depending on your relationship with the target language and your native language, this may or may not be a problem for you. Pronunciation is a factor in brain farts because when you get caught up on a word, that can slow down the whole conversation.

Often, vocabulary and grammar won’t even play a role in brain farts, but when your brain runs into a sound that it knows, but the tongue won’t say it, then guess what buddy? You’ve got gas!

To practice pronunciation, it merely takes… well… it takes practice. There is no way around it. So continue to speak, speak aloud, or practice with others who are studying the language or are native speakers.

Why You Shouldn’t Be Embarrassed

Farting in public is an embarrassing moment, especially when people can hear it. But when you take the subject of language learning and apply the concept of flatulence, it protrudes a different feeling. A brain fart is just your brain’s way of saying: “Okay, I get it! You can speak the language; you don’t have to go so fast. – slow down, and things will come more naturally.”

So when you do have a brain fart in public, don’t fret or feel too worried, because in this case, making an attempt to make a sound is better than saying nothing at all.

Of course, it is better to not have any flatulence at all in a public setting, but that’s just not always possible, is it? Don’t hold it in, but don’t let it out – that’s all I’m trying to say here. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of it knowing when to hold in your farts, and when to release them. 

Mechanical, Brain, Man, Machine, Manipulation

Posted by Kiandro


I'm Kiandro, the content creator here at L-Lingo. I'm an avid language learner and culture enthusiast. Feel free to leave any comments or thoughts you have on my blog posts.

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