Why Learning a New Language Sucks.

Learning a new language can be one of the most rewarding things that you can do for yourself and the feeling of learning that new language is really fun……..most of the time. Here I will give some shared feelings that we all usually go through when learning a new language.

Building New Skin

One of the first things we learn when starting a new language is that when we try to speak it to native speakers that their response can cut us like a knife. When we make language mistakes in our native language, we usually do not feel bad or embarrassed that much but in the new target language it hurts and that sucks.

It’s important to try to build that thick skin in the new language as quickly as you can so that it won’t impede your progress or kill your motivation to learn. We all have to go through it and it’s just part of learning a new language because our language is very close to our hearts, so when a new speaker of the language says something that sounds strange, some people react differently. Not everyone will be nice so you have to ‘tuffin’ yourself up to handle the barrage of comments and laughs that may come your way.

Wanting To Say A Lot……..But….

We always want to say as much as we can as quickly as we can. I’m learning Thai now and while there are things I can say to get the conversation going or to introduce myself, I can’t say all of what I want to say and it is a bit frustrating at times. It sucks! The only thing to do it is keep working on building those blocks of vocabulary and sentences that you can say so that the issues become less and less because it sucks to have some of the words of a sentence but not the others. On the other side, we need this to suck a bit to help us move forward with the learning. We’ll have mental cues that will remind us of the time it sucked when we couldn’t say this or that.

I Can’t Remember Anything

I remember for a while I thought that my brain had more problems than I thought it did because I couldn’t remember any new words that I was working on. It seemed that the words were dripping out of my head when I went to sleep and that I needed to see a doctor. I soon started to understand that I was learning them, but I wasn’t in a position that I needed to be able to recall them on the street in my daily travels. I needed to create a usage chart of the new words so that I could put them more into my long term memory. I also needed to know what were/are the words that I really need to use in my life. I started to make a list of the English words that I would say to myself and then find the Cantonese word for them. It helped to make the task of remembering less ‘sucky’.

This Is Too Difficult

This is too difficult because it sucks and I want to quit learning this language. I’m not from Hong Kong, why am I learning this? I would say and ask myself this all the time in the earlier years of learning Cantonese. It was and in some ways still difficult, but as with anything that we do for the long term, it gets easier. The compounding effect of just sticking with it, makes it easier and easier. You have to keep pulling the book out and keep listening to those language items and you will soon see that you are improving. Anything that isn’t difficult isn’t worth your time and you won’t feel good about it.

Different Methods Means Different Results

Part of learning a new language that sucks is that different methods means different results and sometimes you do not realize that the method that you’re using isn’t working until you’ve spent too much time working out one method to come to find out that another method gives you much more in return. That sucks.

As the road in language learning gets longer and longer you start to find different methods of learning and some work well for you and others do not work so well. Some you give some time and energy to and others you give too much time and energy to. Once you learn to navigate the journey to find all of the different ways to learn that new language it starts to suck less and you start to fall in love with the process.

Motivation……Where did it go?

Motivation sucks sometimes. Sometimes it comes and goes and you don’t know how to find it for a while. It’s like when you can’t find the TV remote control but you know that it’s nearby. You can find it. You just need to look in all of the cracks of the sofa cushions and there it is. Motivation is the same thing. If you are good at keeping a language learning journal to track your progress, that is a great tool to help get your motivation back up. Look at some material that you had learned a while back and see how much easier it is now. To see where you started and compare it to where you are now will help you to get your mojo back. Sometimes it will feel like you’re not improving or learning anything, but you need to trust the process and just stay on the road. You’ll soon find yourself way down that road and far from where you began. That will put a smile on your face and keep you going.

Final Thoughts

Learning a new language at times can suck but it’s only because learning a new language isn’t easy and anything that isn’t easy will suck at times. Embracing the fact that you are doing something that is difficult and that in time when you reach your goal, your satisfaction of doing such a difficult thing and staying on the road, will be amazing. Don’t give up and keep moving forward on the patch of self improvement.



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