The Ups and Downs of Language Learning

When first learning a new language, everything is exciting. 50 new words feels amazing when you remember so clearly knowing 0. With the starting line still in sight, every step forward is an accomplishment as a new world of culture and language opens up. Things start to pick up after the initial start. More new words, grammar, and sounds enter the equation. It might be a more challenging, but it’s equally as exciting as your comprehension increases. Maybe you can now start to understand a new YouTuber or that song you always loved but couldn’t sing along to.

The hardest part in learning a language is the inevitable plateau. At a certain point, you might start to feel like you aren’t learning new words (or are even forgetting some). Daily study feels like a chore, and you focus more on what you can do than what you can’t. All of us have and will come to this point, and keep returning during our language learning journeys.

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At times like these it’s important to take a step back and reflect on where you started. Why is learning this language important to you? How would you feel if you gave up? What lessons or joys have you gained during your learning journey?

You might even realize that with language learning the journey never ends. There will always be new things to learn and work on, as languages shift and change with the times. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

Part of this process is unpacking our fear of feeling unsure. To struggle with speaking might hit you in a sensitive place – perhaps a fear of judgement or embarrassment. It’s important to recognize that eloquence does not equate to the quality of your ideas or the ability to express yourself. In fact one of the great joys of speaking a second language is learning all the ways that people can connect that are not connected solely to speech.

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Even among native speakers, not all words and phrases are used similarly. People make mistakes, pronounce things differently, and disagree about punctuation. Does this mean we should all give up and never speak again? Of course not. At the end of the day, communication is the end goal of learning any language. More than perfect grammar or pronunciation, authenticity will ring true no matter the manner it’s delivered.

 

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