How to Avoid Giving Up in Language Learning
This post is a transcript of a video on my YouTube channel.
Studying English? Here’s the transcript as a lesson to study on LingQ.
Hi there, Steve Kaufmann here today, again talking about language learning as usual. That’s what I like to do twice a week here on this channel and I want to share with you some of my own experience.
I’m not saying that I’m an expert on anything. I can only share with you my experience of language learning. I want to talk today about how we can make sure that we stay the course. The secret to success in language learning is to stay with it, not to be discouraged, so I kind of looked at some of the things that I’m doing. What is it that maintains my enthusiasm that keeps me going?
The first thing that I think is very important is don’t worry about what you forget. You’re going to forget. Feel convinced that as you exposure yourself to more of the language you are gradually improving and I sense this now. I am listening to content in Persian, which is difficult, but I’m beginning to get a bit of a feel for it even if I don’t have all the words. I know that with this pounding I’m slowly getting better. I know I’m getting better. I’m not worried about how much better I’m getting. I’m not worried about what I forget. I just know that absorbing the language is improving my ability, at least to comprehend Persian.
Now, some of the things I have done. I have asked my… Sahra, who is Iranian, my most important helper, teacher, resource, has not only created a number of very good stories about herself, what she does, likes to do her, travels, she has created these Circling questions for her own content, which we discussed the last time. She’s also gone in to some of our more difficult content, such as the podcasts from the BBC, has created these Circling questions. This leads me to the second point in order to stay motivated.
Number one, rest assured. If you continue to exposure yourself to the language, you will get better.
Point number two, vary it. Don’t go at the same type of content over and over again. Don’t try to learn the conjugation tables. Don’t try to stay with just beginner content. Don’t even try to stay with difficult content. Make sure you vary the content.
With Sahra creating these Circling questions for the difficult content, she has divided these difficult content items for me into seven-eight minute segments and within each segment she has created these Circling questions. That doesn’t cover all of the vocabulary, but it gives me a bit of a toehold on some of it. It increases my confidence and it helped me then eventually to go back and listen to it again. So I vary it.
Similarly, I went running the other day and I was listening to the mini stories in Persian. Of course, the mini stories for me are a confirmation of everything that I have achieved because when I started in Persian the mini stories were just noise. I didn’t know how I was ever going to get to where I could understand them and now they’re very, very easy because I vary it. So I have easier content, mid-level content with Circling questions, more difficult content with Circling questions, I go back to the mini stories, so this kind of keeps me going.
Again, in order to make sure you stay the course and you don’t get frustrated, number one, please accept the fact that if you continue to exposure yourself to the language you will get better, gradually. Not always noticeably, but you get better. You become more familiar. The brain becomes more familiar with certain expressions, certain words, certain connector words that always show up, certain forms of verbs. Slowly, you become familiar, even if you can’t produce them all the time.
Number two, vary things. Vary it between difficult content, which can be frustrating, easy content, which can become boring, intermediate content.
I should point out, by the way, that we’ve had a good response to my request for people to help us create these as we have for The Iranians. We have The Iranians where Iranians talk about themselves and we’re looking for the same in French or in Chinese or other languages.
Someone said could you do this in English to give us an idea of what it’s supposed to look like. Well, I will be putting something up within the next couple of days. I have recorded, I’ve had transcribed and I’m going to create some Circling questions for some English examples of what it is we’re looking for, so you’ll see that. This is all part of sort of varying the range of difficulty of what you’re doing, so you’re not always trying to attack the same kind of material.
Now, the third element in making sure you stay with it is you have to recognize that if you want to speak well you have to speak a lot. There is no way if you speak occasionally, even once or twice a week with a tutor or even more often with a tutor on Skype, you’re not going to become really good at using the language.
You build up this capability and that should satisfy you. If you’re building up your comprehension, your vocabulary, you’re building up the potential. If you are then put in a situation where you have to use or can use the language a lot, you will improve very quickly. When you get that opportunity take advantage, speak. Don’t sit back and just listen, speak with mistakes. It doesn’t matter. You have to put yourself in that position, eventually, in order to speak well.
You can do all these other things to build up your capability, your potential, but eventually you have to speak a lot in order to speak well. When you speak a lot you’ll make mistakes and it doesn’t matter. Then you go back into your listening and reading with some difficult content and then easier content to kind of build up some basic structures that you can use in your conversation. In conversation we’re going to use a small subset of the total number of words that we understand. Our active vocabulary is going to be much smaller than our passive vocabulary, but that’s a good thing because then you understand and, gradually, that active vocabulary increases.
Don’t expect too much of yourselves. Recognize that all of this exposure is gradually making you better. Second of all, vary the kind of content you’re listening to. Vary it by level of difficulty or even by nature. If you like reading about grammar, read about grammar. But don’t just do that or don’t just do your anki deck if that’s what you like to do. Make sure you vary it and then look for opportunities to speak.
If you don’t have a lot of opportunity to speak, don’t expect of yourself that you’re going to be able to speak well, you won’t. But build up that capability so that when you have that opportunity you can take full advantage. Make sure you do take full advantage and don’t worry about problems, mistakes, inadequacies.
I hope that’s helpful because I think the biggest problem is when people give up too early. If they stay the course, they will eventually achieve their language goals. So there you have it, how to stay the course and not let the frustrations of language learning make you lose interest.