Is it normal to feel language abandonment guilt?

I studied Spanish and Japanese for 4 years, and it's been about two years since I've stopped studying at all, and only a week or so that I've started back up and doing Korean.

I've decided that I want to just have one language to focus on because I know how hard it is to learn, and I've done it in a lot of ways like university classes, high school classes, different websites, etc. There are so many small details of a language, and I want to get in that deep with Korean.

But, I'm feeling guilty about leaving the other languages behind, mostly because of all the time I invested into them. I have no real attachment to Spanish because I have zero interest in the cultures or countries they're spoken in, no matter how much I've tried to be interested. I do have interest in Japan and the culture, so it is sort of hard to give up, but overall, the more time I spend on one language, it takes away time that I could have been spent learning Korean.

The fast-paced speech of Japanese and writing system also is off-putting to me. But, I'd like to think spending all that time on Japanese will help me learn Korean grammar faster and easier. Still... I feel bad about abandoning Japanese, and I'm unsure of how to wipe the guilt off.

March 8, 2017


No need to feel guilty.

Console yourself by realising that any previous learning has shaped your ability to learn better now. You're going to be better at learning Korean by realizing past mistakes.

On top of that, consider yourself lucky that Japanese will certainly help you to remember some Korean vocabulary, especially if one day you dive into the Hanja.

Finally, guilt over past time investment doesn't make rational sense. Think of it this way. You're playing poker. You have already bet 100s of Dollars by following each raise, for a total of 500 dollar. The final card didn't give you what you were hoping for, so you're still stuck with that crappy pair of fours. The other player raises you another 500 dollar. You know you're almost sure to lose, but you're afraid of regretting or feeling guilt about having spent that much money already, so you call him. He wins, you loose. The difference, you could have lost 500 dollar by folding, instead of 1000 dollar by calling. EDIT: As @chaered pointed out, this is related to the sunk cost fallacy (e.g.

If you feel like Japanese or Spanish isn't worth it right now, fold. That's ok, that's the smart thing to do. No one is judging you, except for you. Now, decide to stop judging yourself. No one is judging you anymore. VoilĂ .

Good luck learning Korean, I know your struggle, you will need all the time you have. I learnt Chinese before, I don't regret stopping it. At least for now. I can always go back to it later, it will still be there, buried under some Korean, ready to make new connections between both languages, making the next step even easier.

March 9, 2017

You're right, about everything. Especially about it not making rational sense. I guess part of my problem was wishing I didn't spend scholarship money on Japanese classes and put them towards more useful ones, like general education ones or something, and because my Japanese professor tried so hard to help. I guess that's mostly why I feel bad about giving it up now >.< But, I guess Japanese is still out there waiting in case I do come back.

March 9, 2017

The time and money you invested in Japanese will help loads with Korean. There is enormous overlap in vocabulary (some 60% of Korean and Japanese words come from Chinese....and those words are basically the same subject to predictable sound transpositions). I lived in Japan for six years; when I visited Korea and picked up the alphabet (which can be done in a day), it wasn't long before I could read and understand signs. Same thing in Vietnam, for that matter.

A few examples (in Roman letters without accents):

University (literally, "big-study"): daigaku (Japanese), taehak (Korean), dai hoc (VIetnamese), daxue (Mandarin...remember that final "k"'s become dipthongs in Mandarin, and then it makes sense).

Patriotism (literally, "love-country"): aikoku (Japanese), aeguk (Korean), ai quoc (Vietnamese), aiguo (Mandarin...remember the dipthong rule!)

I might add that the Korean word "hamnida" is used just like "shimasu" in Japanese to transform nouns into verbs, resulting in the very understandable expressions:

Thank you: Kamsa-hamnida (Japanese: Kansha-shimasu, more formal than "arigato", which was borrowed from Portuguese)

Excuse me: Shille-hamnida (Japanese: Shitsulei-shimasu)

March 9, 2017

That part about vocabulary makes me feel a lot better, since vocabulary can just take so long to really learn. I am glad that at least no money out-of-pocket was used on Japanese, just scholarships. Again, thank you so much for taking the time to think out these responses!

March 9, 2017

I feel this way about Ukrainian. And I'm in almost the exact situation you described (changing the languages involved of course). I'm not sure how to deal with the guilt, but I guess it's helpful to remind yourself that there is truly no deadline, and the language will still be there waiting when you feel ready to return.

March 8, 2017

It does help to know that someone else feels this way about languages they've tried.

March 8, 2017

I certainly do. As an aside, I'm stoked about the upcoming Korean course. I think that will be the first truly different language that I'll try (from my native English).

March 8, 2017

Which languages are you learning for sure now?

March 8, 2017

I'm focusing on LEARNING Swahili, and trying to fix all the start-up mistakes I made with UK. I'm balancing that with ES and FR, because I truly don't want to lose those. For the latter two, I'm using YouTube channels and Wikipedia surfing. For Swahili, I'm learning on Duolingo from scratch.

March 8, 2017

That sounds like a lot of languages to me, but I know it must be normal for many others on here. I hope you reach your goals with all of those.

March 8, 2017

It's perfectly "normal", even though it is to some extent based on a fallacy. The gamification of Duo incentivises you by giving you trivial rewards when you study (like lingots, fanfares and accolades from the well-dressed owl) and making you feel like you have lost something when you don't (like the streak losses and seeing your golden tree wither away). And it works! :-)

While as a general rule is it useful in life to stick with things, if you are learning languages for fun and pleasure, then having fun is what matters. Study what language interests you. If you like it, keep going. If another language seems more interesting, try it instead. You can always go back to the first language if you want (even if you forget stuff, it will come back quickly), and time spent studying any foreign language will make others easier. Studying anything -- whether is a language, the history of the Roman Empire, or the mating habits of Brazilian tree toads -- is a good use of time. It exercises your brain and makes you a more cultured human being even if it does not produce measurable, practical results in your daily life.

I have a buddy who started learning Korean simply because he (somehow) got into Korean TV shows and wanted to understand them in the original language. Now he does, and he loves them even more. I hope you have the same experience!

March 9, 2017

Thank you so much, this helps ease my mind a lot, as the other posts do.

March 9, 2017

Yes. Look up "sunk cost fallacy".

March 9, 2017
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