https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ZwolfPack

When you get discouraged...

I certainly have. Learning German was one of my New Year's resolutions, and I've been working on it every day since January 1st. Sometimes I feel as though I've really made progress, and I can follow along with news articles and online conversations in German. Other days, it will seem as though I haven't learned anything and people who are 5-6 levels behind me know the language better than I do.

One of the cooler things I've noticed since trying to learn German is that it's given me a lot of insight into how my kids have learned (and are learning) English. The way I mess up pronouns, confuse words and rearrange my sentences to accommodate my small vocabulary, those are all things that I've seen my own children do when they were learning to speak.

This morning my five year old and I were sitting in the kitchen while a video that we had seen 20 times was playing in another room. As a scene played out, I said the next line just before one of the characters did. (I don't even remember what we were watching.)

My daughter said, "Mom, did you know what he was going to next say or did you just say that on your own?"

That odd placement of the word "next" is a the kind of mistake I'm making 2-1/2 months into studying, even if I'm still not nearly as good at speaking German as she is at speaking English.

So, if you ever get frustrated with your lack of progress, just remember...

It took you about five years to learn your first language. You're doing great. ;)

March 19, 2014

40 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/hckoenig

If, after having studied German for less than three months, you can already make sense of news articles, you are an exceptionally fast learner. Others need several years for this. Congratulations - Ich gratuliere! Mach weiter so!

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/saschambaer

Wem do you gratulieren? Gratulieren needs a dative object (dir, in this case)!

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/hckoenig

No, it doesn't. "Ich gratuliere" is like saying "Congratulations". See here:

http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/gratulieren

the 6th line unter "Beispiele".

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/saschambaer

I'm a native speaker, and at least to me, "Ich gratuliere" sounds not wrong but just ... a little bit weird. I can't even decide if it's overly formal or really informal, it's just not something I'd ever say, neither informally nor formally. Informally I'd say "Man gratuliert" and formally "Ich gratuliere dir/euch/Ihnen"

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/christian

It doesn't sound weird to me.

March 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Wolf_of_Salbura

I agree. Otherwise it sounds incomplete.

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/shelby-gabrielle

Thank you! I have been quite discouraged today in my studies. It has most certainly not been my best day. I needed to hear that! :-)

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Zelah_Meyer

I find that how well you feel you're doing can also vary depending on where you are in the cycle of words and phrases that 'general practice' throws at you. Some days my brain is just floundering and I know it's an area where I've got a mental block (which is 'avant' versus 'devant' for me today). On a day where I'm getting all the 'tough' words, it can take me ages to manage a perfect run through a practice session. On other days, I'll fly through and make it through a practice session with all hearts intact on the first try.

I think it will really help when they bring back the vocabulary section - because I miss being able to do a little extra practice session that concentrates on the words I tripped over that day. At the moment, you have to do a whole sub-skill lesson just to practice one word that you're having trouble with, even if you're fine with the rest of the words.

If anyone ever feels really discouraged, I'd suggest doing the minimum required to keep your streak up and doing something else that makes you feel better. Keeping up your streak motivates you to keep at it. Then come back when you're feeling more able to handle it, and work on the areas you're having trouble with. :)

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sernstberger

Aw. I like you!

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Carlozzo

Are you going for a year?

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sernstberger

I would love it, but I'm heading to Honduras for a week right before my year comes up. Unless I happen to have daily wifi access, I'll be out of luck. But I'll pick back up when I return and aim for a full year next time around.

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Carlozzo

You could always buy a net stick http://www.trust.com/en/all-products/18213-wireless-usb-network-stick-300n. Good luck on the trip.

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sernstberger

Thanks!

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lenonile

This was great! Now I can't give up anymore.

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ebrill_April

Just what I needed to hear. :D

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Wandering.Seeker

"It took you about five years to learn your first language. You're doing great. ;)"

lol, golden one. yet, to be precise, till the end of high school we still lacked many words, jargons and styles to make use of our language at its best, whatever for philosophical, literary or scientific reading and hearing, let alone writing and speaking!

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/0liwia

Indeed! This is something that I like to remind myself every time I say something that isn't perfectly phrased, in any language different from my main one. The "reference" in terms of vocabulary for an adult speaker is... the college graduate. Your English (or whatever other language) is considered "at native level" if you speak like a college graduate. I don't know the exact proportion of people going to college, but I'm pretty sure it's not everyone (probably not even the majority), so to me it kind of means linguists consider even many natives do not speak very well. And that makes me happy, even if it doesn't make me settle for average :-)

And if you're not convinced, listen to people in the subway, or watch some TV, or check out some forums :-)

March 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Wandering.Seeker

I even wanted to say that "till end of university" but hey! not anyone goes to university and most of the jargons and academical words there doesn't have any use for them, if they're just carrying on their ordinary life... yet the methodology and cultivation of mind, that one goes through there, is priceless.

yep, in my place, people have to pass IELTS or TOEFL to be qualified as a competent, fluent speaker, which requires from them the linguistic knowledge that most natives themselves doesn't have or you don't see being used in daily life.

yet it is false to think it is enough to know just those so-called "about 1000 or 2000" spoken words to know a language. English, for example, is so rich in vocabulary and have many words to describe the each shapes of the feeling, in a precise manner. it is a pity to not know and overlook that. true masters of vocabulary have more elevated and transparent thoughts and could hold much grander concepts suspend in mind.

as Wittgenstein said "limits of my language is limits of my world" which falsely believed among polyglots that it talks about quantity of language, how many languages you know, but to those who studied philosophy and read his works, what it truly means is that quality must be concerned, the vocabulary, the keen grasp of definitions and concepts, in any language.

March 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CNDragn

Really very encouraging and so true! Thank you so much for the reminder!! :)

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ashiplo

That's really a great point, and well said!

I'd add, too, that it took you five years to learn your first language while surrounded by native speakers and not having much else to do all day except absorb it like a sponge.

That makes a big difference. Most of us learners here have work/school/other responsibilities to worry about and a limited amount of time to devote to our language studies.

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/bwthemoose1

Plus the psychologists tell us that much of the equipment we use to learn that language as children is "turned off " as adults to make room, so to speak, for other cognitive functions, so it is much harder to learn. but not impossible

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/annika_a

Sure, the adult brain is less malleable than the child's brain (partly also because it is already filled with other stuff, such as what to get from the grocery store today or the capitals of the US States...).

But I still think this argument is way overused by many lazy adults who don't want to actually do the hard graft of hours of learning and challenging themselves, although they expect their children to do so when learning new things.

Adults also have far better analytical skills than children, as well as more existing knowledge to relate what they are learning to, so it's not all bad being an oldie! :-)

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/bwthemoose1

By no means is it impossible, or even that hard, just time consuming, Otherwise would there be any point to being here? I am on the nether side of 50 and I am filling in two gaps in my life that should have been filled decades ago, had I the wisdom to see it. All I am saying is that the process is harder because the brain has shut down that assimilation process by which we learn language as toddlers.

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/annika_a

As an old Psychology graduate, I seem to remember (though I am not following that field much anymore), that the more recent evidence shows that adult brains are more flexible than was thought previously. For example, I don't think there are strictly neuronal processes that shut down, but it is a question of degrees and differences in strengths of connections and the speed of establishing them.

Which of course does not take anything away from your argument! I think we agree on the matter; it is more a question of the glass and the water level considered...

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/bwthemoose1

I think you are right there too, particularly with some skills that were thought to be muscle memory skills, like playing music, that older brains are more plastic than we give credit for. That being said I also know that the maturing brain does shed a lot of supposedly superfluous connections in that time between 18-25, probably in language acquisition, as it may seem unnecessary when you have reached adulthood. But I may be wrong.

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Atmaca1

I read your sentences and I felt relieved with your explanations. I keep your advices in my mind. This is good fortune to see your sentences, thanks. Take care yourself.

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/nathansk8s

Learning a language is a like you knowing the next line to a show that you have seen a hundred times. I have noticed in talking to my German friend that I can guess the correct article of a noun more than half the time. This is a subconscious thing that occurs after using the language so much and being around it. The brain starts to associate the articles with specific word endings without you making a conscious effort to do so. Just like knowing the next line to a song or a show your brain stores grammatical structures, and new words without even noticing at times. This is just what I was thinking when you mentioned the video thing. Thought it was interesting enough to share.

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HarmAouke

I must say that it's really fantastic (!) that you still hold on to your New Year's Resolutions! Most people would've already given up! Here, have a Lingot!

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TKElliott

Another thing that people tend to forget when they are comparing their adult experience of learning a second language with first-language acquisition by children is the difference in expectations.

When a three-year-old says "Me want a cookie!" everyone says "Oh, how sweet, isn't he talking well?"

Whereas, as adults, we tend to criticise ourselves for not learning fast enough if we can't debate international politics in German within six months of starting to learn the language.

Personally, I think children's language acquisition skills (compared to adults') are overestimated. Children appear to be 'fluent' very quickly because the things they want to say are pretty simple.

As adults, we wish to converse at a level significantly above that of the average five-year-old, so 'adult fluency' requires a bigger vocabulary and better grammatical knowledge - which, of course, takes longer to learn.

If you count 'college level', or even 'reasonably articulate adult' as 'fluent', then even native-speaker five-year-olds don't qualify. By that standard, you probably wouldn't find many native speakers who would qualify as 'fluent' until they get to at least the age of ten or eleven. We just don't notice because their vocabulary exactly matches what they want to say... :-)

March 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BaconAddict

I must say that reading your reply and the main post is the most encouragement and motivation that I have had since I started studying again. I took Spanish for a year in college and have not looked at it for almost 10 years. I recently started to review trying to learn the language again. I have been studying it for about a 5 or 6 weeks now and I am able to translate about 40% of the advertisements that I see around the city and also can pick up bits and pieces of conversations that I hear when I am out, but I still get so discouraged when I cannot say something or do not know a word. It is going to take some time to get to the point that I want to be at to feel truly confident, but this is a great way to look at it in order to keep everything in perspective. Thanks so much for the encouraging words!!

March 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SmallOwl

The best way for your kids to learn two languages is that one parent talk just on English and other just on Italian. It is interesting-t he way that kids learn. If they make a mistake in plural (or some other mistake in sentence) it means that they are following the rules of language. :)

March 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/0liwia

Careful with that. If you decide to talk to your kid in a language that isn't your native, make sure he has some other resources for picking it up too, else he's just going to copy your mistakes, and believe me, erasing mistakes you've made all you life is hard :-)

March 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SmallOwl

Yes, I agree. :)

March 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sherrie.ha3

Thanks for this post. It's a nice reminder to be as patient and kind with myself as I would be with my child learning something new and challenging. Have a lingot!

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BaconAddict

Thank you, that is great point of view and it helps a lot with keeping it all in perspective. I studied Spanish years ago in college and just decided to revisit it and it is extremely frustrating when you want to say something but don't know how or feel you are not making as much progress as you want. We should all keep this inmind as we progress through. Thanks again, that is very encouraging!!

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jasminedesi16

Thanks for this. I've been so discouraged lately. The lessons are so hard and I seem to not be passing any of them. :(

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/amanda.lizbeth

I've only been learning Italian for about five days and I was getting really discouraged because I just couldn't seem to remember even the simplest phrases.. I find that listening to Italian music and trying to memorize the lyrics helps motivate me, plus it's fun to sing along~

May 25, 2014
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