Waning Hopes and Dreams...? (Regarding language learning)
I had a goal when I first started Duolingo back in 2014.
It was a small goal, and I never really stuck to it as passionately as most people, but it was to use every bit of resource that this site gives in order to improve my French to fluency. Of course, Duolingo can't make you fluent alone, so I studied outside of Duolingo as well, and I will say that with both this site and outside studying, my French is finally at a proficient level in a matter of three years.
When I first started learning French, I didn't have much of a passion for it because due to certain circumstances regarding my high school graduation plan, I was basically forced into it. I was placed in a class with a bunch of underclassmen, so I immediately felt left out since I was one of the oldest students. Furthermore, many unfortunate events occurred in my life; therefore, French was cast off into the back of my head.
But then, I started to learn the language, along with its culture. My teacher forced our class to make Duolingo accounts- which I assumed I would never use- and I began my learning there, too. Oh, how wrong I was about this site! I felt so immersed in the lessons and I soon realized that I couldn't stop using it. However, good things don't always last and other tragedies restrained me from practicing the way I used to. Thus, I stopped using Duolingo for two years. Although, I also realized by the time near my graduation that I had another goal: To write French literature. I wanted to be able to be fluent so that I could write poems and short stories in French, and eventually get them published.
I had never felt so confident in my dreams of the future and it was like I could touch those hopes... Now, I don't feel the same way. I feel as if I can never reach those goals. The dream of becoming fluent in French seems like a concept rather than a reality; perhaps it has something to do with my low self-esteem. Frankly, I believe it's just a phase I'll move on from, but this phase has lasted longer than usual. I almost just want to quit learning any language, it's so bad at this point.
I have seen many motivating posts, which, by the way, I will say are miraculous and I have absolute respect for every member on this site. However, I can't draw strength from those motivations, at least, not in the way I used to. My dreams are empty. I really don't know how to move on.
I sincerely apologize for rambling about this personal nonsense, and you can feel free to move on past this post. Though, these discouraging thoughts have been eating me alive and I felt I needed to release them through words... Hopefully, they weren't too convoluting.
Anyways, I wish the best of luck in everyone's learning and have a blessed day.
I think that maybe your expectations are just too high. Writing literature pieces in French (or in any other non-native language) is not a piece of cake (no pun intended).
It is probably better to go step by step. And you must enjoy every little improvement and every crucial step: the moment when you are first able to read children books, the moment when you are able to read adult books comfortably, that stage when you are able to understand natives speaking at normal speed,....., and of course, that moment when you realize that you can actually speak that language effortlessly and unconsciously (though this will usually take years).
Take it easy, enjoy the ride!
True... I never expected my goal to be simple. The issue has nothing to do about how hard it seems, it's just... I don't know how to describe how I feel. It feels like that dream is unattainable, but I suppose it has something to do with my fear of failure, which is a fear that has always tied me down, even in my educational career. I always have high self-expectations for myself and when I don't meet them, I sort of go mad... Internally. I'm a try-hard; I just want to exceed my own expectations, along with satisfying my family.
You're right, I just need to relax and be content with every advancement I make. I will try to enjoy the ride as much as possible because there's no reason in despairing if I've spent years working hard. All of that knowledge would go in vain if I just gave up. Thank you for the advice!
I first studied Spanish in 1968 as a high school freshman. Over time there has been progress but there have also been years when I put languages aside. During the past year I have made serious progress in both Spanish and Italian (at the cost of neglecting German; oh well) and hope to soon achieve my two Spanish goals: be honestly comfortable in casual conversation, and read Don Quixote in Spanish. After that, other goals. French. Classical guitar.
I don't know what is going on in your life. If the problem is depression, I hope you get help. Maybe just a bad case of the blahs, which will pass. Goals can take a while to realize and progress is not always constant or a straight line. I wish you faith and courage.
It sounds like you may understand French pretty well at this point? Writing French literature is obviously a huge goal, hard to really work with. But if one were ever to achieve it, it would require massive amounts of reading first. Reading a specific something: that's a coznizable, accomplishable goal. [this isn't to take away from the importance of productive competence, but it sounds like to a certain extent issues there may be bringing you down; when you're in a low pace, better perhaps to emphasize strengths so as to put all the progress made in clearer relief]
It is important to have realistic expectations. Duolingo tends to attract some super learners, people who absorb languages very quickly. But, for many people, learning a language can take many years of concentrated study. And, continuous use to keep it. I don't say this to discourage you.
Instead of a goal to write books and be fluent in French, what if you set a goal to fall in love with the language, without the other goal hanging over your head? Then, you could adjust your strategy accordingly.
I personally have had to remove "fluent" from my goal list. Now, I just wish to be understood in Spanish and ASL, even if haltingly. I am immensely happy to report that I have achieved this for ASL. :)
Nothing you said was discouraging. In fact, it made me reflect on my inner self... Something I fear doing, for I could find a flaw within myself that screams "failure".
Perhaps adjustment is the very thing I need. I typically don't like changing or rearranging my goals, but my inflexibility may be the cause of my problems. I'm sure the first step is to adjust my mindset, or rather, this perfectionist "do not fail" mentality that I have. Once I get myself in balance, I'll probably look at this post and wonder why I was angsty...!
And who knows, my dream may have substance like it had before. Thank you for your honest advice!
I too have had a lifetime of interfering perfectionism. It wasn't until my health declined significantly that I had to start setting more realistic goals. Otherwise, I was just experiencing failure after failure, and life was full of regret even when I was working hard. Over time though, I began to make changes in what I expected of myself and life is more satisfying. :)
Thank you for sharing that. It's crazy because I worked myself sick at 15 just to get something perfect and satisfy my family, yet... I failed to satisfy myself. It's weird; all I see is failure in what I do, but I have achieved many wonderful feats that I simply fail to recognize. Instead of me seeing how unattainable this goal is, it would be better to recognize the work that was put to just become proficient in French. Like you said, being realistic is the key. It's good to have grandiose goals, but it means nothing if I try to start at the top.
Sorry for rambling again! Many people have been so helpful and I think my hope is returning.
I think you may need some time off, a few days or weeks or so, but don't forget to return to your goal. Place a reminder where you'll see it often, for example a picture of the Eiffel tower on the fridge. Mental block/burnout is a classic for people with ambitious goals, especially with fear of failing, perfectionism and feelings of pressure. Even the most passionate, dedicated people get it. A few things that may help you get your motivation and energy back are:
- Do entirely different (relaxing) things for a while, even nothing at all, because your mind continues solving mental blocks and problems on the background.
- Meet with people who have similar goals and discuss how to achieve them, brainstorm.
- Determine your priorities and set SMART goals. In short: break a project down into small goals so it becomes palatable.
- Take care of your physical and psychological needs: exercise, sleep (7-9 hours for most) and eat (healthy) at regular times, take time to meet friends and family, take time to do nothing except think/clear your mind e.g. walking in nature. Creativity often strikes during ‘idle’ moments.
- Vary the pace. Work harder on some days and take it easy on others.
- Do not procrastinate on anything.
- Do the most difficult/annoying/bothersome/tedious things first so you free up energy to do more interesting things.
- Do what you are most anxious about first. It's tough but it definitely helps build momentum and positive feelings.
If tragic life events are affecting you, take your time to process these, don't worry about goals (yet) unless they help you find positive thoughts. If you don't like talking to trusted friends/family/counselors, try writing things down in a daily journal. How you feel, why you feel that way, what your day was like, what you've learned that day, what you did and did not enjoy, which people were nice to you, things you'd like to try, ideas you have, etc.
Remember that perfection is impossible but being fluent in a language is usually possible up until a point. Writing poetry is challenging even in your native language, so be patient with yourself and break up this goal into small goals. Trust me, you will find a way to achieve your goal(s). People are resourceful and so are you. Also, you can't really fail poetry just like you can't really fail other forms of art as it's simply a way of expressing yourself.
Perhaps the following will help you get ideas of how to break your goal down. This is how I would probably try to approach it:
- Become fluent in French. Your aim is to reach CEFR C2 level eventually, but start with C1 first. If you want to go the official route and can afford it, you can take lessons and attempt the exam. Taking lessons tends to help working through trouble spots because you have someone else’s input.
- Keep a daily and idea journal in French and practice creativity with words.
- Learn how poetry is constructed in your native language if you haven't already.
- Learn how poetry is constructed in French.
- Read plenty of books, poetry and listen to music compositions to get ideas.
- Try your hand. Quality doesn't matter, every artist starts out as a beginner.
- Aim to keep perfectionism at bay and write whenever you have ideas, you can always fine tune.
You may be able to practice multiple parts simultaneously or invent your own steps. It doesn't matter if you write in broken French right now or that your vocabulary isn't as large yet as you'd like, it'll be a great topic starter later in life. What is most important right now is that you learn in a way that suits you and that helps cultivate your love for the language.
Thank you for all of this! I'm already an advanced writer/poet, so my main focus is to read and learn more about French literature, in terms of that side of my goal.
I suppose I'm realizing my biggest issue in all of this, which is the fact that I'm focusing too much on the bigger picture, rather than breaking down the steps in order to achieve that goal. Perfectionism has haunted me throughout my life and I don't know how to get out of the habit of it. Though, everything you said has really lifted me and I haven't felt lifted in a while. It gave me the courage to just slow down and learn from my mistakes and savor each advancement I make through this journey. I always want to start high, but I need to learn how to begin low so that I can build my skills, and hopefully become victorious. Thanks again.
That's great to hear! :)
I know that perfectionism makes it both difficult to start and finish tasks because you don't want to make mistakes or create things that have flaws. Maybe you also put off making plans/organizing because they are inherently imperfect and often need tweaking. Tasks have no end because there is always something that can be done better. This side of the coin needs to be addressed as it can be very stressful, but the other side is that you are probably very careful with your possessions, have a high standard and can work accurately as a result.
An ongoing process to help you deal with perfectionism is accepting that perfection is an illusion and finding ways to get things done regardless. There is always imperfection to be found in anything that is created by humans if you look close enough. In art, something that seems perfect to you may be imperfect to someone else and vice versa. It is all about perception, feelings and senses. It is neither perfect nor imperfect because it describes how you and others/animals/objects experience the world. The assessment of skill is also very subjective, so rather than (just) try to become an expert at writing poetry try to focus on creating your own style. Proficiency and (possibly) recognition come when you mature as an artist.
Tricks to help you get things done:
-) When you feel anxious about starting a task, set a timer for 10 minutes (windows alarm, phone, egg timer, etc.) and then just do it. One technique that exploits the timer is the pomodoro technique: set timer for 20 minutes, 5 minute break, continue until you've worked for 2 hours and then take a longer break. In the beginning it may still take some time to get started, but it'll help you track much time you spend on tasks.
-) To help you finish you can try meeting with other people so that you can put your standards into perspective and also have friendly deadlines. I would personally prefer to make friends with similar goals in real life (in your case to hold poetry meetings among others), but if there are few people in your area with similar interests, online forums/chats/blogs come in at second place.
-) Set deadlines for yourself, for example give yourself a week to write a poem. Do this for a few weeks and then evaluate and tweak what you have created.
-) Whenever you catch yourself working on the tiniest details, call it a day, you're gaining very little and the balance of quality versus quantity is off. It is better to publish things with a few flaws than publishing nothing at all.
-) Try to find early works of your favorite poets so that you get a feel for the maturing process they've gone through and pull them from their pedestal back into the real world.
-) Aim to have a regular rhythm, this leaves less opportunity for procrastination and your mind will eventually start to associate certain areas and times with the specific tasks you tend to do there and then. This is getting in your groove.
It's good to have a big and attractive goal to motivate your learning, but if it's too distant, you need to add some intermediate goals that will gradually guide you there.
My goal (in another language) is to be able to read novels. But how happy I was when I first deciphered a five-sentence article in simplified language! Or, some time later, when I understood a similar article without using a dictionary! Then I was able to read a children's story and now I have managed, with heavy use of a dictionary, to read a novel-sized text. Although it wasn't the kind of literature I want to read just yet, I'm slowly getting there.
Your goal is even higher, but you can use similar guiding stones. Read something short and easy. Read something more difficult. Read something without a dictionary. Read a poem. Write a journal entry (you could use http://lang-8.com/ for that, with additional advantages). Start with two or three sentences. Write down something that happened to you. Turn it into a story. Make a list of achievements and cross them out as you reach them. It's good to always have something just out of your reach.
And before all that, look back and realize how much you've already learned since you've started. Maybe you can cross out some of those achivements already? Yes, the time you spent learning wasn't wasted. It makes sense to continue, even if that big shiny goal is going to wait a while yet.
There is a quote from an old programming instructor I had back in college:
"In order to truly master programming you have to delight in something as stupid as making a character move across the screen."
To me it seems that logic really extends to any skill/hobby. You need to identify that base element, that smallest unit of progression, and learn to want it more than anything. I think being able to identify that helps you from feeling that "stagnation" that so many people experience - those learning "plateaus". It's terribly crucial to be able to remind yourself that, even when you don't feel it, as long as you're studying you are making progress.