The Mental Wall
Is it just me, or has anyone else hit this mental wall when learning a new language? I was doing well and then "BAM", my brain seems to not be able to pick up new words or understand the correlation of them in a sample sentence. I'm just redoing previous lessons in the meantime, however I can't do this forever. Any advice? Anyone else face this situation?
It usually means that you are going too fast or you are not really learning things - your brain does not have enough time to internalize all the information so it can start treating it as "old" and allow new facts you are trying to learn to use this stored knowledge. So it sees a new sentence and cannot draw the facts you know back to help you figure out what it is saying.
Slow down and make sure you learn the basics before proceeding.
More practice here may solve the issue but you may need a different way to help your brain as well - flashcards (electronic via SRS like Tine Cards, Memrise, Anki and so on or paper ones), just an old fashioned vocabulary notebook (and a grammar one maybe) or just pure drilling - if you have troubles with the verb forms, write down on paper the conjugation of each verb you know; then do it again; if the genders are bugging you, write down the genders of each noun you want from memory and so on.
Try a few different ways and see what sticks. :) And good luck.
You won't need to do that forever. I have found that these difficult phases usually come just before a jump in understanding. I think the brain is in a transitional phase and emerges with greater understanding due to greater familiarity. Definitely not a reason to worry. Time is a necessary factor in laying down a foundation for understanding. Some people can power through using only short term memory but that is rather pointless as it is long term that counts.
I go down the tree in waves, do a section to one level then go back and raise the level on the previous sections by one before continuing. It is slower but more effective. I also find switching languages to be more effective than doing too much of one. It is actually easier to remember words when you have lots of cognates to help recognise them. The language 's own flavour allows you to choose the right word in the right context.
YES! I think this is the closes thing to what I am experiencing! I usually take my time with each "branch" (I call them bubbles, cause they ARE in the shape of bubbles). I usually do a lesson a day, then two practices. My mother and myself are both learning, so we practice our meager French (coupled with Spanish words as fillers when we can't remember or don't have the French vocab) on each other in our daily lives. I go up to level 3 in a bubble, then start the next bubble down while revisiting that last bubble that I did.
It's funny, perception is in the eye of the beholder. I felt really good each and every time I finished a lesson. However this time around I didn't feel the "flow" like I usually do. The lesson wasn't necessarily harder, it just didn't stick like the other did. I'm using practices, along with my daily dose of re-lessons, to slowly introduce the new words to me and not feel overwhelmed.
Thank you so much, bookrabbit! I think your comment has come the closes to describing what my mind is going through!
@bookrabbit: Thank you, well said. The chemist Ilya Prigogine talked about dissipative structures...in plain English, we experience chaos often before morphing to a higher frequency.
All the time. What works for me is slowing down and relaxing (but never, ever, ever stopping). After a few days doing the bare minimum to keep my streak going, the motivation finds me again.
Yes. That is when I switch gears. That's when I repeat words or stories I already know. If my brain hurts I lie down with an icepack instead of taking a pill. I go for a walk/yoga. Or I nap. Or relax and watch a French movie or listen to French music. Taking time off, silence, deep breathing, healthy snacks then I get back on the French train. Ebb and flow is natural in learning language. I find listening to Français Authentique on Youtube and his videos about how to stay motivated very helpful. Learning a language is hard work.
Hello everyone! I just wanted to come back and update everyone who commented that after almost a month of doing Duolingo (I'm not going to lie, I did miss some days for lack of enthusiasm) I HAVE FINALLY PROGRESSED!! (WHY DUOLINGO DID YOU DELETE THIS PART OF MY MESSAGE?!?->) Thank you to everyone for your kind and encouraging words! In the end it was like Klgregonis said. I have been already reviewing starter lessons. However, when I attempted the lesson that was giving me trouble, "POP!" it was like a hole had been knocked through the mental wall and I just walked right through. I do believe I will be revisiting all of the previous lessons, thus maxing out ALL of the bubbles. I now know the self taught lesson of "resting/taking a break" as oppose to "stopping". As JPRusputin said: Never, ever, ever stop.
I go through that from time to time. There'll be a week here and there where I feel like I'm not progressing or actually even going backwards, forgetting words and making mistakes I thought I had overcome.
I think it mostly goes with my mental state, how tired I am, if I have other things going on in my life that prevent me from focusing on my studies etc...
My advice would be:
stick to it, even if you feel like you're not progressing you can be certain that it's not true. It's a dry spell, it'll pass.
try to change your routine for a while, if you mainly use duolingo try for instance reading some French article online, trying to remember the important words you learn in the way. Listen to some French radio and see if you can pick up some words. Watch some French movies or TV with English or French subtitles and see what you pick up, etc...
Learning a language is about memorizing a million little things, always take it one step at a time and don't look too far ahead or you'll get frustrated.
Yes, i think everyone experiences this. Totally agree with AnnieMod. When i feel as you described, i step back from the language for a day or so, then it seems to 'internalize' in my mind and all falls into place so i can proceed and build upon what i already learned. But, make sure you are not going to fast, as well.
Thanks Kandace. I have done that, even though it has cost me a hundred plus day streak...
If you care about the streak, next time just don't step back completely. I think you could safely do one lesson of a Basics 1 revision without taxing your brain too much.
On the phone there is a blue barbell on the right-hand side at the bottom. It is for review, I believe you still get XP.
It is for review, I believe you still get XP.
Yep, you do get XP. On the web version it is on the main page, inside of the "Daily goal" panel. Or you can do a practice on Basics 1 or another easy lesson. :)
When I experience this I stop learning new stuff for a while (a week or so), and spend the time I used to spend on new information going over previous skills. Usually when I start back up again I find the new information MUCH easier to assimilate. And, of course, there are always those times when it just isn't a good day, so I curtail the amount of time I spend on those days to just enough to keep my streak alive.
I HATE bad learning days. My brain says: You gotta do this! My heart says: Make me! :P (Or vise-versa) UGH! All in all, it's a fight against myself. At least, that's how it feels for me sometimes.
I suggest you begin to let go of the idea that it is a fight! It doesn't have to be a fight, it is an exploration, a game, full of sounds, patterns, meaning and stories.
Ever since I began to think of learning language as a fun, intriguing activity that I am doing for my own enjoyment, it has become SO much easier!
Now I learn languages guided by my curiosity and happiness about what I am doing.
I am happy to stumble across your post, as I am having a bad language day :)
Stop learning new things and let your mind process what you've already learnt. Practice the easiest things, if you want to keep your streak, but let your mind wonder and read/listen/write something else, something that catches your interest.
Also, lately I found these discussion boards a great distraction, especially the sentence discussions. Great revelations and tips about grammar can come while reading them.