Am I just doing this all wrong?

This. I would say that one of the most useful tools for any sort of skill acquisition, not only languages, is that you really have to have an understanding of yourself and how your brain functions. What motivates you? When are you most efficient? What works for you and what not?
Another important part is that you need the confidence that you will reach your goal, even though you may not be able to tell how long it will take.

Both things combined can only be achieved by investing a lot of time in learning (anything, not necessarely languages as stated before), and that you have wasted a whole lot of time in doing it wrong to learn how to do it right.

I wouldn’t compare myself too much with anyone else. Try to learn from the others, but don’t expect that what works for them works for you or that you will be as good or fast as they are. First of all, you never know whether it is true and what exact circumstances they learn under compared to you, and secondly and even more important, it doesn’t matter. You learn for yourself, not anyone else, so stop comparing.

More on topic: What I found useful is to revisit content I’ve dealt with a few months ago. Usually it is much easier to understand then back in the time, giving me a feeling of progress.


It’s not the precise 180 days, it’s the fact that your evaluations need to be on a scale that is longer than most people think. You said you did “a few months” following a method. “A few months” might be enough. If you are thinking in terms of months, at least you are working at the right order of magnitude.


LingQ makes the incomprehensible comprehensible. You have a wall of blue words, but all you have to do is go into sentence mode, click the translate sentence, and it’s comprehensible. So actually one can start right off with native level input…in fact there are many who do just that using LingQ for a new language. (usually people who are very familiar with LingQ or similar tools). I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for beginner LingQ’ers, but it’s totally possible. This is also probably not the best approach if you want to speak earlier–without extra work on common phrases, more beginner input, etc. However, you could do both.

On other languages I’ve started, I’ve done exactly this. No way am I going to spend my entire study time on mini-stories or “who is she”. They are certainly helpful, but very boring.

Obviously there are easier material in many languagues and where that is available these can be interesting and closer to your level. However, there can still be bigger jumps than you might want and that’s where LingQ definitely helps.


That’s reassuring to know, as I wasted a lot of time with German figuring out what works. Oddly enough the method I now use is similar to how I learnt French in evening classes, and less like the freeform approach CI adherents advocate. I am an advanced beginner.

With French I already had a base from school and evening classes three decades ago, so progress has been much faster and I can now consume native level content.

A lot of the YouTube content is toxic. And often the good non toxic content is designed to sell a product.

I recently rewatched a film from several months ago and I understand most of it, whereas before I had to read the transcript. It gives a good feeling.

One additional comment is worth making. A good pair of headphone or hifi speakers can make a huge difference. I listened to a French YouTube video today using the iPad speakers and understood nothing. I switched to the very good £1,000 hifi speakers, and I understood > 90%.

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YouTube is full of good content for beginners in many languages. It is easily imported and hey presto, LingQ is suitable for beginners. Does LingQ add value? I think so.

I disliked the LingQ content for German beginners, it was far too advanced for me, but that is a subjective evaluation on my part.

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Well, I am no big fan of this either … or … thinking, to be honest, acting as if comprehensible input would be the golden lamb and/or a completely new approach to language learning. It is one aspect of learning a language, especially if you already have some fundament to build on. I think though that on one side such a fundament can be really helpful if not crucial and on the other side everyone is going to switch to comprehensible input sooner or later. I mean, you learn a language for using it and once you do so, it is probably comprehensible. For me even chatting in this forum is sort of, or watching a documentary in English, even though I do none of this for learning purposes.

German is a very grammar heavy language, I guess, especially compared with English. From a perspective as a german, English is a bit like simplified German. (Except the pronounciation. Be honest, you are using dices, aren’t you :crazy_face: ) So I would guess investing some time in getting a basic overview over the grammar is definetely worth it, even though I wouldn’t advocate for trying to memorize it.

I’ve got side-attracted a bit with Japanese and noticed that due to my Korean studies I actually didn’t had a lot of “starting difficulties”, so to speak. It helps a lot having already learned a different alphabet, spending some time with Hanja beforehand so I know the basic logic and the grammar is similar, too. Especially word order seem to cause a lot of people headaches.

So yeah, having some sort of fundament, whereever it comes from, definetely helps a lot.

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I haven’t done it myself, but for Russian, I found moving to native content reasonably early on had a decent benefit. It was probably after ~150 hours of beginner and intermediate material. In Italian, it was more than double that before I fully migrated to native content and away from teacher content. One of the benefits is that they speak faster (like 50% to 100% faster), which means you cover more material and encounter the words in more contexts, but you also start to getting used to real accents at real speeds. On top of being significantly more interesting than teacher content. If I decide to learn a new language after Russian, I think I might consider moving onto native content even faster. If I were learning a sister language to a language I already know, like Spanish or Croatian, I think I’d just skip straight to native content.


This is a good example of smart iteration, and also the way learning compounds. I also would go to native content earlier (I stayed with pedagogical content for a similar period of time in Italian, ~250 hours) in the next language, and would be much bolder going to native in a language related to a language I know well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I wasted time with Italian.

As I progress, the base of linguistic ability that I’m working from is not the same, the hard skills and processes (how to break down and assimilate new listening material) as well as the soft skills (general confidence in learning a language, social confidence in speaking a foreign language) are at a higher level than before.

There’s also the individual arc that each of us are on. I tend to be more on the systematic side, am good at following through and following processes, etc. so as I become an efficient learner I learn how to trim off any excess adherence to process that does not help my progress. Someone who tends to be on the less systematic side might learn how to mitigate their inclination to ignore both linguistic and pedagogical structure that could make their learning more efficient.

This is also related to the interminable pro-or-anti-grammar threads. I’ve built a base of meta-linguistic knowledge that helps to increase comprehensibility quickly at early stages if I pay attention to grammar. I also have a suite of hard/soft skills that helps me translate what other people consider useless memorization into comprehensibility at earlier stages. My opinions are not based in ideology, but experience.

Learning is path dependent in this way. Theory gives you a map of the ability you are acquiring, but you have to get walking.