Beginer Hitting a wall. How to overcome?

I’ve attempted to learn italian for a few years now. Started with duolingo and moved to linq this past spring 2018. Initially, i made noticeable progress with linq (albeit still at a beginner 1-2 level). I now find myself stuck. The easy b1 lessons dont excite and most of the b2 lessons overwhelm me with unknown vocabulary. I find that repeated listening is incredibly difficult to do without getting totally bored. I understand the importance of lots of listening. But… Im just wondering if anyone has a strategy that theyve used to get past what, i asume, is a typical beginner’s roadblock. (Please excuse the topic typo! Sheesh!)

Keep at it, and eventually you’ll overcome the plateau.
Or, what I do, is take a few weeks off and work on another language just to get your mind off Italian for a while. I do this periodically with Mandarin when I get bored with Spanish.


Sounds a bit like burnout. It’s happened to me many times. I’m quite feeble minded so I’d usually end up quitting for a period. Something I’ve learned to do (or not to do, in this case) is stop studying for a while, enjoy watching fun videos in the language, and don’t do too much of it. Listen to some easy stuff for a while without making a deliberate effort to improve. It’s good to step away from the intensive studying every now and then to allow your brain to rest. When one ‘hits the wall’ in physical situations, like running a marathon, or perhaps weight training, it’s usually best to step off the gas, I don’t think language learning is much different, the brain is a muscle after all.

I’ve also tried to curb expectations, improvements happen when they happen, you can’t force it. When I relaxed a bit and took pressure and expectation out of the equation I was less prone to frustration and I haven’t quit since, albeit I’ve had periods of less study.

Just to add, many people get to this situation and quit, it’s probably the point where most people give up, so it’s quite normal to feel this way. You might find reading a novel, or perhaps a series of books is a good way to close the vocabulary gap without getting so bored. Detective novels are good for keeping you engaged and interested, but whatever floats your boat. Some of the lessons on here are a little boring, but you can import your own material. Though finding the audio might be an issue.

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Strategies …

When I was at a beginner level in Dutch, and would reach what I felt was a plateau, I would continue reading more. My method at that time was to divide vocabulary into what I feel are the three most important parts of speech: nouns, verbs and adjectives/adverbs (the other parts of speech I wouldn’t say are unimportant, but I would naturally acquire them while learning nouns (n), verbs (v) and adjectives/adverbs (a).)

In breaking down vocabulary into n-v-a, I didn’t just make word lists but would include entire sentences (or at least phrases) which put the vocabulary into a given context. I would go to Google or Twitter for material outside of what I was reading, using relevant searches. Blogs can be a gold mine.
For example:

zeker - 6) < minstens > - at least

(Google search term “woont nu al zeker” led to the following blog entry)

We moeten haar maar een naam gaan geven want zij woont nu al zeker 4 maanden in onze sinaasappelboom. (spin)

I guess we’re going to have to give her a name since she’s been living in our orange tree for at least 4 months now. (spider)

(From this one search, I found hours of reading material from a Dutch blogger who has been actively blogging for over 4 years.)


Just as importantly, I would record a few minutes of audio on my computer of whatever interested me (parts of tv shows, movies, interviews, documentaries, newscasts, etc.) and convert the audio files to mp3. That way I could listen to the content whenever I chose for however long I chose, whether I was online or not, and slow the audio down to a speed where I felt I could understand most of what was being said, even if I didn’t understand all of the vocabulary. I did a lot of listening and transcribing, mistakes and all, and would ask a native speaker to review and correct whatever it was I was transcribing. Then I would alternate listening at full speed with listening at a reduced speed (usually at 70 or 80 percent) until I felt I was familiar with the material.


The third strategy I took was to join a chat site and start chatting and asking native speakers not to correct every little mistake, but any glaring mistakes I was making with grammar, word order or complete misuse of vocabulary. Even though it’s not talking, chatting is a great way to test out what you are learning through writing as if you are talking. Eventually you will get a feel for the grammar and proper word order necessary for talking and writing. Avoid: Hello, how are you? and talking about language learning. Find a topic that (mutually) interests you — anything but language learning — and talk about that. If you misspell a word or realize you used bad grammar or word order, don’t go wasting time correcting errors during the chat, unless it is clear you have been misunderstood. I can share with you all kinds of pitfalls in the world of language chat.


The main thing is to do lots of reading and listening and chatting in order to build your vocabulary and your feel for grammar and word order.

Eventually, when you feel you are ready, you will want to book conversation times with a native speaker who is eager to teach you everyday speech. It’s important to learn “street talk” in whatever language you are learning.

Don’t get discouraged, get creative. If you’re truly interested in learning, you need to put in as much time as you possibly can. If you’re saying you’re bored, you probably need to start being more creative with your strategies. A musician is someone who plays music every day. The same can be said about any endeavor, including language learning. That’s how people get good at whatever it is they’re doing. They keep doing it. How many times did that skateboarder fall down and hurt themselves before being able to pull off that skateboarding trick?

Let me honestly know if any of this lit a spark and maybe we can bounce some other ideas. Surely there are plenty of online resources for learning Italian. It’s just a matter of finding them — and finding what inspires and interests you. Which is all that matters.

There are plenty of resources to be found.

Chat: There are several native Italians who go by the names Alberto Fanciullacci, Ariel Consuegra, Francesco R. and Laura Messina, plus several others who are learning Italian, who are currently active in the Italian room on HelloLingo. I would start there:

Italian TV channel I found online:

Random blog: I did a Google search for the phrase “perché ha vissuto in” and found the following blog which dates back to 2010:


I’ve recently been in a similar situation like you when it comes to mandarin, the basic material with conversations is a little too easy, and sometimes not very engaging. What I did was convert a bunch of translated subtitles for various tv shows and movies intended for native speakers into text files with only the dialogue so that I was basically reading the script for the show in my target language. I feel that this is helping me when it comes to daily language, and helps me fill some colloquial gaps that I have in my vocabulary., which encourages me since I understand more of the daily language I hear on TV shows and in everyday conversations more than before. And when the progress is noticable I fele more motivated and will spend even more time on the language, which in turn yields greater results.

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Thanks for the input everyone!

You’ve gotten some great suggestions to which I will add a bit. Motivation is generally driven by success. The more you succeed, the more you will continue. At the beginning, everything is new so learning anything is rewarding. However, after that, the reality is that one has to learn LOTS (thousands) of basic words and expressions in order to become conversational even at a child’s level (and of course we don’t want to speak like a five year old but instead want to speak like our adult selves). The upward climb can be daunting but nevertheless helped by constantly dipping into authentic materials in short amounts.

For example, watch cartoons, films, TV clips (e.g., Italian XFactor) on Youtube with subtitles in your target language. Try to understand some of the Italian comments – you will pick up conversational vocabulary. If you can only understand/translate a few lines, so be it. Read the rest in English (if available) to get the gist of the action and then go back to the Italian in small doses. Reduce speed in “settings” to .75 if necessary. Read (and translate) the headlines of newspaper articles about topics with which you are already familiar, trying to understand the first sentence or two (which are generally the most important). Do the same regarding a few lines from a website about somewhere or something in Italy that interests you. Choose something with photographs (which is more interesting and helps to fix the associations/meanings of new vocabulary). Italian, like the other Romance languages, has a lot of English cognates so you will undoubtedly pick up something. Every new word/expression is progress. It is not necessary to watch/read an entire film, article or website. Do as much as you want/are interested in at the moment. For example, look at hotel and tourist destination websites. Type in searches using Italian words for Italian language links.

All words and phrases are not equal. Prioritize those words and phrases that you yourself want to use and are common/necessary to talk about things that are meaningful to you.
I found that focusing on learning verbal phrases was most efficient. This involves learning a common verb in a short phrase with a noun or noun/adjective combination that typically follows. Start with the “I” conjugation so you can use the expression to talk about what you yourself do: e.g., I love to eat (fill in what is true for you), I hate (…) Verbs in the third person form that often appear in newspaper articles include, “authorities declared…” “according to (un)named sources…” “The media reported…”

Write in a journal every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single line (Today is…) that practices the day and date or a paragraph (I got up late, the coffee maker wasn’t working.) Talk about anything you want. Try to use some new vocabulary that you’ve learned elsewhere. Use words and expressions that you naturally would (look them up in Google) in a given context (e.g., I am still working on… by the way, I will continue to…). Using filler expressions [still, by the way, in any case] that you yourself use in English will make your own conversations more natural and true to you. Plus, they are used in dialogue and you will hear them in films.

Remember, the goal is to continually interact with the language so I encourage you to do a variety of things that are enjoyable and interesting to YOU (watching Italian X Factor, or whatever). Everything is helpful. Have fun.


Great insight, Tracy.

This is an excellent suggestion. Really top-notch!

Tracy said it all: " the reality is that one has to learn LOTS (thousands) of basic words and expressions in order to become conversational even at a child’s level ." It is a problem of expectations. In my case, I wanted to talk to my in-laws. B1 was enough. Now I want to listen to the news and read books. It would require learning aurally and visually THOUSAND of new words. I discovered that the vocabulary used to talk to relatives and shopping is very different. I needed to become again a beginner! Therefore, I would like to ask you about your expectations.

Dealing with burn out is very simple. Just slow down for a couple days but not too much.Taking time off I found it detrimental. Slowing down is enough. No kidding. Learning a language is not done in 4 weeks. We are talking of a lifetime journey. No need to rush…

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Just to add to this, you may be hitting a “content wall” and not necessarily a “language wall.” Relying on “hunted content” at the beginning level can be very challenging.

My suggestion would be to consider adding a published language course such as Assimil to your curriculum. Those courses are structured to build your knowledge step by step, so hitting walls with them is less likely.

Working with beginner content that’s available on LingQ is fine, but the lessons here are not structured the same way as a self study course, so progression and designations such as B1-B2 are less regulated. I think “B1” here is really just about the amount of unique words in a lesson, and not necessarily about the grammatical complexity of the text.

Combining LingQ with Assimil would allow you be in the best of both words to work though any walls you might hit.

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Interesting insight! Thanks!

linq is great for reading, I think. For listening, I prefer the following.: I create Anki cards with 5 min segments. I read in English while I listen in Polish -using E books. I have been doing it for a while and I am beginning to understand the damn news! I feel that within 6 month I would take care of this issue. It means B2 level listening. Of course, I learned English -my mother tongue is Spanish- and I have no idea how I became almost native in the language. Maybe it is because I live in USA.

Important: if it is boring, do not do it. Do something interesting, otherwise, the unconscious will shut down! And it is the unconscious that need to learn the language. It MUST become automatic. Now that I know so many Polish words, I am really beginning to enjoy reading in Polish. I am happy but it took a lot work.

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Why not just go for topics you find interesting and forget about how hard it is. Just muscle on thru. No pain, no ggain. Its like going to the gym. I’d much rather work my way thru an interesting lesson than be bored to death with hearing about Lucy going to the store and buying bananas. If not afraid of a challenge and keep on going eventually the language will get easiet and easier until one day your with some native speakers and an english speaker and your honestly wondering why the english speaker didn’t understand the joke that wadwas just said! Good luck, its worth