Feeling demotivated

Hey Everyone,

I have been feeling really flat this week and just struggling to get a sense of drive. Feeling like I have hit that plateau that kinda happens at the intermediate mark where you stop seeing large increases in understanding and just struggling to keep on at the moment.

Can anyone give advice on getting back track?
I would also love to hear from you if you have used LingQ as your predominant resource for language learning and have successfully made it to conversational fluency, so let me know if you have achieved this?

Cheers,

T

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Take a break and know that you’re making progress as long as you put in the time and work. When I feel that I hit a plateau and feeling demotivated, it’s mostly due to not knowing enough words and trying to listen to content way above my level. As long as you hit a daily requirement for learning words and listen to content of interest, it only gets better. For conversational fluency, I’m still not in the language long enough to achieve “fluency” but others can understand me when I speak with some errors. It’s mostly a listening problem that makes me not conversationally “fluent”. In short, don’t overthink it. Do things that you enjoy and take a break once in a way.

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I’m more and more of the opinion that if you’re feeling like you’d rather be doing something else, then just do something else. You’ll probably get some motivation back at some stage. Unless it’s for a qualification, or needed for you work, then there’s really no reason to force yourself to do something you’re not currently enjoying. No need to put yourself through that.

The language will always be there, ready to take you back whenever you want. And if you’ve studied correctly (through input), then it’ll be a long time before you forget everything. I’ve taken almost a year away from Spanish a few times during the last decade, and each time it’s all pretty much still been there because of the work I’ve put in. You can forget a bunch of facts you’ve crammed very quickly, but it’s not so easy to forget something that became a part of you.

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Thanks for this, I am learning because I need to communicate with Family, and my wife and I would like our (future) children to grow up around both languages. So its a matter of necessity at the moment, but it is nice to hear about your experience after taking a considerable amount of time off! I have taken a similar amount of time off in the past and I was quite surprised how quickly I returned to that same level!

I think this came out as I started to try and do more grammar but with my schedule, I just dont have the motivation, time, or energy, to cram in grammar rules and I think I am going to accept that its okay for me to just focus on absorbing the language so that I can understand more. It is improving my speaking as well, it’s just that speaking is coming to me considerably slower that what I thought it would be. I guess that is a matter of managing my own expectations. Language learning is a really long process but if we stick with it, and try and enjoy the process, eventually, it will all come together.

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Thanks chytran, I am going to be a bit kinder to myself over the next few weeks and not do as much language because I think I am in need of a bit of break. I think its very easy to get focused on the short term and study x amount of learn x amount every day rather than doing something that I can do for the whole of 2022. I really need to learn to play the long game!

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My advice…

Just enjoy the process. By that, I mean, don’t be in a hurry (unless you REALLY need to be…like you need it for a job or will be living in a country that you can’t get by with your native language). You do say you need it to communicate with your family? Sorry to be nosey, but in what way? Do you already know the language a bit from growing up? Is this Grandparents? Aunts/Uncles? How often are you communicating with these people and is it really as urgent if you haven’t been communicating with them before? Hopefully I’m not sounding rude as it’s not my intent…just trying to understand. I’m in maybe a similar situation except it’s with my gf’s family. She is German, but grew up in the U.S. since about age 10. Her parents know English and have been here for a long time. The rest of her family is back in Germany and mostly just speak German. That’s why I’m learning. It’s not really necessary for me, but I think it would be nice to at least understand everyone. And she does like to communicate with her parents in German too, so I do want to be able to understand them when they slip into this. (they are really good about letting me know in English what’s going on too so no biggie). After the first 2 or 3 visits where I still didn’t understand much of what they were saying I realized I just need a lot more time with the language…and that’s ok. I’m just having fun and I know I’m improving.

I came to realize that learning a language is not a quick or easy thing. It takes a lot of hours. Once I came to terms with that, I just do what I can. A little each day.

What are you doing for your language learning? I notice you don’t have a lot of words read on LingQ. Are you doing mostly SRS or are you reading mostly outside of Lingq? Or did you know a lot of words already before you came to LingQ? Perhaps if you are doing mostly SRS, then change it up and focus on just reading and listening. Particularly to things you find interesting.

Take a break from time to time as people have suggested. Sometimes life just has to take precedent for awhile and you need to put the language aside for a day or two…or a week or two! Do what you can. If you can, try to do something with the language every day, but maybe it’s only a few minutes. Or none at all. No pressure.

Good luck!

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This is a skill you’re developing which you keep for life.
I haven’t done lingQ by itself, I use it more as an adjunct but what I can say is this: I went from zero to mid intermediate in French in six months with lingQ as part of that.
I have now done Russian from a standing start. I can understand a good 50% of spoken conversations and podcasts (like this: Помоги себе сам: как пережить конфликт в Украине и не поругаться с близкими | Советы психологов - YouTube )
and others I can understand 100% (Rent an Apartment In Moscow | Learn Russian Language Vlog #12 - YouTube).
I credit the lingQ mini-stories with developing my latent passive understanding of the underlying grammar. I also credit lingQ stories with keeping me going when I was bored just memorizing words.

Also: my reckoning is lingQ will be second to none if you want to go to advanced. As in there is literally nothing else even close.

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This. Just do a little every day even if it’s just watching a youtube video for five minutes. I

I agree so much with what ericb100 says. One thing I’ve learned from trying to pick up a new language is just how much you have to embrace the frustrations of – let’s face it – always falling short of speaking and fully comprehending the language like a native. Instead, I’ve committed myself to enjoying the process of learning, without putting too much pressure on myself to advance. For example, I’ve really jumped into reading literature, something I enjoy in my native language. This way I’m doing an activity I would otherwise enjoy. Learning a language then becomes something secondary and natural. It is happening imperceptibly and inexorably. All I do is to try do is to encounter my new language regularly. That’s all. No pressure, no judgement, no burnout.

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Agreed. It’s demotivating to expect to be able to do everything like a native. In reality the best you’re going to get is being able to function like an educated 12 year old without years and years and years of effort.

That said, think of all the things a 12 year old is already capable of doing, so it’s not that bad.

My main goal isn’t even that high. I want to be able to understand netflix shows. That’s it.

If I can speak, that’s great but it’s not really the main goal.

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@hellion
“I’m more and more of the opinion that if you’re feeling like you’d rather be doing something else, then just do something else. You’ll probably get some motivation back at some stage.”
Unfortunately, this mindset (i.e., “I only do it when I feel like it”, I rely on “motivation”, etc.) results in most learners never reaching an advanced level in skill acquisition processes (math, programming, languages, sports, etc.). Having taught over 10k hours (languages, math, and a bit of programming), I’m pretty sure of that.

What you actually do with this attitude is you undermine your frustration tolerance in the long run. That is: As soon as something frustrating comes up in the process of skill acquisition (feelings of discomfort, boredom, etc.), learners tend to run away (they take more or less long breaks, give up completely, pay others do the work for them, etc.).

In short, successful learners should never rely on “feeling like it”, “motivation”, “fun”, “comfort”, etc. - and I mean: N-E-V-E-R :slight_smile:
Instead, it´s much better to rely on habits (see B.J. Fogg, “Tiny Habits” / J. Clear, “Atomic Habits”).
And if you feed the “habit demon” every day, it becomes like a positive addiction.

A simple example:
I usually exercise every day (6-7 days a week), which is 30-90 min of calisthenics and/or jogging. In the last four weeks, I’ve had a severe back injury that left me in constant pain - even at night.
But since I’ve been exercising for decades, I know what to do and which simple movements I can do in such cases.

Today was my first day of running, and I really (!) didn’t feel like it: my endurance is zero again, it was early (5:45 am), it was -3 degrees Celsius outside and I’m still in slight pain.
The running experience wasn´t fun at all, because I could barely jog 200 m (at a very slow pace) without stopping: so I jogged a bit, walked a bit, etc. for about 10-15 minutes.

Fun factor before and during this session? Nonexistent.
But when I came back home again 45 min later, I felt great and ready to start my next (light) calisthenics workout.

Since I’ve been working out and running for decades, I know this routine, and it has always worked: Do a few (easy) exercises/ movements, even if you don’t feel like it, and slowly increase the intensity - daily!

Mutatis mutandis, it’s the same thing with other skill acquisition processes like math, programming, SLA, etc.: you feed your daily habits, put up with feelings of discomfort - and just do it.
Once a habit is firmly established, it’s an automatic process where you no longer depend on fluctuating emotions/motivation.

The students of mine who accepted this were (highly) successful. The students who relied on “motivation / feeling like it” often simply failed.

The main advantage of content-flexible audio readers à la LingQ is that they give us content control, so we’re able to read/listen to the things we´re interested in.
If learners do that then by the time they have read about 2.5 million words and listened to about 4-500 hours in their L2, they usually reach a B2-C1 or C1 level in reading / listening comprehension.

Language learners who follow an “ultrareading while listening” approach can achieve this in a year (with 2 Pomodoro blocks à 25 min = ca. 8-10k words read / listened to a day).
Learners who combine this approach with shorter speaking/writing exercises (e.g., 10-15 min a day) can improve their output ability even further.

This works with all Indo-European languages and takes about a year for Indo-European native speakers (2 x Pomodoro blocks of 25 min + 10-15 min speaking/writing = about 60-65 min a day for 365 days). For Indo-Europeans who want to learn a non-Indo-European language, it´s a bit longer (and harder).

By the way, with this “ultra-reading while listening” approach, there is virtually no intermediate plateau because you just keep digesting what interests you. Learners can do this until they reach a native level of listening and reading comprehension (= more than 5-10 million words read).

“I have taken a similar amount of time off in the past and I was quite surprised how quickly I returned to that same level!” (tjbandel)
I don’t know what exactly you’re doing in your language learning routine, but if you rely on

  • established habits
  • interesting content
  • something similar to the “ultrareading” approach mentioned above
  • content-flexible AudioReaders (LingQ, ReadLang, etc.),
    you can keep going and going almost endlessly - without needing to take some time off. It’s the automatism of this positive addiction that just keeps you going.

In other words: If you need a change, it’s smarter to change the content you digest. For example, instead of reading on LingQ, just watch more (short) videos in Polish that interest you.

Taking a longer break (many months or even years) from language learning doesn´t make sense in my learning and teaching experience.

PS -
@tjbandel
Looking at your stats, I’d say you don’t read or listen enough, esp. at a low intermediate level: in ca. 616 days, you´ve read only about 858 words a day!
In comparison, I´m at a B1-B2 level in Brazilian Portuguese right now and try to read and listen to 8-10k words a day. After a few months that makes a huge difference in reading and listening comprehension!

Instead, you seem to spend a lot of time with LingQ´s SRS, don’t you? If that´s the case, then your experience of an intermediate plateau is probably the result of the wrong focus in language learning (learning grammar rules / SRSing).

As I wrote above, there´s no real intermediate plateau with an ultrareading(-while-listening) approach based on content-flexible audio readers… but, of course, there are still our expectations at play here :slight_smile:

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The best tip I think is really to do what you want to do. As long as you get the most exposure to the language.

In the beginning of using Lingq for french, I was at around 12k known words and struggling. Then I just started reading French Fantasy books (what I really wanted to do) and since then I’ve read more than 2 million words in French and my progress has skyrocketed.

I’m getting a bit of a burn out from French fantasy at the moment, and felt I needed to listen more to practice my listening skill. As such, I was going through netflix movies really slowly end of last year, because I don’t really like a lot of native French content and progress was slow.

In the end I decided to spend the majority of my time on dubbed netflix content which, while maybe less effective at this point in my studies, leads me to far more time spent with the language. I still try to spend just a little time with native content every day or every two days.

I recently surpassed 100 hours of listening/netflix in this way and again, my improvement is very noticeable to me. If I had stuck with only native French content I would have only had half this amount of time spent (or less) and I would be less happy doing it.

My advice is, do what you want. The biggest obstacle is to keep going; so do whatever keeps you going.

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Hey, azarya!

“My advice is, do what you want. The biggest obstacle is to keep going; so do whatever keeps you going.”
Yes, if you think within the old coordinate system of “(not) feeling like, fluctuating motivation, discipline, will, etc.”

No, if you adopt a habit-based style of skill acquisition: Once habits are established after about 2 months, there should be a positive “pull” (addiction) in all areas of skill acquisition beyond language learning. Then “keep going” is automatic - esp. when the habit of “getting comfortable with the uncomfortable” is also cultivated!
See the books by B.J. Fogg / James Clear mentioned below.

In general, learners - at least those who want to be successful! - shouldn´t simply do what they want (reg. exposure to an L2), but choose

  • the right tools
  • the right (compelling / interesting) material for their language level
  • both effective and (time-)efficient learning strategies

Examples why language learners should choose wisely:

  • Tools
    I know several people who have been making the Duolingo owl happy every day for more than two (!) years. And when I ask them a simple question in Spanish or French like:
  • “Do you want to eat an apple?”
  • “Do you want to have a glass of water?”
    etc.,they are more or less helpless. That is: They barely understand the sentences and don´t know what to do or say next.
  • Material
    Reading texts is more word-dense than watching movies or TV series. So if reading is to function as a “natural SRS”, it´s better to use texts.

However, not all texts are created equal:

  • Factual texts are easier to digest at an A2-B2 level than fiction.
  • Contemporary fiction (let´s say > 1970) should be preferred to older texts, esp. from the 19th, 18th, etc. century.
  • Popular fiction (Grangé, etc.) is easier to digest than “high” fiction à la “Nouveau roman”, etc.
  • Contemporary popular fiction with lots of everyday dialogs (e.g., crime novels, thrillers, etc.) are more useful than fantasy, etc. - at least if the L2 is to be used in everyday contexts.
  • Learning strategies
    Also, not all learning strategies are created equal. For example:
  • Reading while listening is more time-efficient and more effective (esp. regarding “focused attention” = reduction of distraction!) than reading alone and then later listening alone.

  • Reading alone for a long time (without listening at all) doesn´t make much sense in languages such as French, Portuguese, etc. where the pronunication is quite sophisticated compared to German or Spanish.

etc. pp.

In sum:
(Successful!) learners should think about the aspects mentioned above and not rush forward more or less blindly.
Otherwise, they might end like a friend of mine who tried to lose weight - by doing what he wanted:

  • He had 128 kg when he started with his weight loss program. His goal was to reach ca. 100 kg.
  • After two years he had lost 1.5 kg.
  • With his do-what-you-want-strategy he would achieve his goal in about 19 years. Unfortunately, he´s given up since then…

I know, azarya, that the last example isn´t completely convincing (because the selected strategy was doomed to fail right from the start).
However, even if language learners get enough exposure to their L2 (which is a must!), there´s a difference between degrees of freedom (for example: choose the content that you find interesting / compelling!) and indifference (do whatever you want) :slight_smile:

Or to put it differently:

  • There are many roads that lead Rome.
  • However, some roads might lead nowhere.
  • It is then up to the learners to decide which road they want to take - and I´d like to add: There is a difference between roads that lead to Rome in one year and roads that lead to Rome in 10 years :slight_smile:

Have a nice weekend
Peter

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I get what you’re saying (I’ve read James Clear), but I think the vast majority of learners of any skill don’t have a habit based learning system :slight_smile: . And as such, I indeed think the biggest reason people stop is they simply get demotivated with what they are doing and stop.

The question here is “I am not motivated, what can I do” . Although I also advocate habit based learning, I would not recommend here at this point personally. I would recommend switching it up and doing whatever he feels is fun learning atm - can look into setting up effective habits once the groove is back :slight_smile: imho

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Hi Eric, So theres a lot to unpack there.

I am learning Polish because my wife is Polish and her family largely do not speak English. We have to live with my father in law who speaks very little Polish. We often interact with the Polish side of the family so its really uncomfortable not being able to actively participate in much of the conversation. We are planning to have children within the next 12 months to 24 months depending on how things go which as I said to someone else, we want them to grow up around both languages so I have to be at a high level by that point.

As for the reading question, I have around 500k read words on LingQ. I do almost O SRS and entirely either listening or reading when I am using it. I have used lingQ in total, consistently for about 9 months. The 18k known words is because I picked up bits and pieces prior to starting with LingQ. In addition, Polish is highly inflected and if you understand some of the grammar rules superficially, you can understand what a word means if you know one or few of its other variations, it doesn’t actually need to go through the process of learning it entirely all the time. Though that really depends. I am not sure is 18k words fast for 500k words read? I felt that it was slow? I also do a fair bit of listening, watching polish content on youtube, occasional netflix series, and then reading transcripts to confirm understanding and get any definitions of words that I am missing.

I felt that this was useful because I needed to get an ear for the sounds not just the words on paper, but now that I am getting a better ear for the sounds, I am thinking of transitioning into reading. Texts seem to use a lot more vocabulary, comparatively, anyway, so its odd that i have so many known words and yet a text aimed at a 10 year old is still challenging to read. Not sure if you have any thoughts on that? Perhaps I should rotate my days, spend a day just reading something, then a day watching / listening and using the transcripts on lingQ.

As for proficiency in the langauge, I can now understand I would say around 70% of conversational Polish, depending on topic and if I have context, however, if I don’t know the context, I will only understand around 40-50%. As for speaking proficiency, its hard to say what level I am - my vocabularly is limited but I am getting better and I can have superficial, general conversations. My accent is always commented on, people are suprised that I dont have the normal english sounding Polish which I think is because of LingQ but also being around Polish conversation so much. Not sure but anyway.

It will get there, I just feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer distance to go, and the recognition that it is such a long journey is somewhat intimidating. I guess the problem, partially, as compared to others here is that I find it difficult to learn for ‘pleasure’ or ‘enjoyment’, it mostly feels like a chore which needs to be done, and I am learning for a purpose as per say, not because I particularly find it ‘fun to learn languages’. I really admire the people here who can find pleasure in the process, but, perhaps its because I am a student and I already spend 6h-8h/day studying before doing any Polish. However, I have been trying to actually just do LingQ, and focus on finding content that is at least compelling and interesting at the moment until the summer break where I can afford to focus more time on ‘actual lessons’ with a teacher in addition to LingQ.

Any advice on teachers?

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Thanks for the comment - I have in reality only used LingQ for about 9 months total, which initially I was re-reading the mini stories quite numerous times to understand what was going on and this never counted towards my words read values. However, that would only take me to around 1750-1800 words approx. read per day. Perhaps that is something I can try is to focus more on reading rather than listening to content. This again never showed up in my stats in the past when i would re-listen to content. Interesting to hear about peoples experiences with reading.

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Also, I havent done any SRS on LingQ, almost at all. Occasionally go over the high frequency words maybe once a month and see if there is any level 3 words I can convert to known, but apart from that, not really what I have been doing.

Thanks for relating what you’re doing.

It’s difficult if you aren’t enjoying the process, but I wonder if part of that is you are putting maybe a lot of pressure on yourself? Do you NEED to be at a high level before the birth of new children? You’re at a decent level currently…so you still have time, plus they won’t be speaking at a high level themselves for a number of years.

Totally understand on the lack of time. I work all day and then it’s the children (our cats and rabbits) and of course my gf in the evening. I have about 10-15 min of reading time. We do watch a lot of German programming, but it takes full concentration to get probably only 50-80% of what’s going on so that can grow tiresome for too long in the evening.

Anyway, not sure I have the best advice. I’d say don’t stress too much over it. Just keep plugging away, but take some breaks if you’re not feeling it that day. I’m not sure what there is for Polish content out there, but obviously as best you can find things that interest you and focus on that.

Good luck!

I personally thing reading is the most important thing for language learning. You can cram a lot in with reading. Learning new words (easily with LingQ or popup google translate) so you can get the meanings quickly. Plus with every sentence you read you are reviewing words you already know, right there. The reps, for all these words, just make that connection between the word and meaning stronger and stronger. The great thing about LingQ is you can pop it open in line at the store and read a few paragraphs. Bathroom breaks…pop open LingQ and read some more. Your wife telling you to do something in the other room–pop open…well no, probably shouldn’t do that =)

Anyway, this is primarily where all my reading time comes from. I would love to do more, but too many other things going on. So you can easily get at least 10-15 min a day of reading, just by opening LingQ in those spaces.

Now, having said that, don’t neglect your listening. I feel I had kind of done that a bit. Mostly due to the pandemic…since I’m not driving to work, I’m missing out on my usual listening time. However, I’m making up for it now by trying to listening to 30-60 minutes a day (when I can). Usually I’ll do it doing a few minor chores that are so routine I don’t need to think about them, while listening. Or in between workout sets.

Oh…and on repeating lessons…I’m not sure how many times you are repeating them, but I’d say move on after a handful of times. Try to find new content. You can always come back to some of these things another time. I know Steve mentions going back to the mini-stories, likening it to going back to the gym for a workout. You could do that, but new content is more enjoyable and of course offers new words, and if not new words, new contexts.

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The question here is “I am not motivated, what can I do”.
Sure. And my answer is: If you don´t want be plagued by demotivation use the “power of habits” because human beings are creatures of habits.

In other words, the OP´s problems are self-created by his mindset.
In my teaching experience, this has been a recurring pattern: From the few hundred learners I´ve had in my life those who followed a “feeling-like-it” approach usually failed or had subpar results.

In short: “Wrong mindset → bad results”.

“he feels is fun learning”
I wouldn´t speak of “fun” in this context, but of “interesting, even compelling” content. The content may still be hard to digest, i.e., “not fun”, but the fascination drives the learner forward - and this is where AI tools like Deepl or content-flexible AudioReaders like LingQ, ReadLang, etc. come into play because they allow us to absorb content that might otherwise be too difficult for us.

Unfortunately, the “compelling content” idea often doesn’t work at the beginner levels A1-A2/B1. But the OP should now be at a level where he can absorb more interesting and fascinating content (for example, non-fiction texts - like Yuval Noah’s trilogy “Sapiens”, “21 Lessons” and “Homo Deus” - because such texts are easier to digest than fiction).

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