Rediscovering the Beginner Stage

I’ve been studying Chinese for a year (6 months through I discovered Lingq) and have found my progress to be extremely satisfactory, and the whole experience has made me very enthusiastic about learning languages. Now my level is high enough that I can comfortably enjoy reading and listening to ordinary Chinese media, whatever the topic or genre, and understand enough that I don’t need to pause and look up or remind myself of meanings so regularly that it makes the task feel like studying. I continue to make progress at what feels like an accelerating rate as I am more and more able to freely enjoy content that interests me. I can make a lot of use out of the import function on this site for reading articles, and watch videos and listen to podcasts and thoroughly understand a good deal. I communicate pretty well in meaningful spoken conversations. I’ve skipped two years in my school’s Chinese curriculum and feel I’m better prepared than those starting their fourth year of study. If this sounds like bragging, I only mean to praise the effectiveness of the method advocated by Steve and made available on this site.

Now I’ve just decided to begin a bit of Korean to do alongside my Chinese. I’ve just been studying it a bit every day these past couple days and I’m having an old feeling I remember from when I started Chinese. I feel a bit overwhelmed and slightly frustrated. I basically get the writing system now, but beginning to learn any vocabulary is an arduous and slow crawl from the bottom. It might take a week of daily study to begin to be able to understand a modest number of very basic expressions and sentences; I’ll be stumbling over basic vocabulary for months to come. The real problem is I have no choice but to study a very small amount of very boring content if I’m to make any toehold in the language. It feels more productive to continue filling in the gaps of my knowledge in my relatively strong language than to launch out on a new one.

At the same time, I can sort of understand this feeling in a new way, given my success in Chinese. I know that putting in this time will have a great payoff down the line. And that knowledge makes me excited and confident, rather than discouraged, as I sometimes felt in the first couple months of Chinese. I feel I’ll be a better language learner this time around, in terms of my attitude as well as my methods. And though it’s daunting to have to get used to entirely new phonetics and grammar, I’m also oddly excited about them. Already I feel that I’m able to appreciate the most modest progress, because I know it is getting the ball rolling and establishing a momentum that carry me along to success. So huge thanks to this site, and hooray for studying languages.


Beautifully stated! I admire you, both for your amazing achievement in Chinese, and also for your wonderful attitude about starting another language, from the very beginning.Yes, it’s DIFFICULT to break through that beginner barrier. I have temporarily gone back to French, because it’s my strongest second language, and it’s SO much more pleasurable to study French at a higher level, rather than Portuguese, or Czech or German at a lower level. I totally get what you are saying, and I am inspired by your dedication to the idea of starting again.

Summary: (S)he´s awesome at Chinese because he used LingQ. Now he started learning Korean and finds it frustrating because he has to use boring content but he knows from experience that he´ll eventually improve over time. He really likes LingQ.


Great post. Reminds me of the “double s-curve”, I think. One; is “ok beginner” when one starts to first get comfortable and accumulating basic vocab at an increasing rate. The other; is when you get to a point where reading and communicating generally is comfortable and you can mop up a lot of the gaps.

I truly believe my Chinese will be that level. Right now English for me is the same as Chinese for you. And I feel like I’m experiencing really hard times at the beginner level of Chinese learning. I found this forum post motivating me really much. Thank you for what you wrote. It’s what I needed. :smiley: