What about when we feel we are not making progress?

Angela (aybee77) and I did a video on this subject.


How about the rest of you, what do you do when your language learning ship is in the doldrums?

I think this can happen a lot, especially once you leave the beginner stage and enter intermediate/advance stages.

What I occasionally do to kick-start my learning ( I trust that the more exposure I get to a language, the better it will come)

Set short term goals

• 50 hrs of listening and reading
• Make one contact with a group that speaks my target language.

Record and celebrate each little goal achieved.

With the 50 hrs listening/reading, you can create a picture or a grid with 100 parts. Each time you complete 30 minutes of your ‘language’ you can colour in one part of the grid. Make sure you feel happy about this.

Making contact with a group – celebrate whether you achieve or fail to get a contact, as making more contacts with the target group is very important (real life or through the web).

Once you’ve achieved your short term goal

Celebrate – perhaps go to a new ‘Mexican’ restaurant. In the case of Angela, perhaps look up on a Spanish speaking site, a recommended ‘Spanish’ restaurant in NYC.

I know her feeling all too well.

When at the intermediate, advanced level, continuing to read, study, listen, watch, etc, brings you into a better position to make use of what Steve mentions: speaking with native speakers in a relaxed atmosphere. I do think Skype can start off this process pretty well but it naturally has some drawbacks. But, you can make friends this way and it can be great.

@ Angela: I, too, think that your Spanish is sooooooo much greater than you give yourself credit for! Thank you for reminding Steve of this little project of his and for being the one to kick it off!

I really enjoyed the video and thought it was very interesting (And I agree that your Spanish is very good, Angela!).

In my case, I’ve given up trying to reach very advanced levels in reasonable timeframes without living in the country. I’m happy if I can read and if I can communicate with natives (when the need / opportunity arises - which is not that often I might add!).

For me, I compare my languages. My English > My Finnish > My French & Spanish. I feel like there’s some ingredient missing to take any other language to a higher level. I watched some old Finnish comedy shows on YouTube tonight, and I understood basically everything (and I could guess the phrases that I had never heard). But with French and Spanish, this is not the case. I think I need to be in a position where I can function in and use the language a lot (either day to day living, or socially) where I will start to tune into it more. If I listen to French music or watch French movies, I tune out very quickly because it’s just too unfamiliar (plus, with movies, I read the subtitles because I want to know what’s going on, which doesn’t necessarily help from a language learning point of view!).

Thanks for the compliments Sanne, Peter, and Steve.

@ Peter I too feel there is something missing with respect to being able to produce output. I don’t currently have people around me that I can interact with every day, so I really need to believe there is another way.

Great video! Thanks Steve and Angela.

Angela, after seeing your “before and after” Spanish speaking videos, I noted a marked improvement, particularly in the tempo and flow of speech: less hesitation, less grasping for the appropriate word. When you spoke in the updated video there was an even and more natural rhythm in your speech because it appears that you have gotten more “used” to the language. Your Spanish skills are great and your progress is embrace-worthy! There’s no where to go but up! :-))

The hardest part is the beginner/intermediate part. Where i can vaguely understand things in context but still have trouble with a lot of the words and the grammar/syntax still causes big problems. During this stage it is hard making the breakthrough as I am still not at the level where I can pick and choose interesting content. (because generally it is too advanced for me).

Making that big push to fluency, I would imagine, is a lot of fun for the higher intermediate/advanced learners as they can just spend their time watching movies, reading books and speaking with natives regularly.

My thoughts.

@guitario: “The hardest part is the beginner/intermediate part.”

What I do is find kids’ books that I’m already familiar with in my own language, translated into my target language, and find the audiobook and the textbook if I can.

Authors like JK Rowling, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl have been translated into pretty much every language.

Skyblueteapot: I’ve read all 7 Harry Potter books in Dutch, listened to all 7 audiobooks and I was left craving more. :slight_smile:
(To all those people who think those books are not good because the words wand and magic are “useless” - please return your imagination for a replacement. I love dragons too hehe. - 27 year old man. :D)

I’m onto more difficult stuff now and still need more. Read, read, read. It’s one of the best things to do at this point. I like reading over grammatical point to check if there’s anything I understand now that I didn’t earlier. Through that I remind myself of things.

One thing I’ve found that is great, is to get out all of the textbooks which have those dialogues with audio. Edit the audio so you can listen to it all. Follow the texts with the audio playing. Boring? Maybe, but it doesn’t last long. The point is that you can see how well you really do understand. When you get to a lesson in which a few things go past you, stay on that one a few times, learn a few missing words. Mastering any gaps in the “basics” is a great thing. Also, doing the same with intermediate textbooks is good too.

Now that Angela has broken the ice, who is ready to another interview with me?

Actually I just looked at a video I did over a year ago, and a video I did a few months ago, and I feel great! I can tell that I’ve made progress. I’m very glad that I made those videos, although at the time I found it very difficult to watch them (and in fact, I still have not watched them all the way through). This is encouraging me to keep making these videos occasionally in Spanish as a mark of my progress. I think day to day for me it is very discouraging, and I only focus on the mistakes, and every time I stumble in searching for a word, but seeing how far I’ve come is very encouraging.

interview in what language Steve?

I was thinking of talking about language learning in whatever language is convenient. I would suggest our native language, but if I have trouble understanding your version of English we could switch to something else.

What I feel is really important (whether we feel we are making progress or not) is to never stop being exposed to your target language. Listen, read, speak or write; every second of the day can and should be used to do one (or several!) of these activities. I have felt several times during one of these activities that I understood more or was able to express myself better than in the past. I don’t ask myself whether I’m making progress or not, but I can feel when I have.

I’d be happy to do an interview with you Steve, what software do I need to record the video at my end?

Helen, you don’t need anything other than Skype and your webcam, Steve records from his end.

I really liked the video.
Ad aybee77: Your Spanish is really excellent. Your pronunciation sounds very nice to me and you seem to be able to freely express your thoughts. Great!

Ad peter: (…) In my case, I’ve given up trying to reach very advanced levels in reasonable timeframes without living in the country. I’m happy if I can read and if I can communicate with natives (when the need / opportunity arises - which is not that often I might add!). (…)

I have come to a similar conclusion. I try to keep a relatively high level in my 5 working languages, which means that I need to maintain a level of fluency which allows me to work as an interpreter. That level, however, is still far from what I’d call “perfect”. I don’t like using that word anyway (at least not in connection with human beings ;-).

As for all the other languages I have been studying (and those I might still be studying in the future), I’ll try to be functional. And that to me means that I want to be able to strike up a conversation and keep it alive over a reasonable period of time :wink: This includes making quite a few mistakes and struggling with proper pronunciation and intonation. But as long as I’m comprehensible and as long as the person I talk to and I both enjoy our conversation, it is fine with me. That’s what I want: talk to people, learn more about them by talking to them and reading books etc. in their native tongues.

When I feel disappointed or simply exhausted (and I sometimes do), I just try to clear my head and do something else such as going for a hike, reading in my mother tongue, listening to music. And in addition I just try to remind myself that at the end of the day I’m just a human being…