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5 Challenges While Learning a New Language - And Guess What, They're NORMAL!

By: Jonica |

Whether you're a beginner or an advanced learner, you may be surprised when you encounter new feelings and difficulties while learning a new language. It's not just a matter of studying books or showing up to class - the journey to fluency in any language comes with many human experiences too! After all, speaking a new language is how we communicate with other people we may never have been able to before, so it's normal for students to come across a few challenges along the way. Let's take a look at some of them.

I'm Having a Bad Day...

So you attended your class, you took notes, you spoke in class like your teacher wanted you to... but you don't feel like you improved at all. You didn't understand something, or you're disappointed in yourself for not creating the most perfect sentence ever. "I'm never going to be fluent!" you say to yourself on your way home.

That's normal!

As adults, we place a ton of pressure on ourselves in everything we do, and language learning is no exception. For some reason, when children speak incorrectly, we don't think much of it, but as adults, if we're wrong we feel like we're failing. And that's just not true!

One trick to perking yourself up is reviewing what you already know. Go back to some vocab you've memorized and say some sentences out loud. Watch a familiar scene from a show or movie you enjoy, or read a short story you've read before. Touching base with what you already understand gives your mind a boost. Look at how far you've come and how much you understand already!

On the plus side, if there are a bad days, you're also going to have really great days where it seems you're comprehending everything your teacher is saying and the language seems to flow right off your tongue. You're feeling fluent AF! 😙 And these are the days that make all your efforts worthwhile.

I'm Tired...

Language fatigue is a real thing, and it's different from the tiredness you feel from staying up late or working too hard. When you're learning a new language, your brain is actually activating different parts of itself to tackle this new communication. It's basically a work out for your brain. And since it's a work out, you're going to feel a little "sore" once in a while.

That's normal!

Think about all the activities and communication children have to juggle with every day. Toddlers and small children are especially overwhelmed with being introduced to new things and also remembering what that new thing is called! No wonder they need nap time. 👶

Just like if you're going to the gym, your body and mind will need to adjust to this new language stimuli through training. Make sure you're eating well, getting enough rest, and not stressing too much about what you're getting wrong in your new language. Just like children get a gold star sticker for getting something right, don't forget to treat yourself to something fun once in a while too.

I Can't Speak...

Your mind is thinking one thing, but your mouth is having trouble forming the words. Perhaps you've chosen a more difficult language for English speakers, like Korean or Japanese. These languages have a sentence order entirely opposite from English, so there's going to be a slight delay when trying to get your point across. Or even if you've chosen a language family close to English, like Spanish or French, there's still a bit of processing time as you're expressing your thoughts.

That's normal!

Just like our mind has to adjust to comprehending this new language, our mouth needs exercised in order to pronounce it properly. Imagine a baby babbling. They're not saying anything at all, but babbling is preparing them for their first words by training their tongue and lips to move in a speech pattern that will produce language eventually.

It sounds funny to do as an adult, but it's actually helpful in getting yourself used to how a language "feels" when speaking. Try saying a bunch of random words that you already know out loud to yourself, and just keep going until you don't know any more words. If you can make sentences, great, or even form silly sentences that don't make sense. A great exercise is narrating your day out loud. Talk about everything you do, whether it's taking out the trash, washing the dishes, watching a show, everything! Not only are you getting your mouth moving, you're vocally associating these activities with the language.

I'm Bored...

Not a fan of telenovelas? Bollywood films not doing it for you? K-Pop just not your thing? Overall feeling like you can't connect with the culture and therefore aren't getting enough personal satisfaction from the language?

That's normal!

Think about it - no matter what language you're learning, its native speakers must have at least a few million people in the world, if not more, right? Mexico has a population of 129 million people, India has a population of 1.4 billion, and South Korea has a population of 51 million, respectively. That's a lot of people!

The point is, not every native speaker enjoys the same hobbies. Just like the US, people in other countries have tons of diversity amidst their people. With a little searching, you can absolutely find videos, articles, films, and books that are tailored to your specific interests. Not only is the search in and of itself great for practicing the language, but finding media you actually have interest in is important both for leveling up your language skill AND making new friends with native speakers! After all, if you can't find common ground with people, communicating isn't as enjoyable.

Try using Google and a few keywords in your target language to look for your hobbies. If that country has their own search engine, try using it and seeing what results you get!

I Don't Want to Learn Anymore!

Uh oh. 🚨 You've had one too many bad days, you're tired, your mouth doesn't want to work, and you can't find anything to watch or read. You're contemplating giving up. You don't really want to give up because after all, you've invested time and money into fluency already. But you feel lost, disappointed, confused, and have no motivation to continue.

That's normal!

First of all, Indy Language Center staff are always here to help you. Be sure to talk to your instructor about how you're feeling and if they can recommend any resources to help you reconnect with the language again. Sometimes it's just a matter of vocalizing your concerns out loud to someone and feeling heard that makes a difference in getting back on track.

We highly suggest you don't immediately take a break at this time. What we've seen happen is students will take a break, slip out of their study habits and reduce their exposure to the language, and ultimately lose their progress as the language slips out of their life entirely. What we do recommend is continue your classes while you talk to us about different options. In a group class and feeling like you need something more your level? Want to switch over to private lessons entirely? Need a few lessons to catch up with your class? We have plenty of class styles & options that might reinvigorate your motivation to continue learning. Even if you can only muster up enough effort for one class a week, let's try to keep you there until you feel better.

Next, now that you're on red alert, let's talk about why you're learning this language in the first place. Investing in language classes is not always an immediate serotonin boost like buying a new purse or a new laptop. It's a consistent part of your routine that turns into a part of your life.

What inspired you to start learning the language? Have you ever daydreamed about travelling to that country, or working, or falling in love? If you can't remember, grab your notebook and pen and try writing down all the things you could do with the language. Do any of them stick out to you? Keep this list close to your usual study space as a pick me up whenever you're feeling down.

The good news is all these feelings eventually subside as long as you stick with your classes. Hopefully these tips help you work through some of these language challenges and get you closer to earning that certificate of achievement! 🌟

Jonica has been a Korean student for over 2 years and has had first hand experience with the ups and downs of language learning!

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