Most people don’t make it past the beginning stage in learning a language

Most people don’t make it past the beginning stage in learning a language.

For the people who are experienced at learning a second language, you know you did it once.   You know you are capable of learning a second language.  You learned how your brain works, tools to use, techniques for memorization, and tried various things until you discovered what works.

For other beginners, enthusiasm that starts one on the path of learning a language only gets them so far, then they hit problems and end up giving up.

How many give up?  “96% of students who voluntarily enroll in foreign language classes ‘give up’ after three years. Only 4% continue to achieve at least minimal levels of fluency.” per a paper prepared for the International Association for Collaborative Contributions to Language Learning.

These are unsettling statistics.  Unlike the 1.5 billion people trying to learn English around the world, I am trying to learn a second language which has no economic benefit nor is connected to me by ancestry and which in all likelihood I will never be able to speak with my neighbors.  If you are going to invest 3 years or more of your life learning something, you hope there will be some tangible benefits.

I simply wish to be able to carry on basic conversation in a second language.  I want to prove to myself that I can learn a second language.  I chose Korean simply because I had become interested in Korean dramas, and I knew so little about Asian culture, so Korean was a gateway for me to glimpse what life is like on the other side of the world.  Korean language has always seemed an odd choice to me.  It is even more so to others, Korean and non-Korean alike.  I haven’t come up with a good answer to why I am learning Korean.

The simple truth is I decided to learn because I met a Korean pen pal Chulmoon.

I hadn’t realized how central Chulmoon was to my decision to learn Korean until I lost the motivation to communicate with Chulmoon, and suddenly everything about learning Korean seemed incredibly hard, requiring intense effort, and ending in frustration.

What is your motivation for learning?  What keeps you going when language learning is difficult, boring, uninspired, or tedious?  If you thought about giving up, what kept you going?

The long winter months could be a perfect time to dig in to language learning, or they could be a time to get lazy.  Are you committed to studying hard this winter?

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2 Responses to Most people don’t make it past the beginning stage in learning a language

  1. I think my case is rather weird lol. I’m bilingual so I never had experienced what is like to acquire a language. I grew up watching a lot of Asian stuff so for me it made more sense to pick up an Asian language rather than French (even though it was my childhood friends’ native language).
    My first East-Asian language was Japanese and I gave it up because no matter what I did, there was almost no progress (I was around 14 when I started). Although I liked Korean, I didn’t start to study seriously till some 2-3 years ago. It all started when I read a translated chapter from a Korean novel and I was struck by the beauty of it. I wanted to understand enough Korean so I would be able to read that novel. For me, translation and Korean goes hand in hand (I discovered one because of the other), and it changed me so much that I changed majors (I was in Chemistry). Then learning Korean became natural so each time I feel like I’m bored and don’t want to do it anymore, I read the novel that got me into it and I’m struck by it and the fact that each time I understand a little more and it’s pretty much what keeps me going. I’m actually looking forward to my winter holidays because I’m using it to study a lot of Korean and make definite progress but I do need to balance the time I’ll spend studying it because I need to study as well for grad school’s admission test.
    I think that having good resources for language learning is extremely important and sadly there’s a lot of bad books and few places to find good ones. It might be why so many drop the languages.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No, they don’t and that’s fine. Learning a language takes so much time!

    Liked by 1 person

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