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?