IWTYAL 151: Why am I still a beginner?

Andy asks: “Why am I still a beginner?”

In this episode:

  • Asian languages can take a long time to get used to
  • 6 months seems to be the length of time it takes to become familiar with a new language
  • If you’re not seeing progress, you need to increase the frequency and depth of your learning

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

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  • dandiprat

    Another possible negative side effect of spreading oneself too thin studying too many languages at once is one may simply not be getting enough sleep. This can make a difference in one’s progress. I frequently don’t get enough sleep and I find on those rare days that I do somehow manage to get more sleep my performance is significantly better.

  • Andy R

    Thanks so much for answering my question, Olly! I used to be in the habit of studying only one or two languages at a time, and letting myself get rusty in the others. Even now, I still focus on one language at a time more than the others. However, two things occurred to me while listening to this episode:

    (1.) My attention span gets shorter as I get older—even when I study by low-tech methods, away from any distracting technology. It would benefit me to relearn my old habit of studying for longer periods of time.

    (2.) Starting early in my studies, I put too much emphasis on reading Chinese (characters). Thus, I didn’t spend enough time getting used to the sound of the language. I’m focusing on German now, but when I return to Chinese, I’ll ignore the characters for awhile. Instead, I’m thinking of copying down and repeatedly rewriting short dialogs in pinyin (in addition to practicing more listening and speaking, of course). So I think you’re helping me get closer to the roots of the problem. Thanks again.

  • acutia

    Olly, you say in the pod that “If you’re not seeing progress, you need to increase the frequency and depth of your learning.”

    While this is very true and useful advice, we should also consider the “what”. What is it that we actually do to “learn” a language? What kinds of activities are we spending time on?
    What language materials/resources or communication situations are engaging with? Are they useful and appropriate to our current level in the language?

    Sometimes doing three times more of X or Y won’t really help, if that activity is not effective for us at our current level.

    So to boil that down: In our learning efforts, we need to consider the “what and how” as well as the “how much? and “how often”.