How to make progress (Cantonese 3-month update)

The 2-3 month point in learning a language can be tough. Motivation starts to falter and you find out whether you have what it takes to keep going!

If you’ve ever started something with lots of energy, but struggled to keep going, this video is for you!

I talk in English about the challenges I’ve faced over the last month, and I go into detail about four lessons that I’ve learnt from the experience. I hope it helps you to reflect on what might be holding you back!

Back to Cantonese next month!

Check out:

Cantonese 6-month progress video

Cantonese 2-month progress video

Cantonese 1-month progress video

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  • Rosa Boone

    Thanks Olly. This is exactly what I needed to hear. As a post-beginner, well maybe I’m still a beginner, all I can do now is enjoy movies and music to I.D. some vocab. I have noticed that I do understand more of the lyrics to some my favorite Cuban songs.

    • I learnt so much Spanish from learning Cuban music too! Having things in the target language that we love is, I think, the best possible foundation. We have to study as well, but there’s nothing better than great music or movies to consolidate what we learn!

  • Will

    There’s definitely an issue gauging my own progress and I guess you’re saying don’t focus on this as it’s a distraction. I’ve found that skype language partners and other people on my French lessons are happy to tell me if I’ve progressed and where to focus my efforts, though you usually have to ask straight out. Obviously there’s conflicting opinions – native English speakers say focus on accent, native French speakers say they like the English accent speaking French and to worry about flow or vocab.

    Lately my language partners have been tied up with work so I’ve been preloading French music with subtitles (paroles) for the daily commute. French rap (IAM), Edith Piaf (classic) and Jenifer (pop) have been giving me a range of speeds, topics and varied pronunciation.

    • Cheers, Will! I think it is a distraction, largely because it’s impossible to measure. Crude measurements like, for example, how many words you know, or how native-like your accent is, ultimately, I think, tell you nothing. That’s not to discredit our need to feel like we’re progressing in order to stay motivated, but I think that’s all it is.
      Personally, if I ask myself what I really want in a language it comes down to one thing: communicative competence (the ability to communicate effectively with people). That comes from a huge mixture of things: vocabulary known, ability to understand different speakers/accents, self-confidence, intelligibility of your own accent, grammatical knowledge – and all these things mix together in your brain in different combinations that I don’t think there’s any way to measure.
      If I think back through my different learning experiences, there’s only one variable that really makes the difference between progressing or not, and that’s simply using the language for a real purpose, for a long time… and not stopping! As Brian found out in his survey, it’s just that time and routine that people are lacking, and so don’t end up progressing.
      It sounds to me like you’re really motivated and get a lot done every week! I love the idea of music with subtitles, but how does that work exactly? Are you talking about music videos? What’s the source and how do you store them offline?

      • Will

        The skype app on my android phone supports preloading music videos in my Watch Later list or other playlists. Source is youtube at the moment.

        • Will

          * youtube app

          • Cool.. I was wondering what the skype-youtube thing was all about! 🙂 What’s the name of the app?

          • Will

            YouTube’s own app for android. I have v5.2.27 on my mobile phone. Preloading is down in the menu > settings and depends on wifi and charging. Useful for loading up with videos overnight.

          • I can’t believe I didn’t know that about that function! This is a game changer, Will!

        • Will

          I know it’s not your SRS app of choice Olly but I discovered last night that the memrise app has the option to preload an entire deck with audio and visuals too .

          • That’s cool. Flashcards does that too 🙂 I’ve heard good things about Memrise, though – I’m going to try it out. I think all flashcard apps are much-of-a-muchness… as long as they’re really easy to use/access, fast and have a good range of options then it does the job. That’s why I like Flashcards Deluxe – it’s a raw interface with no distractions.

  • It can definitely be frustrating learning a language and burn-out is common. I believe there’s no harm in taking a break from learning a language for a little bit – you can come back with new ears hearing how the language is spoken. I look forward to your Cantonese video next month!

    • Thanks for your comment, Mabel! You’re right. What I’m starting to do now is actually plan for those ‘burnout’ times and prepare fun things that I can do to relax whilst still getting exposure to the language. Hong Kong dramas are great for that! Any recommendations? 🙂

      • I don’t watch HK dramas these days because I’m simply too busy! I used to love watching Cantonese police/law/court TVB dramas. Lots of formal and informal Cantonese used in each episode.

        If you’re into romantic genres, then I suggest checking out “Triumph in the Skies (2003)”, a drama revolving around a fictional airline and its staff. This drama had a recent revival mid this year. Though I must say I tend to find a lot of Cantonese romantic dramas over-the-top dramatic, not my cup of tea.

        Movie-wise, I would suggest the humourous All’s Well Ends Well (1992), a story about three brothers and their misadventures. There’s a very funny washing machine scene (I think).

        Finally, I would suggest watching anything with veteran HK actor Eric Tsang in it. I loved him all serious in the cop shows, and he has a very funny comedic side too. He is also one of the hosts of Cantonese reality show “Super Trio” which I used to love watching as a kid. My favourite part of this show was watching contestants failing at a certain challenge and being forced to eat wasabi sushi.

        • Brilliant! That’s the Christmas holidays taken care of 🙂