If you are a bilingual, polyglot or language learner you’ll know it well. One week you’ll be learning your chosen language and you’ll be like a massive sponge – there isn’t a word around that can escape your amazing linguist brain. You’ll go talk in one of your other languages and the words roll from your mouth. You feel amazing.
Then, a few weeks later you’ll be sat staring at grammar or some new vocab and it’s like trying to get an elephant through a keyhole – it’s just no getting in there. You try to have a conversation and it’s so hard going because every other word you’re having to stop and think before you can communicate.
My high achieving sister recently started 6th form, and one of her AS choices was French, with the reason being that she likes it and she’s good at it. I tried to persuade her to drop it, but she wouldn’t listen. Langauge A Levels – like learning languages in general, are bloody hard. Unlike a science, there are few right or wrong answers. Languages are also living creatures. You can’t just memorise a bunch of vocab lists and some grammar and say you know a language – if that was so, Japanese people would be famous for their great English skills!
Just think about it – it takes you 5 years at least to learn your mother tongue to any great level. And that’s when you are there in the language 24 hours a day, you have groups of teachers slowly dropping you into the language by teaching it to you bit by bit, repeating until they have a response from you.
My boyfriend is currently halfway through his intensive Goethe Institute course – which he attends three days a week for a few hours a night. Our current favourite(!!) thing to do is to sit at the table on a Sunday and do his homework together. Though very clever, he’s not really a linguist. Where I am a Jack of all trades, he is a true master of the English language. However, he’s currently beating himself up about not being better at German already. I know the feeling well.
But how can we get out of the language funk when we feel stuck? Though it’s easier said that done, one way is to study things that you are more interested in/find slightly easier to pick up for a while. For me, this is easy since I take private lessons and when I’m sick of the dative form, I can just ask to have a week studying a different area until I get my “sponge” brain back. For the boyfriend, it’s harder since he’s in a course and can’t dictate what he studies.
In that case, like I keep telling him, I suggest that, if you feel frustrated with language studying, you just give yourself a break. Don’t give up, just remember that you CANNOT learn a language in a few weeks. No matter what those books say.
If you have any tips for getting out of a language study funk, let me know! I’d like to know all the tricks of the trade!