Sometimes Language Learning Sucks!

Why is learning another language so hard?

Have you ever had one of those weeks where every little bit of motivation you have for learning your language just seems to drain out your toes? I had one of those weeks last week. And while I didn’t write about it in that second (because, let’s face it – you didn’t want to hear me whinging about how I felt all burnt out!), I did want to take a moment to acknowledge that learning… ANYTHING… *will* involve some moments of pure despair. Or at least some significant disillusionment… or major discomfort.

So what causes it? And what can be done to alleviate it?

Well, in my case it was the success of my week three conversation, followed by a week of brick walls! Nothing worked, I couldn’t pull off that same level of conversation I had, where everything went so well… I felt like I was going backwards! 🙁

Plateaus are an unfortunate fact of all learning. We all feel that when we are putting in consistent effort, our improvement should look like..

Image of a graph line rising logarithmicly.

But in reality, it usually looks (at best!) something like…

Image of a line bouncing up some stairs.

Notice how in fact the line has to rise ABOVE the stair, before falling down on it, to in turn bounce higher? That’s called “normal progress”. It is absolutely normal, when learning a new skill or new information, to cyclically rise up, fall a little, bounce up higher, fall a little… the saying “3 steps forward, 2 steps back” comes to mind. It’s normal. Can I say that often enough?

It’s normal. It’s necessary.

We learn something, then it needs to consolidate, before we can build further. Hang in there… eventually something gives. It can actually help to change things up a bit, try a new activity, or even just take a break for a day or a week (says me to myself, giving myself a pep talk!).

And now that I have reminded myself of all that… I’m off to watch some YouTube!

Cate is a language enthusiast sharing her language learning journey here. Apart from her native English (albeit 'Strine'*!), as an adult she has also learned Auslan (Australian Sign Language) to approximately a C1 level, Dutch to around B1/2, French to around A2, and has a smattering of other languages.

B.A. (Anthropology/Marketing), Grad. Dip. Arts (Linguistics), Grad. Cert. Entrepreneurship & Venture Development, (CELTA).

Auslan Interpreter (NAATI), and general Language Nut.

*For more information on 'Strine', visit