For many aspiring language learners the journey is a constant struggle. As if everything conspired against them. Difficulties arise at every turn. We all know them too well. Lack of understanding of the unfamiliar concepts. Inability to hear and comprehend the words when they are spoken. Mind-numbing agony of trying to decipher and memorize grammar rules.
We have all been there.
You see, upon growing up, adults tend to develop a nagging, alarm-like mechanism. It goes off instantly when a person faces a new notion, the meaning of which he cannot grasp. The brain reacts promptly by sending neurons that fire up feelings of frustration and anxiety.
When it happens, we bury ourselves deeper and deeper into the textbooks, trying to cram the unrelenting rules into our heads, forcing the mind to understand. Being unable to do so, we give up in despair, believing the dreary task to be beyond our abilities.
Accepting the uncertainty is no small task for many of us. Whatever the reason might be, it causes us to bang our heads against the wall in search for an answer, until the wall finally breaks down or drains all of our strength.
I am no stranger to these feelings myself. Many times I have struggled with lack of understanding. The anxiety would get a firm grasp of me and not let go until I have driven myself mad or found some sort of resolution.
I have spent countless hours trying to perfect the pronunciation of some of the particularly annoying and unyielding sounds of the English language. They still elude me from time to time.
In Barcelona, I did an intensive preparation course for the Spanish DELE exam. I have never had to learn so much grammar during such a short term before in my whole life. There were countless rules and use-cases. Many of them didn’t make any sense whatsoever. I attacked them with logic and reason time after time, in fruitless attempts to create a solid structure that would keep the pieces together and prevent them from falling apart.
On my current quest of learning Portuguese, each day I encounter difficulties with the phonetics of the language. I try to speak slowly, pronouncing every syllable correctly, and it throws the intonation off the balance. When parted from my lips, the language seem to lose all its richness and musicality. If I were to speed up, my mind would’ve fallen back to old habits of speaking Spanish, and clumsy, limping Portuguese would have become a bloated, strange mixture between the two languages.
There is a part of me that is constantly anxious about lack of faster progress. I try, however, to calm myself, keep a steady pace, relying on the past experiences to guide me. For they have taught me a harsh, yet valuable lesson.
Any language consists of peculiarities, strange constructs, contradictions, idiomatic expressions, and exceptions to every rule. There are many parts that can’t be completely deducted, formalized and memorized. They are what makes language a unique, living and breathing, growing and evolving entity. A product of many generations of people shaping it and adding to its form.
Do not be frustrated when you fail to attack and defeat the language with logic, when every attempt seems to be for naught. Have faith in your abilities. Keep practicing. Believe that your brain will make sense of everything.
How do you deal with the road bumps on your journey of learning?
Photo by ^@^ina (Irina Patrascu)