Frustration in Learning a Language

안녕하세요. I have finished studying one grammar today for my 90-day challenge. Thank you for the encouragement! Yes, I bragged on Twitter.

While you’re here, I’m going to talk about about frustration in learning a foreign language, or Korean, in my case.

Like other learners, I do feel frustration sometimes, with a different cause each time, and the wonderful thing is everytime I beat the monster (which means I found a solution to it), it takes a while before it appears again. I blogged about my silly “shoulds” some time ago. It was probably the last time I got frustrated over my “shoulds”.

Another time, I got frustrated over studying Korean itself. I couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong but I just couldn’t memorize anything. No words would stick to my brain and I would forget a grammar rule as soon as I learned it. Arghh… Or maybe I should say 어떡해? 어떡해? like a Korean girl in a drama.

But then, I came across a blog of a Korean language teacher, and in it she wrote that many of her students came to her language school after failing learning Korean on their own, and one common problem she noticed was that self-learners tend to misjudge their own level, many of them who barely have basic level skills study with intermediate or even advanced level textbooks. As a result, they felt frustrated and got stuck with their progress, and then they came to her language school to ask for help. (So I suppose this is also why language schools have a placement test).

I took it as a valuable input, that maybe the reason I get stuck is because I misjudge my own level, too. So everytime I feel stuck and frustrated, I quit my current textbook for a while to read a lower level book, like a picture book for children, or study with an easier textbook, or train myself with a basic level phrasebook. And, it works! Everytime I finish the easier book and return to the book that made me frustrated, I always find the difficult book now has become somewhat easier to read. (“Oh wow, how did it happen?”). I feel great again and continue my quest. ###

7 thoughts on “Frustration in Learning a Language

  1. I sometimes use “too difficult books” as a measure for how far I am. I look in them every few months and think “now I understand this sentence (cue doing happy dance), but that sentence is still a complete mystery”. By the time I don’t feel in shock whenever looking at it, I begin to consider actually reading it. I think I thrive the most around the point where I understand roughly 75%. If I understand a lot less, I feel like I don’t progress at all and that makes me tremendously frustrated. In the end I never complete a book if every sentence is a struggle.

    It’s an interesting observation that many simply lack the basics… It probably slows down the process *a lot* compared to taking things in the right order.


    • If I have to compare, I prefer studying from Korean textbooks more than I like watching Korean dramas or TV programs. f(^^;) I don’t hate being frustrated because it is just a sign that I’m doing something wrong and by doing something about it I’ll get to my destination more effectively. When I learned English, I didn’t feel frustration because I didn’t pay attention to my progress but it took me a whole decade to learn the language. I’m old now, I don’t want to spend a whole decade to learn Korean.


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