The Emotional Roller Coaster of Language Learning Posted by on Apr 26, 2013 in Archived Posts

You’ve just decided to learn a language, and You. Are. Pumped. We’re excited for you, but we also feel the need to warn you, learning a language can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster…

Stage 1: SO! EXCITED!

You’re going to learn Spanish and impress your boss. You’re going to learn Arabic so you can finally speak to your husband’s family. You’re going to laugh along when the ladies at the nail salon make fun of you in Chinese, because the joke will finally be on them, right? Yes, you’re super excited right now, it’s all going to be SO MUCH FUN.

Stage 2: Very Confident

You’ve picked up some study materials, enrolled in a class, harassed every Brazilian-looking person in a 12 block radius to practice the 10 words you know in Portuguese. It’s new, it’s fun, it’s exciting! You’re going to be fluent in no time!

Stage 3: Moderately Less Confident But Still Determined

Hmm… you’ve made it past the first lesson, and all of the pleasantries are over. No more “Bonjour!”, a lot more –er, –ir, and –re verb conjugations. You feel so close to understanding all these new concepts, but you just keep getting STUCK.

Stage 4: Struggling

What IS that letter? Am I saying this right? Okay so speaking this is a little more difficult than expected. You may or may not have hocked a loogie on your cat while trying to roll your R’s, but he’ll get over it.

Stage 5: Paralyzing Self-doubt

Well now it’s just ridiculous!!! You know a few hundred words and you can ask for “more bread, please”, so you don’t really need to know anything else anyway, right? Subjunctive mood? Genitive case? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Stage 6: Regret

Wait, what was the word for “bread”? …I shouldn’t have quit learning, languages are awesome. What was I thinking?

Stage 7: Renewed Determination

Jump back to Stage 1—remember how TOTALLY FUN AND INTERESTING this language is!? Remember that you want tell your mother-in-law that you don’t actually like her cooking… in GERMAN!? That’s right, get motivated again. Find some new resources to make things fun. Watch funny Youtube videos in Italian. Read the Harry Potter novels translated into Dutch—they were written for a 14 year old? You don’t care, nothing can stop you now!

Stage 8: VICTORY!

You just had a conversation in another language… and they understood! That’s right, your Thai food order came out right, and It. Was. Delicious. Then of course you tried to ask the waiter for the check, and accidentally asked for his phone number. But, whatever. You’re conquering a new language, and it’s awesome!

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About the Author: meaghan

Meaghan is the Marketing Communications Manager at Transparent Language. She speaks enough French and Spanish to survive, and remembers enough Hausa to say "Hello my name is Meaghan, I'm studying Hausa." (But sadly that's it).


  1. Steven:

    I’m trying to learn Portuguese, and I’ve been stuck at Stage 5 for a while now. It seems like Victory is a long way off. I’ve made some progress, which I should feel good about, but I feel like I should be picking it up faster. I just know this is the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do!

  2. sara:

    Awesome! This is just what I needed to keep moving forward. I have been stuck at stages 4-6 but am closer to stage 7 these days. It helps to know I am not alone.

  3. Diane:

    These stages are very important for ESL/EFL instructors to keep in mind considering how many seemingly arbitrary rules there are in the English language. Thank you for this posting. I will keep this all in mind when I work with my ESL students and as I continue to learn Korean myself.

  4. Noel van Vliet:


    I think it’s imperative that every new language student (or the ones that failed before) know about the stages you go through while learning a language.

    If you do, it’s a lot less likely that you freak out and give up.

    Unfortunately, many courses do not teach you this stuff.

  5. Markéta:

    Great, I am in stage 7 now, so I am close! 🙂

  6. adam:

    I’m stuck in french, Really. I want to give up, but on the other side I feel curious about it.
    I was in stage 4,but after read your post I think I’m in stage 5 now (I hope).
    But, regardless of that thing, I just can’t believe myself can conquer French.

    • meaghan:

      @adam This is precisely why I created this post, to serve as a reminder that learning a language is tough, but rewarding. Everyone experiences the highs and lows, but knowing that is half the battle. Just don’t give up on it. If you’re really struggling and need a break, continue to review what you already know, so you stay engaged with the language until you’re ready to dive back in.

      Stick with it, vous pouvez le faire! 🙂

  7. Olly Richards:

    The only way you can fail is by giving up.


  8. Yasar:

    Nice post ever to Read.

  9. Henry Stivenson:

    Few people know about a pragmatic, efficient way to learn a new language. Those who do, advance in learning steadily and according to their schedule. While most people find themselves learning a new language as a necessity, many others do it because it is fun. It feels more sophisticated to know more than one language. It can be highly beneficial in your life over the long run. However, it is not an easy task to learn a new language no matter whether it is for fun or out of necessity. You’ve probably seen friends or acquaintances talk about wanting to learn a foreign language, then enthusiastically purchasing products, books, and maybe even enrolling into a course or program, only to ultimately see the reality of the fact that they have failed in their pursuit of learning another language. According to The Guardian, the ICM survey, which questioned 1,001 young people aged 14-24 from across the UK in June this year, paints a picture of a generation perhaps surprisingly open to the prospect of language learning, but often deeply lacking in the confidence of their ability to put their language studies into practice. Three in ten who chose not to study a language at GCSE or A-level say language learning is challenging, with almost half of all those questioned regarding grammar as difficult to learn and 40% seeing memorizing vocabulary as hard work. The research had indicated that A-level languages are perceived as being harder than other subjects and their content is demotivating. Sitting down with a language textbook and trying to teach yourself a new language is not only boring, it takes an inordinate amount of time. It can take months to capture the basics of a particular language. Fluency comes far later. Often, we don’t have the luxury of spending months learning a language. For example, those people who are migrating or taking up a job abroad.
    However as an individual learner or with a tutor, the student can cut down the time it takes him/her to master the basics of a new language. There are methods that can be used to reduce the time it takes.
    Main Essentials of Learning a New Language – They distinguish three main essentials associated with learning a new language; namely the vocabulary, basic sentence elements / patterns, and grammar rules. Vocabulary – the most basic step towards learning a new language is to learn its words. Familiarity with the words will lead you to form sentences. Sentence Patterns and Elements – this has to do with how you ask and answer questions. Making coherent sentences is the way to make someone understand what you are saying. The ability will also help you understand what others are saying and how you might respond. Grammar Rules – Each language has certain rules that need to be followed.
    There is a special type of media developed for the first and second component – a bilingual graded book. Bilingual graded books are also called bilingual graded readers. They offer a parallel translation that allows the user to learn a new language in less time. With the translation on the same page, learners can effortlessly learn what any unfamiliar words mean. They can quickly pick up new vocabulary and phrases that are used over and over in texts of bilingual graded books. When they read a graded bilingual reader, they can pick up chunks of language and vocabulary that they can use in conversation and other real-world applications. It also significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to become conversational in a new language. As you read a bilingual reader, your brain begins to remember words and phrases simply because you are exposed to them several times. You don’t even realize, until you have to recall what you’ve learned, that you have already learned the new words and phrases. Listen to the audio tracks that should always accompany a bilingual graded book to learn how words are said and to improve your overall ability to speak the new language. A good idea is to use the free VLC media player to control the playing speed. You can control the playing speed by decreasing or increasing the speed value on the button of the VLC media player’s interface.
    Decide what is better for you a paper book or an e-book. Many of the e-readers by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo have dictionaries pre-loaded on their devices, with options to download additional ones, for free. If you do not have an e-reader, you do not have to buy one, because you can download it as a free app to your phone and use it right away. Writing your own notes, searching or making highlights is ridiculously simple with an e-reader or e-reading app. Anything you do with an e-book is also synced to the cloud, ensuring any change will follow you, no matter what device you are on.
    At first search on Google for “bilingual graded books” or “bilingual graded books for beginners”. Choose and buy a book on a suitable topic, for example general, business, medical, culinary, dialogues, students, cooking, family, tourists, detective, short story or whatever you like. Read it for about twenty minutes a day. If you do it every day, you will be surprised how much you can learn in a month’s time. Try to use the target language after you have learned for a month. If you don’t have an opportunity to talk to native speakers at home or at work/study, use your target language in small talk on Skype or another online chat. Search on Google for “free online clean chat rooms” and pick up the one that suits your interests. Two or three minutes of small talk two or three times a week or more often will give you some motivation and encourage you to learn new questions and answers for new dialogues. Compile a list of questions and answers for your dialogues in a target language or find them on Google with keywords “Bilingual graded books dialogues” and try using them.
    Don’t be afraid of making errors. They are your steps to success. You will spot and correct them sooner or later anyway. They will not be for the rest of your life. Better not to talk at all than to talk incorrectly? Wrong! Start talking as much as you can! Your language will improve every time you talk. A learner who knows only a hundred words and isn’t shy of talking will progress more quickly than the one who knows a thousand words but remains silent because he or she is afraid of saying something wrong.
    It can usually take you from one to three months to finish a bilingual graded reader at beginner level (A1) and elementary level (A2). The amount of time depends on your previous experience with learning foreign languages and on your personal abilities. At this point you should be able to ask and answer simple questions with the following questioning words: What? Who? Where? When? Which? How many/much? As you improve and become more confident in your ability to use the new language, you can move on to the next reader level and continue your language-learning journey. After using a bilingual graded book for a week or two you are ready to study grammar rules, so buy a good grammar book. A grammar book will satisfy your curiosity about grammar rules awakened by the bilingual graded book. Read the grammar book to find out how you can use your target language more precisely. Follow this order – first read a reading book, then use a grammar book and exercises to make your learning experience uninterrupted.
    Language text with a parallel translation has helped many to uncover their potential for learning multiple languages. Whether you are learning a language as a hobby or for a necessary purpose, you will find such books are supportive. Using them is by far more pragmatic, efficient way to learn a new language than a “learn a language in two weeks” program. However you should frequently use the target language by using bilingual graded books with audio tracks, grammar books, chats, internet pages and even songs to maintain your motivation and progress. Remember – twenty minutes a day does the magic!

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