Staying Positive While Learning a Language Posted by on Apr 25, 2016 in Archived Posts

Itchy Feet: Relativity

There are lots of reasons to be negative when learning a new language.

It takes too long, it’s too hard, other people are better than you, none of the software or products or apps or methods you’ve bought are working, nobody wants to talk to you, the language is hard to pronounce, nobody understands you when you do talk to them, it’s embarrassing to screw up, it’s impossible to learn all the little grammatical details that don’t seem to have any purpose other than to confound language learners and be impossible for native speakers to explain without saying “that’s just how it is,” the less you speak the more you lose, it’s too difficult to find time while juggling work, family, other hobbies, sleeping and eating, your brain is too old to learn new things well enough, what you learn out of a textbook is not what’s actually spoken on the street, reading takes forever and your brain hurts afterwards, you’ll never be as good as your bilingual friend, your kids don’t want to speak the language you’re teaching them, you’ll never be good enough to get a job or write professionally if you don’t have twenty years to learn all the local idioms and slang, and even if you do you’ll never get that “feel” for how the locals speak it, and even if you do, the locals will never consider you one of them, your parents won’t speak their native language with you even though you took the time to learn it, your friends are too impatient when you try to speak with them, you have no cultural context so the language you’re learning might as well be memorizing gibberish, it’s impossible to get those particular tones or guttural sounds right, turns out the cute boy or girl in the language class is already seeing someone…

All right. Relax. Take a breath, hold it, let it out.

Yes, there are lots of reasons to be negative. If it helps to write them all out, do that, then let them go. Language learning, above all, is about having fun. More than anything, it should just be an enjoyable experience. Don’t forget that all enjoyable experiences come with pain, suffering, and hardship. That makes the enjoyable parts all the more enjoyable. And compared to the paragraph of gripes above, I could write pages and pages about what I love about learning new languages.

Don’t become a road rage language learner – just relax, have fun, and enjoy the road. It’s the journey, not the destination, remember? This might be totally obvious to you, but sometimes I need to remind myself to let off some steam and get back to thinking glass half full.

I hope you’ll remember to do the same!


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About the Author: Malachi Rempen

Malachi Rempen is an American filmmaker, author, photographer, and cartoonist. Born in Switzerland, raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he fled Los Angeles after film school and expatted it in France, Morocco, Italy, and now Berlin, Germany, where he lives with his Italian wife and German cat. "Itchy Feet" is his weekly cartoon chronicle of travel, language learning, and life as an expat.


  1. Margaret:

    A good reminder to start enjoying the learning and have fun.

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