I speak 17 languages.

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Language Learning & Patience (or lack thereof)

Suffice it to say that patience has never been a virtue of mine. I have tried to learn to play the guitar, the piano, the drums and driving (I am in my 30s and I still don’t drive) and I got too mad and frustrated that it wasn’t happening as fast as I wanted it to, so I gave up rather quickly. Not so this time – I WILL LEARN SPANISH EVEN IF IT’S THE LAST THING I DO. But I’ll be honest; I am already feeling the frustration and impatience of not understanding more than I do.


When being rational about it I realize that being frustrated about my very limited Spanish vocabulary at this point is kind of silly – it is only week four in my 90-Day Challenge and learning a language that took 1000s of years to evolve is not done in a day – I have also noticed that I am not alone in my frustration. In comments here on the blog, in the forum on LingQ and in the comments on Steve Kaufmann’s YouTube channel people often say things like: I started learning Spanish, Russian, French, Japanese (or whichever language it may be) but then I gave up, where do I find the motivation to start up again?

No Motivation

The short answer to that and similar questions is that I don’t know. I don’t know because each one of us are different in terms of what interests us and thereby what motivates us. For me it’s music and movies and for Steve it’s reading and listening. I don’t know that the two are that different, because if you watch a movie and play music, you have no choice but to listen, listening is pretty much key in those two activities. Maybe my approach is a bit lazy? But those are the things that I enjoy.

I also enjoy using LingQ, but when I first started my 90-Day Challenge I wasn’t using it as well as I could be, there are still features that I could probably take better advantage of, but at least now I have figured out the proper function of creating LingQs. In the beginning I made the mistake of trying to memorize each word, but of course that is not the idea behind LingQ. The idea behind this method is actually to try and forget – confused? As was I.

I am not sure people use dictionaries in school today or if all the kids get laptops to work on now, I suppose it depends on where you live, but I remember doing it the old-fashioned way in school in language lessons. I’d look words up one by one, but the minute I closed the dictionary I would forget the meaning of the word. Today (luckily) most things are digital and I can read the beginner texts (and listen at the same time) on LingQ, which of course comes with several online dictionaries that I use as I go through the text. I think it’s OK to go through the texts fast the first time and create lingqs as I go, I try to create as many as I possibly can.

Using Dictionairy In LingQ

The idea is that once I have looked the word up, it gets highlighted in yellow and so the next time I see it in any subsequent text I can see that I have looked it up before, and I can immediately see the meaning of the word or sentence, which of course is a much better approach than just looking up words in a dictionary and then forgetting them right away.

One thing I didn’t realize is that there are different shades of yellow (no, this has nothing to do with 50 Shades of Grey, LingQ is a respectable language learning website, not a naughty badly written book, soon to be movie, for middle-aged women).

different yellow shading for each level

The different shades mean that:

1) The word is new, but you have seen it once or twice before.

2) The word is familiar, but you can’t remember the meaning.

3) You recognize the word, but you are still not sure about it.

4) You know it, but LingQ will give you some time to think about it and ask you again if you are 100% sure you really know it, at this point the word is actually no longer yellow, but has a barely visible dotted line underneath it but you can still click it and choose when you want to be reminded of the word again. Once you’ve confirmed that you really know the word, that dotted line will vanish.

know the word Status Bar

This thing of different shades of yellow – or let’s call it different degrees of recognizing a particular word – helps me with my impatience and frustration. It does so because creating LingQs and seeing the number of LingQs I have created (838 so far) increase as well as getting to know words better all the time without having to memorize them, makes me feel that I am actually making progress slowly, but surely.


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  • Carol
    February 11, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Hi Lykke, Hang in there. I have about 50 French words learned so far, but need to make some more LingQ’s. I watched 101 Dalmations in French. I like Disney movies because they are simple and have a lot of action. The puppies were so cute speaking French! And there is a nice snow scene when they escape.

    • Lykke
      February 11, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks for your kind words, and right back at you. If I understand Steve Kaufmann’s theory right, at first you’re not supposed to be worried about the words you know, but rather how many lingqs you create because there’s no way you’ll be able to memorize them all anyway. By creating the yellow words and seeing them again and again one day they will inevitably get stuck, but it takes time ( a loooong time)

      • Duncan White
        February 11, 2015 at 3:34 pm

        Hi Lykke,
        I sympathize.
        First suggestion: fall deeply, hopelessly in love. (It doesn’t need to be with a person – could be music or another art form.) You’ll just be wide-awake aware of everything.
        Second suggestion: try not to use language for communication, but instead
        gesture, eye contact, facial expression. This was a key for me in learning the local dialect here in Japan – because the actual language isn’t so important.
        Third suggestion: immersion. You’ll think you’re going crazy after a few days, but it always works. Your ears need a great volume of language for all the subtle sound, tones and inflections to become second-nature and instinctively recognizable.
        Play with young children, laugh, talk to toothless old ladies, whatever works!
        Never give up – if all else fails, just get drunk, party with the locals.
        Best of luck,

  • Louise
    February 11, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    I have no magic bullet for impatience. I have been trying to learn french for over 20 years, I have some from grade school, then in my early 30s I started taking tapes out of the library, then CDs, then in-class courses and on line courses. I was really frustrated about my lack of progress and lack of ability for even basic communication in french. Then I found out I have Asperger’s Syndrome, of which one symptom is it is really difficult to learn a new language. Now I don’t worry about how much progress I make, I just spend my time learning. LingQ has really helped. I just try to have fun with my learning.

    • Lykke
      February 12, 2015 at 10:14 am

      Fun is a great approached, and I think linked to the Steve’s theory of enjoying what you are doing because that is the best motivator.

  • Iván
    February 12, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Listen to spanish singer Pablo Alboran! Download the album Terral and enjoy. Greetings from a Panamanian learning the European languages of the Americas. 🙂

    • Lykke
      February 12, 2015 at 10:13 am

      Hi Iván. I’ll give that a listen, thank you

  • Alexis
    February 12, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    Hi Lykke!!
    I’ve been wanting to go back to learning languages again but I fail to to so. The idea of a 90 days challenge motivates me. I’m supposed to continue to learn English (intermediate) and begin to learn spanish. What do You think of a challenge between us two? I mean a battle to ses who learn the most words and talks the most fluently at the end of the 90 days? It should ne fun!
    I hope you Will accept 😉 say yes !

    And we’ll have final conversation at the end to decide who wins. Hopefully we will both come out winners and spanish speakers out of this challenge.


    • Lykke
      February 12, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      Ha ha – I am leaning towards yes, but when you say full conversation, do you mean in Spanish? I can do English, but Spanish!? Makes me nervous just thinking about it. I’ll think about it for sure. Where are you at in your Spanish? Are you a complete beginner.

      • Alexis
        February 12, 2015 at 9:44 pm

        I had some courses of spanish in highschool 10 years ago lol (I’m 28)and I didn’t get much out of it. So I’m just begining.
        Yes, I mean a total conversation in spanish. Don’t ne nervous. For one, at the end of thèse 90 days we will both know how to speak spanish. For two, it doesn’t matter if we make mistakes, it will ne fun.

        I’d say my goal is to be able to listen and understand Spanish movies in 90 days.

        Are you afraid of losing against me?? Haha :p

        Come in the battle.

        Besides, it doesn’t impede us to help each other.

        I didn’t say it: I’m Alexis, from France. Nice to meet you.

        • Lykke
          February 13, 2015 at 9:23 am

          It’s on Alexis from France

          • Alexis LUCE
            February 13, 2015 at 1:16 pm

            Cool 🙂

            I see that your first blog entry was the 01/20/2015. I’ll respect the same deadline as you for the challenge end.
            I don’t know if you mind or not but it would be great to exchange some contact details to keep in touch with each other.

            Your blog is great, I like what you write. But if for whatever reason you stop writing or checking your blog I want to be able to contact you and get you back on track. I won’t let you down and I won’t let you abandon the fight. I WANT A WAR haha :p

          • Lykke
            February 13, 2015 at 1:21 pm

            Just this morning I met a little old French lady on the bus and told her I am learning Spanish, she said: “It’s easy for us”, meaning French people. So you have an advantage. Whatever I guess, war means war. I have an advantage too – I work at LingQ and can ask Steve Kaufmann (Polyglot extraordinaire) questions face to face…

  • mmaisonette
    February 13, 2015 at 6:48 am

    Impatience in combination with lazy and procrastination is one of the worst things for anyone that are trying to learn a new language.

    For me, learning a new language is a pleasure. Obtain the ability to talk with a foreign speaker, in his native language, about the culture and social live from his place, is wonderful. Beyond that, based on the language that you challenged yourself to learn, you can get some additional benefits as in the business sphere. For the business, nowadays, is very important to know new languages as: English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and so on. It might be an additional motivator, no doubt, and might be the key ingredient of successful.

    As you’re studying Spanish, take a look at this article:

    There are several explanations about the importance of speak with people in their local language (in this case, Spanish), not counting that everyone speak English, fact that happens almost all the time in places where the folks don’t speak English natively.

    Furthermore, you must set a few goals, to avoid stay in the “learn just to learn” state. In my Spanish studies, to achieve my initial goals, I defined something like this:

    •Reading: Local literature (in this case I’m reading books from Gabriel García Márquez, to know more about Latin America culture) and news channels (El Pais is my favorite).
    •Writing: Posts in blogs, conversation through chat with friends of mine, and translate articles (less usable, but efficient when I do so).
    •Listening: YouTube channels, action movies (easier to catch the words being spoken), and documentaries.
    •Talking: I record myself talking aloud (it’s a quite crazy in the beginning), mainly the lessons from LingQ, and try to be in touch with friends interesting in have conversations in Spanish (mainly people from Latin America, that prefer to speak in his native language rather than English or even Portuguese, my native language).

    Based on these activities, I hope to be capable in speaking in places where the folks speak natively Spanish, being understood. Beyond that, I want to be more comfortable in reading books in Spanish and write messages and posts more in that language. I know that can be a more generic or macro vision of my goals, but I like to keep my goals in this way.

    Enjoy with your studies!

    Note: Sorry for the large text here.

  • Elgoog
    December 5, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    Sometimes learning a new language can feel so backwards. I really like how you guys have made it more approachable here. Thanks a lot.

    • jahrine
      December 6, 2016 at 11:19 am

      You’re welcome! Best of luck reaching your language learning goals 🙂

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