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?
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.
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).
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.
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.