The 10 Stages Of Language Learning

The journey from cluelessness to fluency can be an emotional one. Do you recognize any of these stages?
Illustration of people going through the 10 stages of learning a language

The time has come: you’ve decided to start learning a new language. Whether it’s your first time down this rabbit hole or you’re already a veteran in the area of foreign languages, the path to fluency consist of similar steps for us all. Don’t worry if you sometimes want to call it quits and throw it all away, or when, after finally understanding those confusing grammar rules, you realize that in reality you’ve still got a long. way. to go. The journey can be rough so we’ve made a list of the 10 different stages of language learning to help you see how far you’ve come. Or if you’re just starting out to show you there is hope at the end of your language text book.

1. Enthusiasm

Ah, the cupcake phase. It always starts like this… Whether you did it for fun or necessity, you probably struck out on this path with good intentions, high motivation and a spectacular fireworks show of new insights. A good start is half the battle!

2. Obsession

Then comes the brief period in which it seems like your entire existence revolves around an effort to immerse yourself in your target language and its culture. When I learned French, everything I did had to shimmer with Parisian elegance. It was around this time that my wardrobe filled up with striped shirts, my kitchen with French cookbooks, and my interest in French authors and directors grew to unprecedented heights. Perhaps my time spent in the second stage of language learning was a bit excessive compared to most, but I learned French – and that’s what it’s all about!!

3. Discomfort

After the manic phase of reading and watching everything I could about French culture, (even how to date in France) the time came for the actual language learning to begin. It’s exactly at this point that the first setbacks emerge. The first tickles of sheer panic will start introducing themselves. Nothing you learn seems to stay in your memory. The words seem so different than anything in your native language and you can’t make any connections between them. Not to mention the many verb forms. And pronunciation. And conjugations. And what’s this whole thing about articles? And why are there so many SILENT LETTERS IN FRENCH?? It’s at this stage that many of us will start to feel the temptation to simply disappear and leave it all behind. Why do I need this foreign language anyways? Traveling is overrated and that foreign exchange student isn’t that cute… right?

4. Shyness

However we both know traveling is all the better (and cheaper) if you know the local language and yes, that foreign exchange student really is that cute. So you persevere. A crucial key to making progress when learning a language is practice – preferably with a native speaker. Sounds easy, yeah? But putting this knowledge into practice is something totally different. In truth we’re all incurably shy, and it’s hard for us to get past ourselves and show our vulnerable sides. The secret is to always ask yourself, “what could happen if I make a mistake?” The answer: nothing terrible!

5. Lack of Understanding

You’ve done it, you’ve finally found the courage to jump in the deep end. You’ve created foreign language scripts for yourself and rehearsed everything you want to say over and over in your head. Maybe you’ve even practiced in front of the mirror so you look as cool as possible when you say it. You finally get the opportunity to use your knowledge on the lady at the register, on a passerby or on the waiter at the restaurant. In your imagination you emerge from your first foreign conversation bursting with pride. You knew you were a natural at languages. Stages 3 and 4 didn’t really apply to you anyways. But reality doesn’t tend to follow the script of our imagination. Instead, after blurting out your slightly mispronounced, slightly clunky sentence with a big smile, your conversation partner answers and… you don’t understand a thing.

6. Frustration

Now comes a truly critical phase.
“How can it be?” you ask yourself sadly. “I’ve been learning this language for months, yet I don’t understand a thing when someone speaks to me. I have absolutely no talent for languages. That’s it! I’m done!”

7. Revelation

The worst is behind us. You’ve encountered some of the hardest phases of the language learning process but you have’t given up. And now something magical is happening. It’ll happen unexpectedly when you’re on the edge of giving up all hope: suddenly you understand! Everything seems to be in order. The grammar rules are becoming second nature and you no longer have thoughts of trying to escape out the bathroom window after speaking to the waiter. You’ve even started to have dreams in your target language. Looks like you were great at languages all along.

8. Excitement

At this point you’re suddenly sociable and your shyness is all but gone. You talk and talk and aren’t afraid of anything. Isn’t it great? Just don’t let go of the reins now, because there always lurks the danger of…

9. Embarrassment

You feel so safe that no one and nothing can stop you. And it’s exactly at this point that the most embarrassing – but also funniest – things happen. A falsely-used word, one verb in the place of another, a saying that actually doesn’t exist in that language, an accidental insult. But have no fear: you learn from your mistakes and you can only get better.

10. Triumph!

It’s done: the new language doesn’t hold any more secrets from you. You understand everything and can speak without difficulty. You can even laugh at the mistakes that just a short time ago were so frustrating. Great job! As we said earlier, the most important thing is to keep at it!

Illustration by Ale Giorgini

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