12 December 2013

Language Frustration

I've hit a point in the last couple of weeks in which I have realized I am smack in the middle of a learning plateau. Plateaus can happen to anyone at any time, whether you're working to lose weight or to gain a new skill (like a language); and while I'm sympathetic to others when it happens to them, I am not so forgiving to myself.

This pretty much sums up how I've been feeling.
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I am very frustrated with learning Dutch right now, and with myself for feeling like I'm not any better at communicating. Most of the time I have felt like I could see my progress and even though there has always been a long way to go, I felt like I was moving towards improvement. But during the last couple weeks, I have felt stuck. I'm spending more time than I was before Little Man started school on my studies but I feel like I've actually moved backward. I feel like I'm having trouble recalling vocabulary and grammar rules that were pretty solid in my brain. I'm making more "small talk" than I was before with other parents and teachers, but I feel like my brain is getting jammed halfway through a thought more often than not. I'd like to think that I'm able to be rather witty and expressive in English - in Dutch I'm capable of asking where the butter is in the store or apologizing that my Dutch isn't very good. It's an interesting dynamic where I feel "normal" and "intelligent" in my own tongue and downright stupid in Dutch. It's almost like having two different personalities, and while I know I'm not (too) crazy, it sort of feels like it.

Clearly, the answer is more studying, more practice. As a teacher, this is what I would tell my students, and I know its the same for me. Practice may not make perfect, but it helps more than you realize at the time. Knowing this doesn't seem to make it any less frustrating, but I'm assuming (and hoping and praying) that this effort will pay off. So I'm still going through my books, trying to talk to people, watching Dutch children's shows, trying to read little news articles here and there, and working on having a bit more patience with myself.

It will come, but I'll be happy when I can climb off this plateau.

13 comments:

  1. Blah, such a bummer! You can do it though, just keep steady!!

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  2. I totally know the feeling. Sometimes I feel so incompetent in my German-like when the snarky ticket man on the train is snapping at me and I can't think up the words to defend myself or when I'm trying to explain what my degree is in at a party and everyone looks at me like I'm a 2nd grader who wandered in. Languages are frustrating. At least we can rock our English! ;)

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  3. Many people who speak two languages feel that they have their own personality in each as the words are unique and can express emotions so differently!

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  4. Thanks for the encouragement! I know it's the "slow and steady wins the race" mentality, but I'm impatient, lol.

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  5. LOL, that's so true! I miss making snappy retorts in a snap or easily explaining something like my degree. At least the English is still good! And at least I have the blog to keep it up, too!

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  6. That's good to know - I've wondered about that when I hear someone speak in English then Dutch and their voice seem almost unrecognizable, too. Does Mr H feel that way between all his languages?

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  7. I know exactly what you mean, I am dutch myself and sometimes I know how to express stuff in English but not in Dutch.

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  8. That's interesting that you feel that way, that's not something I would have thought.
    Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

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  9. Ohhh yes, I hear you. I think what also happens is you become so aware of how wrong you are making sentences that you get held back - but i am assured by many is passes the more you hear the language and TRY to use it. You are doing great, so keep at it. xx

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  10. YES! I need those snappy remarks in my new 2nd language also. I have been tempted to use the old 'don't be so rude' phrase with a look... but fear I'll be undone when they unleash fury on me in Croatian. You two try it first and tell me if it works.

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  11. Haha it's happened in the past I got so mad at a German fussing at me that I just exploded in a tirade of angry Georgia redneck. At that point they've pushed me past the point of no return and deserve whatever unintelligible Georgia-isms they get. Nyah. ;)

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  12. I think its a sign of progress. At some point you learn enough of a language to realize that the phrases you used to be comfortable with dont cut it anymore. Suddenly subtleties you didnt notice before, exceptions your brain has graceously filtered away, become apparent and you realize how much work is still left.
    Do not despair, everyone has gone through this, well everyone who is serious about learning a foreign language. I really admire you are trying to learn dutch, so dont give up!

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  13. Thanks - this is a good reminder, and you're very right. Every new level has to start with some frustration to signal that there is more to learn. Thanks for your encouragement!

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