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Anyone afraid to "fail" in learning a language?


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I was always good in learning languages, or at least that's how it went with English and anything else in high school and university. Lately I want to learn 2 languages at least(Serbian and Spanish) and I keep studying sporadically, but I don't make consistent effort.

And the more time passes, the more I'm afraid that somehow I can't learn them properly, and that even if I do I may make mistake that I don't have a clue about...with both, I'm still at the stage where it's a new language. It will be a while before I'm at the stage where I am fluent and only add new words and brush up on things and correct mistakes. I know it's a language and there are rules and structure, and I can't exactly "fail", I just have to sit down and study...yet I keep procrastinating and being afraid of making wrong sentences and not know how to say something...ever felt like that?

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Yes, I can relate to what you're saying.  Especially this:

I know it's a language and there are rules and structure, and I can't exactly "fail", I just have to sit down and study...yet I keep procrastinating and being afraid of making wrong sentences and not know how to say something...ever felt like that?

Yes, it can be very intimidating when one is first starting out in learning a new language.  It can also be overwhelming.  I think the key is to establish a consistent schedule; set aside time for study on a daily basis.  Also recognize that it will take time to become proficient.  It is an ongoing process.

You might also want to get some help from others.  We have a "Language Exchange" section in the forum here where you might be able to find someone.  I know also there are lots of resources online both for finding language study partners as well as for practically everything else imaginable that would help your language study.

We are fortunate nowadays to have so many resources available online for language study, some of which are free of charge.  Likewise, there are so many apps these days too. 

But yes, I can understand how it may feel intimidating at the beginning.  But I do stress again the key is to establish daily, ongoing study and practice. 

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I was always good in learning languages, or at least that's how it went with English and anything else in high school and university. Lately I want to learn 2 languages at least(Serbian and Spanish) and I keep studying sporadically, but I don't make consistent effort.

And the more time passes, the more I'm afraid that somehow I can't learn them properly, and that even if I do I may make mistake that I don't have a clue about...with both, I'm still at the stage where it's a new language. It will be a while before I'm at the stage where I am fluent and only add new words and brush up on things and correct mistakes. I know it's a language and there are rules and structure, and I can't exactly "fail", I just have to sit down and study...yet I keep procrastinating and being afraid of making wrong sentences and not know how to say something...ever felt like that?

Yes I am afraid to fail in learning a language, for some reason I get that feeling when I think of learning chinese.

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I don't think that you should be afraid of failing a new language. The thing is, many courses are designed to make it easy for you. In high school, I had a really nice teacher that I had for a couple years in a row. I learned a lot from her, and she taught pretty well. The work was pretty easy, but you can still learn fairly well from it.

Personally, I don't think that you can fail a language. Again, many courses are designed to make it easy for you. As long as you put effort into it, you won't fail. I'm sure that if you take the time to study and practice, you'll get it for sure. I've seen people fail a language course because they slack off. Just focus on it and you'll be fine.

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I am always afraid of failing and I see it as a good thing. It keeps me motivated, if I am not afraid, I tend to procrastinate. I am learning Spanish and I am learning with a deadline. It is better to study with a deadline, otherwise you will hardly make yourself learn.

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Yes, I have been afraid of learning a language because of my fair of failing. It all comes down to encouraging yourself to take up the challenge in order to prove your doubts wrong and being encouraged by a strong support team of friends and family.

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I am always afraid to fail in learning a language  :laugh: Simply because I don't think I can ever learn 100% of a language. Sure I can sit down and study what's in my textbook but there are certainly some parts of the language you can't learn just by studying.

(That and also because my professor is a troll and will ask questions on my test that isn't even in the textbook. So more often than not I am thinking "omgomgomg I'm going to fail".)

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Aren't we all?

It feels like for every mistake that I do, the world falls apart for a slight moment. But no matter what mistakes you do, there is no point in worrying about it before it happening, or after it has happened. You just have to move on, correct your mistakes, and hopefully learn something from the failure. After all, we learn from our mistakes. Even if it may not have helped you learn the language faster or something... You may have learned something else.

Just as an example, I've failed "twice" already. First, I did not learn how to write the kana. It's not THAT important for me to know, considering the fact that I will most likely not have that much practial use of knowing how to write the kana... But I still should have learned to write them, it would have speeded up the process of remembering them. Instead, I just learned how to pronounce them when seeing them, and not the other way around. It's not something huge though, as I can probably learn to write them in just a few days or so... But still.

I've also done some mistakes with the kanji. First, i tried to learn the pronounciations aswell as the keywords. Did I mention that I learned i the wrong way aswell? As in... I didn't learn how to write the kanji. After doing about 50 kanji, I realised it was a waste of time to learn the pronounciation. And after about 100 kanji, I realised I had done it all the wrong way. It's pretty much a waste of time NOT to learn how to write the kanji, atleast if you're using Heisig's method. So I had to start over... Fortunately it took just a day or so before I knew how to write the kanji I had already "learned".

You can't "fail" completely. You can make major or minor mistakes, but no matter how many or how big mistakes you do: you can always correct your mistakes.

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Constantly, it's the main reason I don't know more languages. Fear of not being able to fully devote myself or comprehend a new language, or that I will never be able to achieve a good level to make the time (and occasionally money) investment worth it - then all I'll be left with is useless basic knowledge and a lot of time wasted.

But... You must conquer your fears. Thinking like that will only hamper your development, sometimes the best thing is to take a leap of faith and just jump into the work.

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Of course. I'm always afraid that i might never be good at a language. I've failed twice learning but that didn't bring me down, actually it made me keep going.

The problem is that i'm full of doubts of learning a language like i learned English, but there's always hope and i wish that i can get as much as possibly help to get me ready. 

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My biggest fear in learning a new language is not being able to adjust my pronunciations enough to make the words I say understandable. I'm really hard on myself in that I would only consider myself successful at learning a new language if I can at least get close to the original pronunciation and sometimes that does get in the way of my learning.

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Aren't we all?

It feels like for every mistake that I do, the world falls apart for a slight moment. But no matter what mistakes you do, there is no point in worrying about it before it happening, or after it has happened. You just have to move on, correct your mistakes, and hopefully learn something from the failure. After all, we learn from our mistakes. Even if it may not have helped you learn the language faster or something... You may have learned something else.

Just as an example, I've failed "twice" already. First, I did not learn how to write the kana. It's not THAT important for me to know, considering the fact that I will most likely not have that much practial use of knowing how to write the kana... But I still should have learned to write them, it would have speeded up the process of remembering them. Instead, I just learned how to pronounce them when seeing them, and not the other way around. It's not something huge though, as I can probably learn to write them in just a few days or so... But still.

I've also done some mistakes with the kanji. First, i tried to learn the pronounciations aswell as the keywords. Did I mention that I learned i the wrong way aswell? As in... I didn't learn how to write the kanji. After doing about 50 kanji, I realised it was a waste of time to learn the pronounciation. And after about 100 kanji, I realised I had done it all the wrong way. It's pretty much a waste of time NOT to learn how to write the kanji, atleast if you're using Heisig's method. So I had to start over... Fortunately it took just a day or so before I knew how to write the kanji I had already "learned".

You can't "fail" completely. You can make major or minor mistakes, but no matter how many or how big mistakes you do: you can always correct your mistakes.

I know what you mean. Dancing ballet is learning me to be more patient with improvements, but still...With kanji I am like that- I don't know enough yet, but if I did- I have no way of knowing if I have learned it completely wrong.

While my native language is English, and I have learned both Spanish and American Sign, I just can NOT grasp German.

Has anyone else had a problem like this?

What do you mean by cannot grasp exactly? Well, may be it's that those things you learned came naturally to you, but then German didn't. I tend to not have too hard time with languages, but then I took French in university. I missed the first 2 classes, and the class was supposed to be fully in French, no English translation unless absolutely necessary. First few weeks I felt like I'm studying Chinese, not French, it sounded so foreign and incomprehensible. Then it got slightly better. However, it's still harder for me to study it in comparison to probably at least 10 other languages. You just have to give it more time and effort probably.

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I don't know about failure, for me it's more the fear of overload. If I take on too much, try to study too hard, or don't give myself enough time to absorb what I am learning, I make silly mistakes and get frustrated. So I try to plan and organise everything carefully.

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You know what, to be able to make you feel more confident and not insecure of "failing" in the future, then why don't you try to learn a new language with a tutor? If you can afford it, hiring a language tutor will definitely speed up your leaning process and make you more fluent as compared to just studying on your own. Plus when it comes to pronunciations, you can never go wrong with a tutor helping you.

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Fear of failing in my case in not an option, feeling that way is useless, because I have no choice but learn dutch.  If I don't then I'll not be able to do the things I'm supposed to do, I might still not be able to do those things, but I don't want to be left with a lot ''what ifs'' in my head.

I have never felt afraid of fail at learning a language tho.  That idea has never crossed my mind, I often feel afraid of failure when it comes to other things, but  not language learning. Maybe because language learning has always been a very relaxing activity for me.  I'm not so confident with other things, but when it comes to learning a language I don't feel so insecure.

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You know what, to be able to make you feel more confident and not insecure of "failing" in the future, then why don't you try to learn a new language with a tutor? If you can afford it, hiring a language tutor will definitely speed up your leaning process and make you more fluent as compared to just studying on your own. Plus when it comes to pronunciations, you can never go wrong with a tutor helping you.

Well, I can't really afford a tutor right now. I'm changing jobs now, so I may have that option soon. But in the meantime, I don't want to sit and wait until I can afford it.

Fear of failing in my case in not an option, feeling that way is useless, because I have no choice but learn dutch.  If I don't then I'll not be able to do the things I'm supposed to do, I might still not be able to do those things, but I don't want to be left with a lot ''what ifs'' in my head.

I have never felt afraid of fail at learning a language tho.  That idea has never crossed my mind, I often feel afraid of failure when it comes to other things, but  not language learning. Maybe because language learning has always been a very relaxing activity for me.  I'm not so confident with other things, but when it comes to learning a language I don't feel so insecure.

I used to be the same way. I guess life changes us. Both languages I am learning now I can actually apply, but I have been a lot more socially anxious the past year, and the idea to say something that might have grammar mistakes or might be entirely wrong, frustrates me a lot more than it would have before. And therefore it's a lot easier to fall into speaking in English with everyone with whom that is a possibility. I'm trying to change that.

I don't know about failure, for me it's more the fear of overload. If I take on too much, try to study too hard, or don't give myself enough time to absorb what I am learning, I make silly mistakes and get frustrated. So I try to plan and organise everything carefully.

Me too. I have been trying to take on too many things I guess, so organizing carefully hasn't been so easy.

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Yes, totally. It's a lengthy commitment to learn any new language to the point where you can fluently speak it. I've had many times where I am afraid to fail at becoming fluent at a language and think that I had wasted all my time and energy to learn an incomplete skill. I still get these thoughts sometimes, but there's a certain point where you've done everything you can, and the rest just has to be experience and practice, sometimes in a different country. By the sound of it, you'll do fine. You're learning two languages simultaneously, that's pretty impressive.

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Of course. I feel like that now as I am learning German. Sometimes I think I have a good understanding of the language. I may test myself by watching an interview by an entertainer in Germany. Lest say I decide to watch Florian David Fitz in an interview and I find myself clueless as to what he is saying most of the time. That frustrates me and sometimes I think I will never become fluent in German. However, I don't allow this feeling of failure get me down because I know with enough patience, concentration and practice that I will eventually become fluent in the language.

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The feeling of failure certainly plays a role in why my Spanish skills aren't anywhere near as developed as I would like.  It's a pretty silly feeling considering that I seem to have an easier time picking up on pronunciations, word origins, syntax, and such than a lot of people.  And it's also silly feeling considering that we all learn languages for different purposes, that different mental processes are involved in learning an additional language than a first language (especially if you are an adult learner), and that it's impossible to know a language to its entirety (especially if it is a living language).

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Never, because its so much fun. I have tried to learn languages because of the people I have come into contact with. I like to learn their language, and it helps to practice with them. I think one of the best ways to learn a language is when you can interact with a person of that language. I guess for people who are trying to learn a foreign language, it might help to make friend online and do a video chat session. Again if we learn a language slowly and enjoy the process, it gets into our system with much hard work. Its another thing altogether if you are trying to learn it very fast.

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I'm not fluent in anything other than English yet, so yes, I do fear that. I don't study well and dread doing it even though it also excites me. I actually fear that I won't motivate myself sufficiently, but also I fear that I won't ¨take to it¨ and actually get the knowledge into my brain. I don't know which ones I fear more. It is impossible not to make some progress, but even studying a lot is no guarantee of fluency.

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