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I'm in a rut... or maybe just a rant?


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I've been lurking for a while but decided to create an account & post just because I'm wondering if there's anyone else who can tell me they're feeling similarly.

Short background: Grew up Bilingual, (English/Swedish) and learned French 7th to 12th grade. I also spent 5 of those years learning Mandarin from a fairly inadequate high school program and now one year of university.

I dreamed of learning Chinese since grade school, and was incredibly excited to take it starting in grade 9. There was one teacher for all classes and levels, and she was a pretty poor teacher for many of reasons (including problems that were her fault, like not caring very much about students with no background, and some problems that were not her fault, like a lack of funding). I told myself this would be worth it if I stuck with the language, pursued it into University and got into a better environment.


I'm now halfway through my first year at University, having taken one semester of Chinese and started the second (our language departments require that you take a language for both semesters, not just one.) I considered quitting over christmas holiday until I realized that I couldn't, because of those administrative requirements.

Basically, I'm feeling thoroughly discouraged. I don't feel like I'm improving anymore, or if I ever was improving at a rate that was significant. My prof this year is very, very old and, besides being a tough grader, has the same standard set of flaws I saw in my high school teacher. Moreover, she teaches the advanced levels, so there's no new prof for me next year either.

I could detail all the things I hate about this prof and her class, but It would be pretty unproductive. Basically, I'm frustrated with my progress. I'm frustrated with the profs I'm getting, even at a world-class institution with one hell of an endowment. I'm frustrated with basically everything and am wanting to give up.

Who else has taken a language (any language) for more than 5 years without actually going to the country? Does anyone out there feel my pain?

I should mention i'm (probably) going to major in linguistics and minor in east asian languages...or comp sci.

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Hi there

I have quite a lot of things to say about what you just wrote here in the forum. My words could be of some interest to you, let me tell you why

Well, I am studying Chinese at University, have been to China 7 times, am currently sitting in my hotel room in 中关村, 北京 and have been through endless hours of studying Chinese. I will be glad to share my experience.

However, I have some questions. First of all I would like to know WHY exactly you want to study Chinese. Then, I would like to know more about your Chinese Level. What does 'getting nowhere' mean? Does it mean you can't have a basic conversation and are unable to read books for kids or does it just mean you can't read

老子 and 状子 without the occasional help of a dictionary? What level would you like to achieve?

I am looking forward to hearing from you  :grin:

greetings from 北京


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  • 2 weeks later...


I've been far too busy lately and just now saw your reply.

In terms of my level: I'm planning on taking the HSK near the end of the semester, but according to my professor i'm between a level 3 and 4.

I don't exactly know what level I'm aiming for. I never really thought about that, because it was kind of not an issue given how much more of my education I had ahead of me. I didn't think about what my plan was after my first year of uni.

I'm afraid to quit, because that's the first step to forgetting everything and abandoning all the work i've put in already. At the same time, I can keep it up until I graduate, but if my first job doesn't include speaking Chinese daily, I will lose it pretty quick anyway.

Just because we do less speaking and listenting in university, my speaking skills have started to deteriorate dramatically. My prof here is much more grammar-focused, so I'm just now starting to reliably execute certain sentence patterns I've worked on since year 2. But without the constant listening practice I'm far, far worse than I was six months ago. Moreover, since we don't read longer texts in my new class, I found myself struggling to read a lesson from more than a year ago, simply because I haven't read aloud in forever.... felt like my tongue was heavy all of a sudden, the same way I feel at first when I speak Swedish (I'm fluent because my family is bilingual, but living in the US/Canada means I don't practice it much and I'm always a little rusty the first few days when I visit Sweden).

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Wow, first off; well done on your lingistic "portfolio". I think you're doing a fine job, and you feeling so demoralised is only natural. You're clearly a go-getter and very inspired. I too am a Linguistics graduate although nowhere near as accomplished as you.

I took a Setswana (my native language) and English Double major and a Minor in French. I did French for 4 years and then took private lessons for a further year. This is where I became very disgruntled as my native French tutor was useless, more concerned with flirting with a girl in my class. I didn't enjoy that and soon left. Before that, I'd had the opportunity to visit France and stayed there for three months

in my second year. I lived with a non-English speaking French family and went for lessons at a university in Strasbourg. This was a very enriching and valuable time in my learning of French. Other than that, I learnt French in a classroom in my English speaking country.

I just want to say hang in there, and don't let anything derail your focus and determination. Keep at it and you will win in the end. Maybe even compare notes with other students and see how they feel. All the best :)

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We are in a similar situation but also different. We have been learning a language for the past 5 years (and some change) and feel we have hit a plateau. This is within the country where it is spoken though so imagine our shame! I had some issues with the language teachers we had for years and now we have relocated and I'm hoping the change in culture will provide us with a fresh perspective. We definately needed an attitude adjustment if we were going to improve. Here's to a new chapter of language learning.

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I'd say that although you are frustrated with your teacher, now-a-days the Internet has so many online courses to help with language study that there is bound to be something out there that can help you.  It's frustrating when a teacher is not providing you with what you need to learn, but there are ways to get around that if you really want to.

My son is in his second year of Chinese.  He's had the same teacher for two years.  She's a really good teacher, so thankfully there are no complaints, however, if he was feeling frustrated and feeling like he was not learning enough in her class, we would definitely turn to the Internet for help.

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Hugs and rant away! I can only imagine what you're going through. I haven't studied a second language quite thoroughly, so I can't offer much advice in that department. But what struck me with your post was that fact about your love for the Chinese language. But over the course of your studies, you're slowly getting frustrated with your teacher and how you think you haven't improved much.

What I'm about to suggest might not be practical, but give it a thought anyway. The way I see it, you're forgetting about why you're studying the language in the first place. In your post, I can't quite pinpoint if you still 'love' the language, or everything now is just part of the school requirement - ergo the frustrations. Please, I might be wrong about the impression I'm getting. So, don't take this the wrong way. If you can shift back to the perspective of you 'loving' the Chinese language, instead of focusing on what's wrong wit the teacher and the lack of opportunity to practice, perhaps things can be made easier for you? If the LOVE's lost, then yeah - everything going around will just disappoint and make you treat yourself hard than you deserve. As lushlala pointed out, you've a pretty impressive linguistic portfolio. So, don't be too hard on yourself. Lastly, as Linguaholic pointed out - it's best to reassess things as far as your goals are concerned. Not being clear on where you wish to take your language learning might just be adding to your frustration.

Anyhow, just hang in there until you figure out things. Just don't give up just yet. Revive the love! HUGS!

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