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Linguaholic

What's the most challenging about learning a foreign language?


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Is it the accent? The pronunciation? The sentence structure? For me it's the pronunciation. It's not enough to learn the words or know the system of writing, I guess. You also need to speak the language in a way that native speakers can relate to or understand. There are certain words that will take on another meaning when pronounced differently. That's why pronunciation is very important. You might inadvertently offend native speakers if you mispronounce a word with both positive and negative connotations.

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The beginning is always challenging.
Once you get used to a language, everything becomes much more easier.

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I think it really comes down to the language that you are studying, you can't compare Dutch with for instance French. Dutch phonetics can be quite difficult to perfect but in the case of French it's as if you are dealing with two different languages, the written and the spoken language. This is in the case of European languages, I suppose when it comes to Asian languages, everything will be new, both spoken and written language, so the level of difficulty will be double.

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For me, the most challenging thing in all languages (sometimes that also includes my native language!) is putting the right accent inside the word. There are some languages where the rules are fairly simple: always the second syllable from the end or the last one, and bingo. But even in those languages there always will be exceptions...

The second place in the "most challenging" competition I would give to speaking skills. Writing and reading come more or less easily, listening is more difficult, but speaking fluently - that takes more time and effort. Much more. At least, that's the case for me.

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Normally I consider the most time consuming aspects of language learning to be the most challenging . So if I use that definition, listening and vocabulary. Each one of those takes thousands of hours to become advanced in for most languages. 

But if I consider the most intense aspects of language learning to be the most challenging, I'd have to say the first few hours of conversation. Over the years I've developed techniques to reduce the intensity of this stage, but it's still number one in my book.

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Speaking is the hardest for me. I'm not good at speaking in any language so it's hard for me to grasp speaking when I'm learning a foreign language. Plus when it comes to writing and reading, I know that I will eventually get better if I study. You can't really guarantee anything when you 'study' speaking. 

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For me, it depends on the language. When I'm learning Korean I have to say reading and writing Hangul is the most challenging part, training my brain to recognise Hangul words. Long words can also be challenging at start, I also find it hard in German too, but I easily get used to it within a week, just takes time.

Grammar in German and Spanish was also hard and takes time for me to remember the rules.

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  • 2 months later...

It was hard for me understand when I was fully immersed in Spanish. I could understand the texts really well, but when I got into real world situations I felt like I knew nothing. I recommend people watch movies in the language they want to learn with subtitles in your native language first. Then, once you are familiar with the text, switch the subtitles for the language you want to learn. That way you are familiar with how the language is actually spoken if you ever travel to where it is spoken. There is a website called howto4in.com that has short movie clips in Spanish with Spanish and English subtitles at the same time. I like watching the clips over and over until I have them memorized. 

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I would have to say that it depends on the language.  For the most part, pronunciation has not really been a problem for me.  I can overcome most obstacle with that.  In some languages, like Spanish, for example, sentence structure and idioms have me hung up.  I have a lot of trouble with the syntax.

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It is the listening and sentence structure which is the most challenging for me, especially in Nihongo.  The first few lessons in Nihongo were easy, but as I progressed my listening skills went in the other direction.  I can figure out the words though.  So far, listening has been my main drawback in learning Nihongo.

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Will it make sense if I say that the most challenging part in learning a foreign language is to keep the motivation going? Anyway, in trying to learn Korean, I get frustrated with having to memorize the vowels and the consonants. Hangul letters are just lines, squares, and circles/curves, and yet I had the most difficulty retaining them to memory. But then again as mentioned by someone here, it's the beginning that's the hardest.

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The most challenging aspect of learning a foreign language, is exactly that: its foreign. When I first began learning Spanish, I had to think in a completely different mindset. But after a while, I began to notice different patterns and consistencies between English and Spanish. The cognates made learning the language so much easier, and soon all I needed to learn were the various grammar rules. I believe thats also a very difficult part of learning a new language. When the grammar and syntax of a foreign language are different than that of your native language, it can be difficult to find patterns between the two. If I were to try and learn Korean, the alphabets aren't even the same, so it would be extremely difficult to learn. Nevertheless, with patience and efficient learning techniques, you can become fluent in any language. 

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  • 4 months later...

The problem I have with Dutch is mostly with the word order and the grammar in general,  but once I learn enough words I will be fine.  I think my next issue would be the pronunciation, my lack of confidence when speaking the language with natives and non natives and such,   I think I will have some issues with that at first :)  Specially now that I am moving to the Netherlands. 

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Oh, for me it's a few different things. I agree, drumming up some enthusiasm to get started can be a huge task. The good thing is, once I've started, you can't stop me! -even though keeping the motivation going can be another beast in its own right! I need to feel that I'm making some inroads, otherwise I get discouraged. Also, I have to say pronunciation can be a big challenge, especially because for me, it's very important to try and speak the language as it was meant to be. I want to get it right and get in all those intonations and words just right. -and then one of my biggest faults is being too hard on myself, while everyone is trying to spur me on and compliment me on my progress, I'm there beating myself up and feeling I ought to progress a lot faster LOL. 

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Starting to learn a language presents a number of challenges, one that remains for a while is a feeling of uselessness as you learn the basics. As a beginner, you aren't able to express yourself and often feel as if you are making simple mistakes. It's important to remember that mistakes are normal and to keep focusing on the positive things that attracted you to the language.

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For me, it's dependent on how much I can use it in a given setting. I love language learning, but if there's no chance for utilizing it, for practicing it, all of my efforts go in one ear and out the other. Listening and speaking is how I figure out what's going on with everything else. Am I using the grammar correctly? Am I pronouncing it correctly? Does the word mean what I think it means? 

Japanese was easy for me because I could have all those answered through conversation with a native speaker. Whereas my attempts with French and Russian are going much less steadily. 

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For German, it's been grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure. Sometimes, I feel like German sentences have been thrown into a large, very illogical blender, and I have tons of trouble remembering which types of words go where. I have yet to start studying cases, but from what I've seen, it looks complicated. My vocabulary is bad because I just find remembering words to be difficult.

For Lithuanian, it's been spelling so far. Also, pronunciation and finding resources to even learn the language. For the spelling, it's a lot different than German and English, so it's really going to present a challenge for me.

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  • 1 month later...

Hm... for me, I guess it's a combination of pronunciation and sentence structure that trips me up. I'm currently taking Korean, and the sentence structure is so unlike that I'm used to. Instead of the normal "subject + verb + object" structure that's used in my native English and Chinese, it uses a "subject + object + verb" structure. I still don't understand why the language is designed in such a way (logically, the subject is affecting the object), but after being exposed to Korean for the past seven years it's not as big a deal. Then there are the particles... don't get me started on those!

I, like you, also worry about perfect pronunciation. I'm very self conscious when I speak in my first language already, so I can't imagine in a foreign language. With pronunciation, I want to get the tone just right too. I remember there was this girl in my Elementary Korean I class whose tone made all her statements sounding like questions. I wasn't sure if she heard it, but I definitely did. I don't know, I'm just really afraid of judgement.

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The most challenging part of learning a new language for me is getting conversational with it. I know a lot of phrases, and I pick up the accent and vocabulary very easily, but when it comes to putting it all together, that's where I get stuck.  I also understand that a native speaker "slurs" the words, sort of like what we do in America when we say "gonna" instead of "going to".  The trick is knowing what particular words or phrases to together like this. 

I think it takes getting immersed in the culture, the society and having to listen to the language being spoken exclusively before everything will "click" for me. Unfortunately, I've never traveled to another country to be able to immerse myself like that, and I don't live in an area of the U.S. where there is a large population of foreign speakers. So that's not a viable option for me. 


All I can do is practice, and hope that when I need to use the language, I am moderately acceptable. Does anyone else know of an alternate way of being able to put it all together and learn conversational speech? I'm open to any suggestions. It seems like that's my next step, and I'm a little stuck. 

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If you are trying to learn a language which follows different script and grammar, it will be very difficult to learn it. However, if you are trying to learn the language which is more or less similar, it will be easy. For example, for someone who knows Hindi language, it will be easier to learn Sanskrit, however, French speaking individual will find it difficult.

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3 minutes ago, VinayaSpeaks said:

If you are trying to learn a language which follows different script and grammar, it will be very difficult to learn it. However, if you are trying to learn the language which is more or less similar, it will be easy. For example, for someone who knows Hindi language, it will be easier to learn Sanskrit, however, French speaking individual will find it difficult.

That's so true! That's one of the reasons I know so many phrases in Spanish, French, and Italian--they're all based on Latin and use the same alphabetic characters. So once you know one of the words, it's easier to figure out what the same word is in the other 2. Buenos Dias, Buon Giorno, Bonjour--all very similar base. Gutentag, on the other hand, sounds nothing like good morning in French. It does use our alphabetical characters, however. As opposed to the Cyrillic alphabet that the Slavic languages use, or the character/symbols that Asian languages use for writing. 

 

When it comes to other alphabets other than the one we use here, I just have to learn phrases by ear. I find that easy to do myself, so as long as my memory holds out, I'm good.

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1 hour ago, cutiepie said:

As opposed to the Cyrillic alphabet that the Slavic languages use, or the character/symbols that Asian languages use for writing.

This part needs some fixing.
Not all Slavic languages use the Cyrillic script, just the orthodox ones (Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, etc.) do.
Slavic languages like Polish, Czech, Lithuanian, etc. use the Latin script instead.

As for the Asian language part, neither they all use different characters.
Vietnamese and Indonesian for example use the Latin script as well (although Vietnamese uses a more tonal version of it).

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Grammar. Absolutely. My one true bane. Whenever I speak in other languages, I try to be very cautious with the conjugations of words. But after all is said and done, I then realize the few (or more) grammatical errors I just made. It makes me think, "shoot! I shouldn't have said that! Think before you speak!" Unfortunately, I never do, haha. As Bruce Lee once said: "Don't think. Feel." Which is basically the level I want to be in all the languages I learn. 

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I think the most challenging thing for me is being consistent. Pronunciation will get better with time and practice, but you have to be consistent with practicing. You can't expect good foreign language skills to be readily available to use if you are only practicing once a week. 

 

Another thing I find challenging is when languages have one word with 20 different meanings. Sure, there are some words in the English language like that, but it gets annoying. 

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