Why is it that so many people tend to give up on learning a language?
From my experience, I’d definitely say it’s because of two main reasons:
- They are not committed, which usually stems from not being motivated and passionate enough
- They’re just too damn shy to open their mouth and put what they’re learning into practice!
- They believe they lack an aptitude for languages
So let’s take a closer look at these two excuses.
Let’s be honest: they’re bullshit.
Before we begin with a thorough psychological analysis of why these reasons hold people back, let me just say that if you’re going to start doing anything, you should go in to win it, not just to dabble. I’m not perfect by any means – I’ve started and quit on multiple projects. For the most part, it feels horrible to let go of something I’ve put my time into, but that’s the price you pay for not being committed initially.
It gets worse the longer you prolong it.
As an example, I started tattooing in February 2017. After sitting down and seriously considering my options at the time, I decided to sell my equipment and move on in August 2018. What hurt the most was that I was actually pretty good at it – I was told by a few other artists that I definitely showed promise in my skills.
However, at the core of it, doing tattoos was not my ultimate goal. Especially because I was living in China, and all I wanted at the time was to get home.
Without further ado, let’s gain some insight into the two main reasons why people give up on language learning.
I remember my first year in university. As a naïve, curious undergraduate, I decided to take Mandarin 101… all on my parent’s dime, of course.
I still remember walking into a class with 30 or so people. About half were Asians, with some native Cantonese speakers in there. Strangely enough, I felt instantly at home.
The funny thing is, within a week, almost half the people were gone. Poof. Vanished. I guess our professor’s explanation of intricate Chinese characters, 4 tones for each character, and a very loose grammar system was too intimidating for those who fled the scene.
But I stayed. I ended up scoring the highest grade in the class. I ended up being favored by our professor, to the extent that I was granted a scholarship to go study in Shanghai for a year… which turned into four years of living in China.
Even in China, however, I still met people who, despite having earned a scholarship as well, were already becoming disenchanted with the idea of continuing to learn Chinese.
Yet, I pressed on.
By that, I simply mean that I dedicated about an hour a day to studying, sometimes more in the beginning stages, and as I improved, I needed to spend even less time with books, and could simply absorb vocabulary and means of expression just through conversation.
That’s the level anyone and everyone should strive to get to – set it and forget it. Autopilot. Not to brag at all, but learning Chinese is easy for me now, and learning any language, or any skill for that matter, can be easy for you as well if you understand these concepts.
The work is often arduous at first, but that’s how the world tests you to see what you’re made of.
In terms of commitment, deep down, you’ll know if something is just a whim that you want to act on, or if you truly feel like dedicating your time and energy to learning something. You decide how valuable it is for you.
I tried a ton of stuff that I later realized I had not the desire nor the passion to continue in. Computer programming, Korean, boxing, graphic design, you name it.
The commonality between all of these was that I was not ‘in it to win it’.
But what if you decide to leave something temporarily? What if ‘you plan on getting back into it’?
I have news for you: there is nothing wrong with taking a step back, sometimes life interferes, and we have other, more pressing concerns. But, as I wrote above, you should put in the work in order to get to the point where you no longer have to put much active effort into improving, and you can coast, while focusing on something else.