The Unglamorous Aspects of Language Learning

Vocabulary memorization, brain power, time, and cultural misunderstandings are a few of the unglamorous aspects of learning a new language.
While there is no avoiding these unglamorous aspects of language learning, there are ways to manage and motivate yourself through the difficult times.

Watching your son speak with his grandfather in Mandarin Chinese; conversing with a guide in Spanish as you ascend the slopes of the famous Machu Picchu; being invited into a local family’s home in rural France and telling them about your travels in their native language – these are often the glamorous dreams that occupy the mind of someone wanting to learn a new language. But the process of learning a new language and turning those dreams into a reality is filled with hard work and tedious repetition. While holding onto these dreams as motivations, here are some unglamorous yet necessary aspects of language learning that you can prepare yourself for:


Vocabulary Memorization:

Because words are the fundamental building blocks of any language, there is no getting around having to memorize a lot of vocabulary. It can be frustrating to hear the word “tienda” (store) again and again, but repetition as well as hearing and speaking the word in context will help solidify words into your long term memory.  


Grammar and Syntax:

Learning the rules and structures of a new language, including grammar and syntax, can be tedious and confusing. The process often involves memorizing complex conjugations, verb tenses, and sentence structures that are different from your native language.  



Training your tongue and mouth to speak in a different way after years of muscle memory in your native language can be a difficult and sometimes embarrassing process. This is especially true of tonal languages in which pitch is used to distinguish meaning. You might struggle to pronounce certain sounds or words correctly, leading to misunderstandings.


Brain Power:

Learning a new language requires a lot of mental effort which can be exhausting. Add this to extra classes, a job that requires a lot of brain power, and the daily stresses of life, and the effect only compounds upon itself. 



Learning a new language is a time-consuming endeavor. The amount of time will depend on a person’s aptitude towards languages, motivation to keep going, study habits, and systems of support, but it can take years of consistent effort to become proficient in speaking a new language. 


Making Mistakes:

Language learners are bound to make mistakes, and it can be embarrassing when those mistakes happen in front of native speakers. However, making mistakes is a crucial part of the learning process.


Frustration and Plateaus:

Progress in language learning is not always in a straight, upwards line. Learners often hit plateaus where it seems like they’re not improving after putting in lots of effort, which can be demotivating and frustrating.


Cultural Misunderstandings:

Language is deeply tied to culture, and learners may encounter situations where they inadvertently offend or misunderstand others due to cultural differences. 


While there is no avoiding these unglamorous aspects of language learning, there are ways to manage and motivate yourself through the difficult times. Cultural Bytes employs a method of teaching known as ‘cultural immersion’ where our teachers speak only Spanish, French or Mandarin Chinese in class – no English. Even though this can be initially difficult to adjust to, our classes utilize fun, games, crafts, and cultural learning to keep our students engaged and motivated through their language learning journey. Check out our One-on-One classes for adults or our Virtual Language Program (ViLaCa) for children ages 4-12.

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