Negative Experiences in Language Learning

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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby Xenops » Tue Jan 12, 2021 5:52 pm

Thanks to everyone that shared! I don't feel quite so bad now. :)

1. What is a negative learning experience you want to share? What language?
I studied Spanish in high school, and I had a good experience all three years. I started loosing interest when I continued it at the community college, and the instructor was so boring. She was a nice enough person, but her teaching style managed suck a lot of the interest I had. At this point I think I had a solid B1, or maybe even a beginning B2 in Spanish.

Things got worse when I expressed interest in learning other languages, and my toxic father put a lot of pressure to focus on Spanish, to the exclusion of others. "Spanish is the most useful in the U.S.", he would say. I really tried to gather interest and enthusiasm to follow his "advice", but aside from the usefulness, I had no real reason to continue it: I didn't love Latino culture, I wasn't into telenovelas, and I didn't love Spanish literature. Still, I felt a lot of shame (and still do) for not having the desire to continue it, especially since my dad wanted me to continue. Said parent also actively discouraged my interest in other languages, particularly Japanese. He would ridicule me and condemn me for "loving the culture more than the people".

My last-ditch effort was learning customer service Spanish for a retail job--I even gave the overhead announcements in English and Spanish. I would talk to native Spanish-speakers in their language, and a few men asked me about my marital status.

2. How did you process the experience?
Like I mentioned, I felt like an inferior, or wicked person for not wanting to continue Spanish. I had gotten so far: why stop now? I really wanted my dad's approval as well--he was so hard to please. But I couldn't muster the interest, and I felt guilty for not loving it. Hence the thread I posted: Learning a Language You Don't Love The Spanish speakers asking me out...Makes me feel uncomfortable. When I first started learning Spanish, I loved connecting with people that I couldn't otherwise communicate with. Now I turned into an adult woman, and my efforts to communicate were rewarded with attention I didn't want. I feel bad for feeling repulsed, but...I feel repulsed.

3. What was the outcome? Were you able to continue on your TL, or did you choose to move on?
For years I have trying to either get the interest to continue the language, or being able to move on. To date, I have not seriously studied the language again. Aside from a couple of phrases, I can't speak it anymore.

Recently I have undergone a lot of mental and emotional healing, and I wonder if my feelings are legitimate, and that it's okay if I don't love Spanish. I can't find a reason to use it, and I don't need it. I also have not spoken to my toxic parent in two years, so I'm slowly removing his influence from my mentality. I think learning it in high school was a great experience, so I don't regret the time I studied it, but I'm accepting the idea that maybe it's okay to move on. After all, there are other languages to study, like Japanese. ;)
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby MrPenguin » Tue Jan 12, 2021 8:34 pm

1. What is a negative learning experience you want to share? What language?
There's this tiny online community I frequent, and a few years back, this Finnish person started hanging out there. They had a rather (read: very) unpleasant personality, and the few months they stuck around made me consider leaving. Over the course of the months they stuck around, I unfortunately started developing a sense of distaste for the Finnish language itself, simply due to the fact that my main exposure to anything Finnish became that person. Fortunately, after not getting the attention they craved, they left of their own accord.

2. How did you process the experience?
Unfortunately, I didn't have the sense to simply stop engaging with them. It reached the point where I stopped studying Finnish entirely for a good year or two.

3. What was the outcome? Were you able to continue on your TL, or did you choose to move on?
I've been studying the language actively again since this summer, but unfortunately, I'm simply not feeling it the way I used to. At least, not yet. There's still the constant temptation to move on to some other, "bigger" and "better" language. Still, Finland remains the country closest to my current location, and due to my circumstances is the only foreign country I've visited in almost 20 years. And I honestly feel bad about holding the behaviour of a single person against a country and language as a whole. There's also the personal satisfaction I feel sometimes when I listen to Finnish radio and am able to get significantly more than just the gist of a programme: the satisfaction of having reached a not insignificant level in a completely unrelated language. :lol:
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby Cavesa » Tue Jan 12, 2021 10:31 pm

Thanks, Garyb. That's one of the most beautiful things anyone has ever said about me. Seeing the world with both the good and bad, and not being silent about it, that's usually not a popular thing. I value you as well for describing your experience with language learning so openly too, and without giving up! I totally agree that the rose and sparkles picture portrayed most typically by the white rich young healthy cismale internet polyglots is definitely not good for the LL newbies!

I hesitated at first, whether to write in this thread. Whether I have anything to add, without repeating for a dozenth time what many of you have already read. Yes, I have had a lot of negative experiences. Sometimes, I turned them in my favour and won against the lack of support or even active hostility of either individuals or a larger system. Sometimes it was just a tiny and unimportant thing, but a few of those experiences have changed my life.

I find it disturbing, that many of the experiences mentioned by us on the forum (or witnessed elsewhere) are not ok behaviours towards the young people. Contrary to popular belief, I don't think the young people are in general just too entitled or sensitive, that's only partially true. I am convinced that our society often treats young people with significantly less respect than would be appropriate, and that the olders (sometimes in genuinely good faith, sometimes just to show off their power) are often needlessly mean, cruel, or at least annoying. Whether they are teachers, random passerbyes, relatives, anyone else. The fact these behaviours touch young people's learning choices and activities is no surprise, it would be a weird exception. As we get older, we not only become more capable to deal with the unpleasant situations and more resistant and resilient. People also stop taking us for easy targets and treat us more as either equal, or at least as not their business. But by then, it is often too late to undo some of the damage, for example low self-esteem or wasted opportunities.

For this thread, I would like to pick something I haven't probably written much about yet. It might seem petty to some of you, but it is actually something that made me give up on a language.

1. What is a negative learning experience you want to share? What language?
Swedish. The prejudice "you're too poor to want to learn Swedish".

At one point, I really wanted to learn Swedish. Not even the famous strong tendency to switch to English could scare me off (I had tons of experience from France already :-D ). A bit harsher was the clash with the real prices of every book and its delivery fee, and the geoblocking. Everything was twice or three times more expensive than its FIGS counterpart. But that still wasn't enough to make me give up, I was ok with that and researched my options (such as reading in Ikea, a scandinavian language library, etc).

A visit to a huge book fair in Prague was the last straw. That year, the scandinavian countries were the main guest, and this fact was on every poster and every online ad. I was still a student, but I took approximately 100 euro (in czech crowns of course. I don't smoke, I don't drink much, I buy books) and hoped to buy two or three books in Swedish. It was an estimate based on my research of book prices on various foreign eshops. I had already gathered the rest of my learning resources, I was one or two lessons into a coursebook. All I wanted were a few tempting fiction books to put on my shelf, to motivate me. I came to the damn book fair, where you could also buy books in several foreign languages every year (even if their countries are not the main guest. foreign books are available.). And the soo hyped scandinavian section was full of translations! When I asked a seller "and where are the originals that I came here for?", I was told "oh, the books in Swedish would be too expensive for you!".

I was automatically taken for a poor fool and not only by that employee. The people running the project were automatically judging czechs as too poor to buy a book. I was literally holding a hundred euro in my hands!

2. How did you process the experience?
It was the last piece of the puzzle. The too high prices of everything, those would still be logical (the Swedes get paid much more, pay a lot of taxes, and everything costs them more). The artificial obstacles everywhere (but Sweden should be interested in promoting Swedish, as the country is very interested in attracting foreign healthcare workers and other qualified work force), such as geoblocking, people switching to English, and scarcity of local language classes for public. And also the huge industry focused on promoting the scandinavian movies and books everywhere, but only in translation! You are allowed (even encouraged) to pay, but only for a damaged product. You are not allowed an easy direct access to the culture. Even if you actually have the money, you are still not welcome.

3. What was the outcome? Were you able to continue on your TL, or did you choose to move on?
I gave up on Swedish. It lost its charm. They are not interested in sharing their culture without filters. And I am not interested in moving to Sweden for any amount of money (too cold, and I wouldn't be a good fit in their society I think. I am a better fit for the western or southern european countries.)

As my plan C or D, I am learning German (even if it is a slow process and I could write about many negative experiences with it). As a language for fun, I plan to start Hebrew soon. In future, I think I'll always prefer languages of countries, that don't protect their authentic culture so much.
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby ProperPanda » Tue Jan 12, 2021 10:36 pm

Wow, so many interesting stories here! I really feel for people who received unwanted attention because they were learning or speaking a foreign language. :(

My experience is not so extreme, but it did put me off a language for quite a while.

It happened to me in my university German 3 class which was supposed to take us from A2 to B1. The teacher asked us for feedback about the class and I suggested that perhaps we could spend more time on speaking (we did very little of that). She told me that to start speaking we first have to learn good grammar which really shocked me. I learnt English in school mostly through imitating my native speaker teacher and actually did very little grammar. To this day I find it very hard to study the rules of the language purely by reading and writing, I find that they stick best with me when I speak.

I also couldn't help but think that with this comment she was also having a go at my German. I never found speaking it easy since it was the first language I studied that sometimes put verbs at the back. ;)

This really put me off German - my participation in class went downhill and I just couldn't bring myself to study between lessons, especially since my other classes were very demanding. Despite this, I went on to do German 4 where I had an excellent teacher who wanted us to speak a lot, but by that time the damage was already done. I always had this uneasy feeling at the back of my head that my spoken German is inadequate.

I think I will go back to German eventually but for now I've decided to give it a break and maybe occasionally watch a short video just to not forget it completely. On a more positive side, the lesson I've learnt from this is that I should never force myself into something that doesn't work for me. I now have a fairly good understanding about how my brain best processes new material and I know how to tailor my methods to achieve my goals!
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby gsbod » Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:31 pm

1. What is a negative learning experience you want to share? What language?

Probably my most negative experience, by far, was with German when I was at school. I had German classes for two years. For the first year I had a terrible teacher who was incapable of teaching a class of boisterous 12 year olds anything. This, together with the fact that the textbooks and expectations were in line with the worst fashions of language teaching in the 90s, meant that I learned nothing more than a couple of grammatically incorrect phrases. The teacher for the second year was unable to do the damage, possibly because she never realised quite how much we had missed out on the year before. At the same time, I was lucky enough to have a pretty good French teacher who taught us the grammar basics despite it being out of fashion, and actually engaged us in some basic conversation on a weekly basis.

2. How did you process the experience?

The result was that I decided I liked French, because I could make sense of it. In comparison, German seemed completely illogical and without structure (in reality German is anything but, however that was my perception at the time). I hated it, and dropped it as soon as I could.

3. What was the outcome? Were you able to continue on your TL, or did you choose to move on?

I was convinced that I hated German for a very long time. This all changed when I turned 30 and I took a trip to Berlin which completely overturned all prejudices I had about Germany and the German language. I started studying it properly and a few years later reached a C1 level.

On the one hand it's a shame that I may have missed out on opportunities in my late teens and twenties as a result of prejudices picked up from a bad school experience that left me with a completely distorted idea of the language. On the other hand, the fact that I got to approach the language, from scratch, on my own terms, as an adult, means that it is far more special to me than it would have been had I continued learning it at school, and I take far more pride in my achievement.

There are plenty of other languages that I've studied a bit, put on hold, dropped or whatever, for various reasons (e.g. lack of access to materials, lack of opportunity to practice, lack of time, lack of interest) but none of these elicit the same strong negative emotional response I once felt towards German.

And in the end, I've achieved far more with German than I ever did with French, the language I stuck with at school until I was 18. It's fair to say I had a lot of negative experiences in general with my compulsory education, but the good news is that the older I get, the less it matters.
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby kanewai » Wed Jan 13, 2021 12:27 am

Most of my 'negative' experiences have been more irritating (teachers who didn't know the language, books that were a waste of money, bad advice ... so much bad advice) - but I do have one that comes to mind:

1. What is a negative learning experience you want to share? What language?

Earlier this year I joined a Facebook reading challenge, where friends would post the books they read. I was the only one who continued past the first month. And I posted books in English, French, Spanish, and Italian.

I had dinner with a friend a few weeks ago, and apparently I had been coming up in conversation: Who does he think he is? He doesn't really know those languages. What is he trying to prove by pretending?

2. How did you process the experience?

Rationally, I know this is a class difference. The comments were from our local A-list who like to keep people in their little boxes, and I'm from a rural background & public schools & my box is 'surfer party boy' (which might have been true 20-plus years ago). I've dealt with this crowd before, with condescending questions about my work (but how are you qualified to do that???). But it still irks.

Luckily my friend - whom I've travelled with - told them that he thinks I really do know how to read in those languages.

3. What was the outcome? Were you able to continue on your TL, or did you choose to move on?

I actually thought about stopping language-related posts on social media. And then I thought: I spend a lot of time on this, and shouldn't have to hide it from the anti-intellectual crowd. And luckily I have a small handful of friends who also read in other languages, and we can still share.
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby AndyMeg » Wed Jan 13, 2021 9:30 pm

1. What is a negative learning experience you want to share? What language?

This negative experience is from when I was learning Japanese in a class with a native speaker (it happened about 10 years ago or so).

First, just a bit of context: After going to a conference about the Japanese language and how it was easier for Spanish native speakers to reach a near native pronunciation in the language, I felt really motivated to try and learn it. I had already been interested in the Japanese culture for many years and there were lots of things I wanted to do in Japanese. So that conference gave me the push I needed to finally try to learn the language.

The problem was that, at that time, there were no classes or teachers available where I live (the conference I mentioned above was in another city), so I started learning Hiragana and Katakana on my own, until, thanks to an event organized in my city, I met a native speaker who had recently started to teach Japanese. As far as I know, she didn't have professional teaching training and she was learning to be a teacher on the go.

As there weren't enough people for a new class, I had to wait for some weeks (around two or three months, I think) until there were enough interested people for finally starting a new beginners level class.

After the first level I was the only one that passed to level 2, but there was not level 2 group at the moment and sensei told me that I could skip ahead to level 3 if I wanted.

I was scared of skipping a level and a half (because level 3 students were midway through the level), but I feared that was my only option if I didn't want to wait for months before a new level 1 group was formed and enough students passed to level 2. So I took her offer and then, suddenly, I was in Kanji hell.

For level one we had learned and practiced the Kanas and just started to learn a few very basic Kanjis. (I have to say, that thanks to her, reading the Kanas became almost second nature for all of us. She only used Romaji for teaching the sounds and from then on we had to read everything in Kana form)

When I made the jump to level 3 I had to take some extra classes from her to catch up with the other students in that level. With grammar it was rather easy, but kanji was another story: they knew a lot more kanjis than what I had learned on level 1 (because for level 1 we were primarly learning and practicing the kanas). On level 3 sensei made kanji quizzes every week, and in every quiz I got bad results. After a few months in I was so scared of another bad score that I didn't want to go to class on the days I knew sensei would be making another kanji quiz. I skipped many classes then; but I was paying the tuition fees, and I didn't want to lose my money, so I eventually started to go again to all the classes.

And I made it to level 4 after the final test for level 3, but my worse score was for the Kanji focused part of the test. No wonder. :lol:

2. How did you process the experience?

That experience was the most stressful time of my japanese learning journey and it strained my relationship with Kanjis for many years. It became a love-hate relationship, and my listening and spoken Japanese became way better than my written Japanese and my reading.

3. What was the outcome? Were you able to continue on your TL, or did you choose to move on?

Some time later the teacher moved to another city and I decided to continue learning the language on my own. I tried different resources, and my grammar continued improving, but I still had difficulties with Kanji. It wasn't until I bought the complete version of the Kanji Study app that I finally started to make good progress in my Kanji learning and I finally started to actually enjoy the process.

I'm still not that good at reading Japanese and my overall Japanese isn't at the level I would like it to be. But I've watched some Japanese movies and dramas with Japanese subs or whitout any subs and in many cases I've understood enough to be able to follow the plot and enjoy them.

Fortunately, Kanji isn't a source of fear or stress anymore:

From time to time I've read bits of mangas in Japanese. Not with complete understanding, but at least I can get the gist of what they are saying.

And my efforts with Japanese greatly helped me on my short term project of learning some written Mandarin Chinese two years ago. And thanks to that I was able to recently somehow follow and get the gist of the first episode of a kind of webtoon (or something of the sort) written by a Taiwanese author. I was fortunate that I was familiar with most of the key words and the key grammar used in that particular story and episode, and that the multimedia elements gave me more clues and context, but nevertheless it felt really good to be able to do that.

I'm currently not focusing on Japanese or Chinese, but I plan to go back to them later. Though I still consume media in those languages from time to time. My current focus is on Korean with some Portuguese on the side.
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby Radioclare » Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:02 pm

1. What is a negative learning experience you want to share? What language?
Back when I was a student, I had a thing for a guy who lived in another country. This was around 2002 so we weren't constantly connected to the internet and we used to exchange postal letters. I wrote him a letter in which I asked him a question to try and ascertain the strength of his feelings for me. I was trying to decide whether this relationship was worth pursuing or whether I should date someone else, who I found much less interesting but who was at least in the same country :lol:

Anyway, for reasons I never fully understood, he replied and answered my question... in Esperanto. He had been learning Esperanto for a year or so at this point and was very enthusiastic about it. His enthusiasm had prompted me to buy a copy of TY Esperanto and I think I'd read the first four chapters. No more than that. I definitely didn't speak Esperanto and it wasn't a language we ever communicated in. Men :roll:

I didn't have an Esperanto dictionary and there was no Google Translate, so I decided to ask for a translation on an Esperanto message board. Yahoo groups were very popular with the Esperanto community back then. It was only a single sentence that I needed translating, so I figured it would be a pretty easy task for someone who spoke the language. It was a complete shock to me when, rather than receiving a straight forward reply, my innocuous translation request sparked a long and involved debate on the message board about whether what I had written qualified as a "sentence". I think perhaps what I'd typed was missing a capital letter or a full stop. I also think at least one person replied to complain about how I either had or hadn't typed the 'supersignoj' (accented characters in Esperanto - ĉ ĝ, etc). The responses were completely disproportionate to whatever the issue was.

2. How did you process the experience?
Although a couple of people did ultimately respond in a normal way and translate the sentence for me, I was horrified and mortified by the whole experience. It left me with the impression that Esperantists were all very strange and exceptionally rude. I never wanted to interact with any of them again. I vowed that I would never learn Esperanto.

3. What was the outcome? Were you able to continue on your TL, or did you choose to move on?
I eventually did learn Esperanto in 2006/2007, have been on the board of my national Esperanto association since 2009 and am engaged to someone who's written an Esperanto textbook. So life doesn't always turn out how you expect :lol:
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby rdearman » Thu Jan 14, 2021 10:44 am

Radioclare wrote: It left me with the impression that Esperantists were all very strange and exceptionally rude.

I believe I said something very similar to a fellow named Tim who gave a talk at one of the gatherings. :)
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby tarvos » Thu Jan 14, 2021 10:57 am

Hey! Don't make fun of me for speaking Esperanto! (Though I wouldn't call myself an Esperantist).
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