Negative Experiences in Language Learning

General discussion about learning languages
dgc1970
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby dgc1970 » Thu Jan 14, 2021 8:39 pm

Radioclare wrote: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:


Am I the only one wondering what he wrote?
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CarlyD
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby CarlyD » Fri Jan 15, 2021 8:00 pm

1. What is a negative learning experience you want to share? What language?
Back when I was serious about learning Spanish, I had changed my alarm/radio to a Spanish station. I woke up one morning, listening to the two DJ's bantering back and forth. I was thrilled that I could understand their conversation, until I realized that they were making fun of "stupid white people that think they can speak Spanish."

Around this same time, I was trying to practice with bilingual people at work--and was quickly shot down with "Spanish is for native speakers." A good part of my job was answering the phone to callers all over the state and a large number of them were Spanish-only speakers who would call, say "español?" and then wait for a native speaker. Even though I was perfectly able to clearly ask them for their name, etc., the majority flatly refused to speak to anyone but a native speaker. It got very depressing trying to learn a language where I didn't appear to be welcome.

2. How did you process the experience?
I basically stopped speaking to people and kept to translating various Spanish statements and documents that were submitted.

3. What was the outcome? Were you able to continue on your TL, or did you choose to move on?
I would still like my Spanish to be much better to watch telenovelas and various detective shows, and to read some of the books I've got. But it's hard when I don't really connect any more with the people or culture.

I've never had an issue with German--but I wonder if part of it is that I'm ethnically German (German/Slovenian) and I already think of it as "my culture" so any issue would just be with that particular person and not the people in general.
Last edited by CarlyD on Sat Jan 16, 2021 5:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby Querneus » Fri Jan 15, 2021 8:52 pm

Radioclare wrote: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.
Yeah, I don't understand why that happens in language learning places sometimes. I've seen that kind of thing in (small) places about Latin. I tend to think it's because those talking at that moment don't actually know the language well enough to (try to) answer the question at hand, so instead they go on a tangent or complain about something irrelevant...

Or maybe they were just weird angry teenagers. There was one time I asked at some Minecraft Spanish-speaking place (among other places) what they felt was the difference between "español" and "castellano" where they lived (e.g. in El Salvador we almost always only use "español", although you might see "castellano" on rare occasions, like maybe in an agenda listing countries with their official language). Cue an endless sequence of people not understanding my question at all, instead angrily trying to "convince" me that there are differences between the Spanish of most of Latin America and Argentina/Spain. And I kept telling them "yes, I know, I'm just asking about those words in your country", but they kept trying to "convince" me...
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:
Unexpected twist! :)
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby lusan » Fri Jan 15, 2021 9:22 pm

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

English: None.
Polish: Some. People do not want to speak unless they have no choice. If they know English, they go for it. So I got used to that behavior. I don't care.
French: Some. At a Xmas local French connection, I felt so isolated that I decided not to attend anymore these type of gatherings. Too uptight set of people. It made me wnder if I really wanted to speak with them at all! It does not seem so. So I gave up.
Xenops wrote:2. How did you process the experience?

I gave myself a bit of time to ponder on it. Conclusion: I really do not need to talk at all. It is not a learning objective with the exception of low level Polish for relative sake.
Xenops wrote:3. What was the outcome? Were you able to continue on your TL, or did you choose to move on?

No impact.
I concluded that people have not desire of been taken advantage by becoming Language tutors - without pay and suddenly- by some enthusiastic student. Too be nice?! I feel uncomfortable whenever anyone wants to speak Spanish to me just because I am a native. I am not a conversation teacher. Italki and other services are there... they are much better and cheaper than me.

I believe that it is important to clarity about our goals. It forced my to consider my motivations for spending several hours/day dealing with unknown languages. So... My goal don't require much other people perceptions of my skills:

English: My second real language after 40+ years in USA.
Polish: I know enough to visit relatives and greet them, small talk, etc. I have no further desire.
French/Italian: The news/books/films and music. It is unnecessary to speak. Passive is enough. Though after the pandemic I will probably join again, for social reasons, the weekly local French meeting.
Spanish: None. I speak the language if I need to with old friends and relatives.

What am I saying? For communication purpose, English does a great job. It is an international language that meet most of my traveling needs.
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby Ug_Caveman » Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:57 pm

1. What is a negative learning experience you want to share? What language?
French lessons at school. Not because I had a bad experience or a teacher I didn't like - on the contrary, my French teachers were some of the loveliest people I was ever taught by who put real effort into trying to get me up to scratch with my peers - I just wasn't very good, to the point I developed a real aversion to the idea of sitting my GCSE in the subject (and ended up crying to my mum more than once because I was so against doing it). I also struggled in Spanish (although only took it for one year when I was 13-14) and Latin (which I had to study for two years aged 11-13), and felt similarly about both. I just couldn't 'crack' languages despite really wanting to.

I did sit my GCSE in the end, getting a C grade (which do this day I've never believed I deserved). Looking at the time and effort four separate teachers and a graduate language assistant put into helping me over two years made me really feel like I'd let them down.

2. How did you process the experience?
I was pretty upset about it (although relieved to have passed my GCSE), but it's this experience that caused me to look deeper into language learning.

3. What was the outcome? Were you able to continue on your TL, or did you choose to move on?
I was desperate to learn a language. Many of my close friends sat A-levels in MFL or were natively bilingual. I wanted to be part of the group, and I tried many languages - stuck with French, tried Russian, flirted with German, Mandarin, Japanese - nothing seemed to work.

Until I found Dutch.

I found my niche - a language I didn't struggle with compared to the others. Pronunciation has never been a huge problem for me - it was the one area my French teachers all agreed I would score perfect marks on in an exam - it's the only language skill I had that others had openly admitted envy of (I was able to comfortably dictate Spanish and German with a good accent too, despite not studying either). Dutch grammar is much simpler (at least to my mind). I also love the country and, despite drinking neither beer nor coffee, the culture (and no, I'm referring to anything that one might consider 'adult'). I have made great friends from the Netherlands and Flanders over the last few years whom I am hoping to visit once the pandemic is over.

One of my proudest achievements in language learning is avoiding ''that'' moment when someone who studies Dutch (or a Scandinavian language) is immediately answered to in English when testing their skills (especially having never practised my skills with a native before). The first time I ordered something in a café, I was replied to in Dutch for the duration of the conversation. I actually had a bizarre reverse scenario where I ended up having to switch to Dutch for someone else's benefit (in Schiphol Airport of all places!)

While I admit I've not made the progress someone should have made in the time I've been studying, I would happily bet money that if I sat a GCSE exam (sadly no longer held in Dutch) tomorrow, it would kick the backside of my French.
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby Cenwalh » Sat Jan 16, 2021 10:44 am

Iversen wrote:The most negative thing for me has been that there are languages like Scots and New Norwegian where it is almost impossible to buy books, even in areas where they are supposed to be spoken.

Have you ever spoken Scots in Scotland? If so, how was it received?
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chove
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby chove » Sat Jan 16, 2021 12:26 pm

I had a Support Worker who told me I was wasting my time trying to learn a language if I wasn't going to the country on holiday. Everyone I told about this conversation told me to ignore her, and I ultimately ended up ditching that Support Worker for being overall unsupportive.
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby Iversen » Sat Jan 16, 2021 3:33 pm

Cenwalh wrote:
Iversen wrote:The most negative thing for me has been that there are languages like Scots and New Norwegian where it is almost impossible to buy books, even in areas where they are supposed to be spoken.

Have you ever spoken Scots in Scotland? If so, how was it received?


Well, in Scotland I have never tried to speak the fairly extreme, but thoroughly mixed variant of Scots which you find in its written form in my multiconfused log thread. I have mostly learnt the vocabulary there from an online dictionary, supplemented by knowledge gained from two small paper dictionaries. In this variant there are lots of words that wouldn't be comprehensible to most Anglophone speakers, and I can't even be sure that the words would be used across the whole area where Scots is supposed to be spoken.

In other words, if I used this hotchpotch from day one during a visit I would almost certainly be met with some scepticism by the local people - they might even think that I made fun of them. After a longer stay I might try to use it, but during my latest stay I could feel that my pronunciation slided towards the sound of a mixture of the pronunciations in Stirling, Glasgow and Edinburg. However I rarely heard any native Scotsperson actually speaking the bonny leid o Scotland - people just spoke their usual patois of Southern English. Therefore I cherished the few occations where I could hear the real mcCoy from a native speaker - like from the guide I followed around in the Stirling castle. Hurray for that guy!

The only time where I have tried to speak unmitigated Scots without any restrictions was during the second gathering in Bratislava, where it occurred to me that my conversation partners came from Scotland. Then they got every bit of hardcore Scots I could muster, and luckily it seemed that they actually understood what I said.

Kunst023.jpg
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As for situations where you get an answer in English when you try to speak the local language to native speakers (dubbed language banditry at HTLAL): as you may gather from the explanation about I don't like to speak a language unless I know that I can do it on a reasonably solid level - at least well enough to understand the possible answers. And consequently I have only rarely experienced very few cases where someone tried to switch languages on me. One person at the ticket sale of the aquarium in Montpellier, France, insisted on answering me in English even though I spoke French to him. And when I asked why he said that I had an accent. If it had been important I might have told him that he also had an accent in English, but I didn't see the point in wasting more time on such a fool.

In a few other cases people have offered me brochures in English or addressed me in English before I even have said a word, but most look positively happy to give me the relevant information in their local language once I ask - and in places like Catalañya they almost look jubilant when I ask for something in Catalan. And apart from the jerk in Montpellier no one has ever continued to speak to me in English when I had shown that I didn't intend to budge.
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby Radioclare » Sat Jan 16, 2021 3:55 pm

Querneus wrote:Yeah, I don't understand why that happens in language learning places sometimes. I've seen that kind of thing in (small) places about Latin. I tend to think it's because those talking at that moment don't actually know the language well enough to (try to) answer the question at hand, so instead they go on a tangent or complain about something irrelevant...Or maybe they were just weird angry teenagers.


Unfortunately these were middle-aged men so it's harder to make excuses for them :lol: I found out later that there's a known phenomenon in Esperanto called 'La leĝo de Tonjo', which states that the longer an online discussion in Esperanto lasts, the probability that it's derailed by a debate about grammar or vocab approaches 1. It's kind of a spoof on Godwin's law, but it often does feel like it's true. The worst I've probably ever seen was an article on an Esperanto news site about some poor Esperanto speaker who had perished in a fire. It was the sort of article where the only socially acceptable thing to post was a condolence. But somehow the comments section degenerated into a debate about whether, when the article said the person had died on the first floor, they meant the ground floor or the floor above it :shock:

dgc1970 wrote:Am I the only one wondering what he wrote?


"Antaŭ longa tempo mi enamiĝis kun bela knabino el Britio." (Translation). So it was actually the answer I wanted at the time but it didn't work out, partly because of differences of opinion over Esperanto. That feels quite ironic now, given how involved with Esperanto I've become in later life. On the message board I probably typed something like "antaux longa tempo mi enamigxis kun bela knabino el Britio", missing a capital letter and full stop and using x's to represent the accents, which is what seemed to spark the debate.
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Re: Negative Experiences in Language Learning

Postby chove » Sat Jan 16, 2021 5:00 pm

Iversen wrote:
Cenwalh wrote:
Iversen wrote:The most negative thing for me has been that there are languages like Scots and New Norwegian where it is almost impossible to buy books, even in areas where they are supposed to be spoken.

Have you ever spoken Scots in Scotland? If so, how was it received?


Well, in Scotland I have never tried to speak the fairly extreme, but thoroughly mixed variant of Scots which you find its written form in my multiconfused log thread. I have mostly learnt the vocabulary there from an online dictionary, supplemented by knowledge gained from two small paper dictionaries. In this variant there are lots of words that wouldn't be comprehensible to most Anglophone speakers, and I can't even be sure that the words would be used across the whole area where Scots is supposed to be spoken.

In other words, if I used this hotchpotch from day one during a visit I would almost certainly be met with some scepticism by the local people - they might even think that I made fun of them.


I reckon I'd be horribly embarrassed if a non-Scot used Scots words I didn't know. Impressed, but mainly embarrassed. :lol:
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