No one quits a language because it got hard. This is the real reason.

Chris Eubanks
3 min readNov 28, 2023
Photo by Frankie Lopez on Unsplash

At the beginning of a language journey, learners typically have a lot of enthusiasm. They imagine their idealized self speaking the language and the benefits that come with fluency. Every little break-through reinforces this future self as their vision becomes closer to reality.

The gap widens

Over time, the gap between the obligatory self and idealized self widens. The obligatory self is the version of yourself that has to show up and do the work consistently. The idealized self is the fantasy you have in your head of becoming fluent. For many language learners, their process is just a means to an end. They’ll scour the Internet for that perfect “polyglot approved” process and follow it like a recipe. The longer the obligatory learner goes without being conversational, the more frustrated they get. It won’t be enough enough anymore to reach a higher level of understanding. They need the end goal to validate the huge time sink.

When your “polyglot approved” process hits a wall

One very common language learning difficulty is understanding fast spoken speech between multiple speakers. In real life, people mumble, crack jokes, and interrupt each other. This is where your “polyglot approved” recipe book runs into trouble. Comprehensible input, textbooks, flashcards, apps, learning podcasts, and classroom style courses do nothing to bridge this gap. The only thing you can possibly do to understand chaotic real life speech is to watch chaotic real life speech with subtitles. Reality shows and comedy podcasts bridge this gap successfully.

The 2nd problem with recipe book processes is that they are typically dull and tedious. Take comprehensible input. Imagine if on your entire language journey, you only listened to comprehensible material. In the beginning, this would be learning podcasts where they talk about the weather and how to introduce yourself. Then you might graduate to children’s books and cartoons. Such a process severely limits your learning materials and how much fun you can have with the language. People have high standards for the content they consume in the English speaking world, yet they lower their standards for their target language.

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Chris Eubanks

Language learner. Rapidly learning the Finnish language. Follow me for specific knowledge that can't be found anywhere else on the Internet.