You may have heard of the 7 stages of grief, but we go through just as many ups and downs when learning a new language. So, here are the 7 emotional stages of learning a new language (I promise it’s much less morbid than you might think!).
The emotions stages you’ll experience when learning a new language
You arrive on your first day of language class, turn on your webcam (or sit at your desk), and you hear the shuffling of the other students and your teacher. As your teacher begins to speak, your heart races, your mouth gets dry, and you go into panic mode. Your teacher prepares tons of documents to look through and starts explaining the grammar basics, none of which make any sense. You don’t understand a single word and you consider why you decided to join the class.
A few lessons later and the grammar worksheets sit on piles of vocabulary worksheets which sit on piles of homework. You try to complete a few homework exercises, but can’t seem to comprehend them. You deny the fact that you’ll ever learn the language, feel utterly exhausted, and believe there is no hope for you.
Your teacher repeatedly tells you that if you practice and are patient with yourself, then you can learn much faster. You feel guilty about missing your last class. You feel guilty about making a grammar mistake when you tried to explain what you do for work. You feel guilty about watching Netflix instead of studying for bed. Guilt and being afraid of making mistakes deter your ability to progress.
The 100th time your teacher emphasises how important consistent practice is, it begins to sink in. So, you begin to bargain with yourself that you can drop that one hour of Netflix before bed and study instead. You can go out with friends next Friday if you finish all your homework. You will celebrate your progress to the next level with a fancy dinner once you get your positive test results. You begin to feel like you’re finally making some progress.
You look back over the time since you began learning and have realised how far you’ve come. You are finally able to have a complete conversation without pausing ten times. You’ve stopped caring about making mistakes and have focused now on learning fun new phrases to try out. You’re proud of yourself that you’ve consistently practiced and didn’t give up, and you start to see that you’re fully capable of becoming fluent.
New vocabulary starts to stick in your brain without having to write it down 20 times. You stop dreading doing your homework and are excited about your next language class. You spend even more time practicing the language, because you understand the basics and are now focused on fine tuning your skills. You’ve started to enjoy movies in that language and have even read a book or two.
You feel confident in speaking the language, even on difficult topics such as politics or the news. You regularly learn new vocabulary without thinking about it and grammar issues feel like a thing of the past. You spend ample amounts of time thinking, reading, writing, and speaking in that language and fully enjoy it. You even find yourself dreaming in that language. When you go somewhere else with others who don’t speak that language, you miss speaking it. You have fully accepted the language as a new part of your identity and have added it to your long-term skillset.