The More Frustration, The Better… Apparently

English: Depiction of frustration

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Every time that Benny Lewis posts on his fabulous blog, Fluent in 3 Months, I feel incredibly guilty.  That because he puts all of us language learners to shame by his dedication to speak a language fluently in 3 months.  He somehow juggles working full-time with learning a language and still has an active social life.

But this isn’t a post of how in awe I am of Benny, but instead a reflection on his last post, which talks about getting out of your comfort zone on a daily basis to improve your language learning.  He writes about the frustration we all feel when we try to speak and negotiate our way through life in a foreign language. Instead of looking at the frustration in a negative way, like I’m guilty of, he turns it into a positive.  The frustration you feel is a motivator to improve your language learning.  The more frustration you feel on a more frequent basis, the better.  This is because you are constantly challenging yourself instead of remaining in your comfort zone.

I raise my hand of being guilty of pretty much everything he mentions when talking about staying in your comfort zone: going to class but letting the teacher or other students speak most of the time, only doing homework prescribed to me, not really pushing myself when speaking German and at the end of day bitching to my expat friends in English about how challenging I find German. Guilty as charged!

However, after seeing that I’m doing myself no favours by trying to learn German this way, I’m going to endeavour to frustrate and embarrass myself more in an effort to give my German a good kick along.  I really want to become conversational in German so I can participate more in German life and if that takes some personal pain, then so be it. Will it work? Who knows, but I figure it’s worth a shot.

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7 thoughts on “The More Frustration, The Better… Apparently

  1. Hey don’t panic too much! You’re right with der/die/das its really important to learn a noun as if it has that already attached. So instead of learning Wand (wall) learn die Wand. It also doesn’t hurt to get some kind of program to follow. Although, I found programs to be really annoying at first. We follow one through the uni where I learn at home.

    I learn most of my technical German, the grammar rules, in Australia when I’m at uni. I’ll admit that’s a serious leg up. But I’ve heard of other people who learn only from speaking to other people in German. I was just talking to a Croatian woman today who learned through speaking and reading German. When I’m at uni, I usually either spend as much time as I can speaking German with exchange students or I hire a semester long tutor. But if I were learning in Germany, I’d probably sign up straight away for a class. In class, I’m highly motivated. I love getting a turn to speak, love practicing but I often don’t do my homework (yeah I suck with that). And by uni standards I do ok.

    Anyway. The point I wanted to make is that as awesome as that blog is, you’ve got to find your own way with this language learning thing. It will eventually come to you just from living here. You’ll find that over time you’ll understand the street signs, the newspapers and all the other little things that go with life living here. Just reading what’s in the supermarket. And it might not be gramatically perfect for a while, but you’re making your own progress.

    This guy learning Mandarin isn’t doing it through total immersion like you are (or is he? I only skimmed). So don’t let yourself feel too guilty. Guilt and negative emotions raise a thing called your ‘affective filter’ (google it, its real) so your emotions stop your brain from producing the language. And it actually hinders you (that is also why people think they speak better when drunk, they are just less nervous so they can speak more because mistakes don’t bother them.)

    The only thing that’s going to make a real difference is your motivation! By setting himself the really public task of learning a language and unmasking the process, that guy has some really public motivation for learning.

    • Benny learns all of his languages through total immersion, he is currently living in Taiwan whilst learning Mandarin. But I believe that just living somewhere doesn’t automatically translate to learning the language. I’ve meet quite a few people who have lived in Germany for five plus years and who can barely speak the language. You really need to put the effort in to reap the rewards. I have basically been hoping that living here and taking two classes a week will magically translate into being able to speak the language but after a year, I’m barely able to make myself understood in the most simplest situations.
      Sometimes you need a good kick up the ass to get yourself motivated and to push yourself to succeed. Benny’s latest post was my kick up the ass.

  2. I would completely agree with your post. It is so easy to fall into the trap of just complaining and doing nothing about it…I am guilty of that as well! But I have to say you are one of the most motivated people I know in terms of learning German and I know you will push through. On a good note, once you get to B2 level I think that it will help immensely. I went to the first class last night (post to come tomorrow!) and realized that the focus is so much less on grammar (although that obviously still comes into play) but more on speaking and growing vocabulary. The entire 3 hour class was spent in attempting conversation with either the teacher or others in the class….we were pushed out of our comfort zone from the first minute on and I was drained by the end of class. Stress? Absolutely, but as you say in your post, I think this will push us to really start speaking.

    I liked your comment, also about doing extra homework than what is assigned….maybe something I should start doing, too.

    Keep it up, though. You are on the right track and have the right motivation. I have no doubt you will get there.

    • Your class last night sounded like it was fun, but as you said, completely draining. All I have to do is make it to B2. There are days when I don’t think I will pass A2.

  3. Like you, my motivation comes in waves. I find that if I keep a source of German somewhere going, like the TV or radio (oldie hits radio really does it, like Hessen Radio 4) and go about housework etc, you start to pick up bits here and there without actually doing work :). Plus, find a German artist you really like. I like Max Raabe, who sings songs from the 1930s.

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