Language Learning Struggles - What to do next?

26 posts / 0 new
Joined: 09.04.2017
Pending moderation

I'm posting this to get some second opinions.

Let me start with the languages I have experience in: I've been learning Swedish for 9 years and I learned French at the same time as Swedish but only learned it while I was in high school and college, so 6 or 7 years.

Since then, I learned German, a little Turkish and Armenian. Turkish is great and I really loved it but it just didn't stick like some other languages did, and Armenian - there just aren't any resources.

I'm at the point where I want something new. I'm not willing to give up Swedish, I don't want that to go waste.
I guess I just let a language grow on me for a while, and gen I learn it and get bored of it/find out I don't really like it and then I'm back to square one

What I want to study next are: Italian, Albanian, Korean and Russian

But what do you guys think? Should I also stick with French since I have so much history with it?

I just don't want to get bored again, and I want something I'm actually going to use.

Feel free to suggest languages that aren't on that list, I'm pretty open, as long as there are resources for it

Edit: I've been strongly considering Greek too, but I need a little convincing

Moderator of Romance Languages
Joined: 31.03.2012

Hmm, how far are you in French? do you know just the basics or could you have a short conversation in French? I took Italian for about 7 years and I still have trouble having conversations (mostly because I have quite the accent that a fellow native Italian friend told me I needed a lot of improvement because I didn't have the confidence to speak it with her). My mistakes are mostly grammar >_> but other than that, I know it just fine.

If you're far in French, I'd say don't give it up, French for me was hard after a while because I stopped using it after I turned 11 because I was scared it would mess me up when I took Italian.

Learning a language for me isn't about using it everyday when I know I might not even encounter enough people to practice it with. If you learn a language, go and find ways to use it, even if it's just by yourself. I swear I look like a crazy person trying to speak in broken German or little words in Russian (thanks to my coworker who encourages me to at least known a short list of things to say in Russian like "where is the bathroom" and "how much is it?" in exchange for practicing Spanish with her).

Oh I wish I still had my Italian workbooks, I'd really recommend those because they saved me so many times! ah, I'll try and see if I can look them up because they were great for new beginners Regular smile

EDIT: I think it was called "Avanti Con L'Italiano", the cover looks sorta like that or I might be mistaken there.
I also forgot to mention that I have a French workbook that I bought, if you're interested I can send you the PDF file if you want to brush up on your French.

Joined: 09.04.2017

When I finished high school, I was ready to get my B2 ceritification in the language. So high-intermediate. But I had nobody to practice with, so my French is reduced now to being able to read words here and there and having a basic understanding of grammar. I'd have to completely relearn the language. And I still have no way to practice it and I think that's how I learn best because I am so forgetful lol

As for Italian - it's a recent liking for me. I've always been neutral about it because I really don't like how Spanish sounds and Italian was just too close to Spanish for a long time. Recently it's grown on me and I can read and understand significant amounts of Spanish due to all my experience with French, and through Spanish I can read some Italian and quite a bit of Portuguese. Is Italian really that hard?

Joined: 09.04.2017

The PDF would be awesome. Somewhere I have my old college French textbook, but it's in my parents' attic I think.

I have an Italian text book I bought a long time ago just because I collect stuff like that.

Moderator of Romance Languages
Joined: 31.03.2012
opulence wrote:

When I finished high school, I was ready to get my B2 ceritification in the language. So high-intermediate. But I had nobody to practice with, so my French is reduced now to being able to read words here and there and having a basic understanding of grammar. I'd have to completely relearn the language. And I still have no way to practice it and I think that's how I learn best because I am so forgetful lol

As for Italian - it's a recent liking for me. I've always been neutral about it because I really don't like how Spanish sounds and Italian was just too close to Spanish for a long time. Recently it's grown on me and I can read and understand significant amounts of Spanish due to all my experience with French, and through Spanish I can read some Italian and quite a bit of Portuguese. Is Italian really that hard?

I sent you the file through PM. I wouldn't say Italian is hard, but I'm being biased because Spanish made it easier to learn it. I opted out of learning another language because I felt comfortable enough in Italian and now I regret not taking something else like Russian or Korean (it wasn't offered in my area, I would have had to transfer to a school that was 1 1/2 hr. from where I lived).

Joined: 09.04.2017

Yeah I just have the French background, I don't know a lot about Spanish grammar or anything so Italian would be harder for me in that respect.

However, I was really really good at French and I found it to be very easy, so maybe Italian would be a breeze.

My only issue with Russian is that I have no experience with Slavic languages at all, so I feel like it's going to turn out the same way Turkish did Confused smile


It sounds like you are soul-searching, too.

Write something to yourself explaining exactly what it is you want to do,
and why. Be very clear and very specific about what you are willing to
do to achieve your goal, and what you are not willing to do. Balance. Know yourself.
This is for your own reading, so be honest and be clear. Grab a journal and focus on you.

Understand the limitations that seem to exist in the now, as well as the advantages you may
have for now that you must not take for granted (do you have health and youth? do you have
a way to finance immersion/travel, as well as extensive contacts ?)

Think of what it would add to you as a person.
I get it. We all love the beauty of language and how things sound. But there's more to it than that.
You know Swedish; sit down and also contemplate the many gifts this has given you that aren't linguistic, per se.
What you have learned about life and the world that you would not have learned
if you had never studied it? That's something else you can write about, only for yourself to read.

Think positive.
Focus always on what you like, and just forget about what you don't like.

If it were up to me, and I could learn a language over night, I would be so much the richer. I wouldn't
care if it wasn't in my wish list. I would think instead about all the things I could read, all the people I could meet,
and where I could go and communicate. About people.

All languages are beautiful -- it isn't the language that gives one treasures, because in the end
a language is an instrument. A beautiful one, but only an instrument. What is it an instrument of? What is said
is so much more important than what language it is in. That is why we translate!

The key isn't the language, but you, you, and what you truly want.

Difficulty is something you can't avoid. But even if you bump against learning walls,
if you keep hammering, the wall will come down one day.

Pick the one that your heart is set on, because life is so short .

It's a cliché, but it is very true: do what you love.

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

I totally agree with your answer!

Can I take advantage of the opportunity and ask for advice too?
What can a person do to overcome emotional blocks and shyness in spoken language, especially in conversations with native speakers, especially if he/she is forced to use the language for work and do not have many other opportunities to experience your skills?
If it is not an appropriate topic or a general interest, please also delete/move the question.
Thank you very much anyway, best regards

Joined: 09.04.2017

@rainymoon - wow, that was beautiful. I really like that idea, thank you so much!

@Berny Devlin, I wish I could help you there but I get really shy when I have to talk with native speakers too Confused smile It's not at all an inappropriate topic and you can even start your own thread, if you want. I'll subscribe to it because I'm curious what people have to say

Leader of the Balkan Squad
Joined: 14.10.2016

Hey there!
I speak both Greek and French, so I kind of get where you're coming from. My advice: go with Italian. They're from the same language family and some vocab is very similar (so I've heard). It's very difficult to learn Greek well without living there or having a native speaker at home.
Of course, if you really want a challenge, try learning Mandarin.

Joined: 09.04.2017

Mandarin is too much of a challenge I think. Tones aren't indicated in writing and learning all those characters seems really difficult.

Edit: Grammatically, is it harder than Korean or Japanese? Those two are some of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn.

A couple friends who have learned Greek told me it's easy to learn

Should I go with Italian but still keep French or just keep French as it is and just go with Italian?

Is Italian even useful outside of Italy? Italy didn't colonize like Spain, France and Portugal did so it isn't used all over the world.

Leader of the Balkan Squad
Joined: 14.10.2016

According to the FSI (Foreign Service Institute), both Korean and Japanese are harder to learn than Mandarin (because of the honorific systems). I would keep French if I were you-it's one of the most widely-spoken Indo-European languages in the world. If you really want to learn a language that is widespread, I would learn Spanish.

Joined: 09.04.2017

I've never liked Spanish. That's why I thought about Italian it's a nice medium between Spanish and French.

I'll look into Mandarin, the tones are pretty intimidating but if it's easier than Korean or Japanese, I'll look into it. It's pretty useful, too.

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

Italian is not so widespread as Spanish and French.
If you think to learn a language useful for job - for example - it's better to go on with French or try with Spanish.
Italian is used just in Italy, San Marino, Vaticano, in the Italian communities scattered throughout the the world., in often incorrect or dialect versions. And in some sector, as classical music and opera, fashion, cuisine.
But if you know Italian culture and habits or are interested in them, or if you want to travel in Italy, let it chose your heart. Italian is a difficult language, but at least you're not obliged to use ideograms...So it is easier to learn than Korean or Mandarin or Japanese.
Good luck, whatever your choice!
PS:If you want, I can send you links to sites that have materials used at school to teach Italian as second language, in regions where in my country speaks German ( Trentino Alto Adige, next to Austria ) or French ( Val d'Aosta, next to France ). Perhaps they may be of help to you.

Joined: 09.04.2017

I'm going to stick with French, for sure. I don't much care for Spanish, though.

Usefulness isn't an issue. I've spent almost a decade learning Swedish after all. Wink smile

There are significant Italian minorities in America who still speak Italian. Most are on the east coast, like New York and New Jersey, but Italian could be a bit useful here.

Where I live, though, Mandarin is much more useful since a significant minority comes from China so it's something I'll consider. Even my step sister, who is in elementary school is being taught Chinese.

I am super intrigued by Mediterranean culture (and the food is really good!), hence the interest Greek and Turkish as well. I just kinda woke up one day and thought "I'm going to learn Italian" so I guess it chose me, in a sense. I think it's a beautiful language, too.

Either of those, preferably the French one since I didn't learn German for long would be amazing. I would appreciate any help I could get Teeth smile

Moderator of Romance Languages
Joined: 31.03.2012

@Berny Devlin I know you offered another user, but would you mind sending those resources (for Italian) via PM? I'd really appreciate it.

@opulence and you're right, Italian (and variation of it) is used mostly among Italian families/communities here in NY (and NJ), the part of NY that I live in about 40% is Italian and speak it fluently. Most of the people I worked with over the years were Italian, so it made sense to learn it when I was younger and why they offered it so much here.

Joined: 09.04.2017

The foreign languages offered here are French and Spanish and sometimes German and Mandarin. Some schools are fancy and teach Latin. And the local university offers Polish, Russian, Swedish, Turkish, Finnish, Japanese and Korean, in addition to the 4 I already mentioned. I actually find it funny that Finnish is offered but I don't think Italian is

Here on the west coast, we have a lot of Slavic, Middle Eastern, southeast Asian and Hispanic communities, so Italian isn't the most useful but that hasn't stopped me before Regular smile

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

For opulence and phantasmagoria: as soon as possible I will send you the links, or the documents to study Italian. There's another country where they learn Italian at school and have Italian as national language: Switzerland ( Svizzera ) . Strange, I forgot it, even if I was born at the border...

Moderator of the Balkans :)
Joined: 07.12.2012

Haha, I studied Italian for 8 years in high school and at one point I hated it! I wanted to study French as I liked it more, but didn't really have the choice to swap it mid-year. I studied it for 3-4 years, but I couldn't really "stick" to it due to the fact I completely changed the system of learning (from the Bulgarian way, focused on lots of grammar [which is my strength] to the British way, which is focused on speaking [hard, hard, hard and my writing is awful]), which, combined with the degree I didn't really enjoy, made my life quite hard. I found that studying by myself works a lot better than studying in a group, as I always start lacking motivation at some point and I hate to know I have to "do it".

Anyway, my advice is learn what you love, what it attracts you and what you're passionate about. No language is useless and every one of them expands your views, even if it's not a "popular" one.

From the ones you've mentioned, I've learned/speak Albanian and Italian. Albanian requires lots of dedication and motivation, plus desire to dig deep and explore - the resources are not great and it's not like you can read 5 books and "know it". You have to be able to "multitask" with the resources, as not one of them is good enough on its own.

Italian, on the other hand, is quite popular regarding resources, close grammatically to French and quite straightforward, if you learn the rules. Plus its writing is the easiest one of all the 5 languages I speak. I guess if just depends on what you want to achieve (is it just understanding, being able to survive 1+ weeks in the country, or you want tot translate, or you want to read books, or whatever...)

Good luck with whatever you decide to pursue! Regular smile

Joined: 09.04.2017

Thank you! Did you hate Italian because of the teaching style or were there other reasons?

I think Italian is probably going to be easiest for me, given my background in French (which I will also continue with to learn).

My goal with any language I learn is to get as close to fluency as possible Regular smile and I made the mistake when I learned Swedish to just learn tons of vocabulary and little to no grammar rules, so I feel like starting with grammar is a much better approach.

Moderator of the Balkans :)
Joined: 07.12.2012
opulence wrote:

Thank you! Did you hate Italian because of the teaching style or were there other reasons?

Well, I guess it wasn't the language itself but a combination of the fact I didn't like my high school and I "had to" study it as a first language with more than 10 hours a week... I just got bored at one point, I guess. And I really struggle with people telling me what I have to do if I don't feel like it, haha. But although I can pretty much just order myself a pizza and a coffee with my speaking, I am so grammar-trained that I still remember rules I haven't used for ages.

I'm exactly the opposite of you, I always have to get the logic (aka grammar) behind it, I don't enjoy just ranting random words trying to make a full of sense sentence. But I found a good balancing with practising new vocabulary with Memrise, while learning all rules I find hard, and trying to speak to natives whenever I can so they can correct me eventually - I guess you just find your way?

Senior Member
Joined: 28.06.2016

Italian is not hard and has it's similarities with french so you'll be more than fine. Its an easy language because it doesn't vary much. What you may find hard being a native english speaker is the pronunciation, but since you already speak swedish, I don't think you'll find it that hard.
The fact that italians speak really really fast might make it hard to understand but, above all I think you should learn it, it's a beautiful language, tho if I was you I would totally go for russian haha I just love it.

Still, outside of italy you won't find almost any italian speakers, it's not spoken anywhere else Confused smile

(Also, if you don't like how spanish sounds but someday, want to learn it, try argentine spanish. It's harder than the one from Spain but it sounds very italian-esque, as if it wasn't spanish)

Joined: 09.04.2017

I like Spain's Spanish, but not Latin American Spanish. I guess I should clarify haha.

Haha, the only thing I would struggle with in Italian pronunciation is the rolled r. I can't roll the r at all. It doesn't matter too much in Swedish because some Stockholm and southern dialects either just barely roll it or don't at all. To my knowledge all Italian dialects roll the r.

Swedes also talk really, really fast so that'll be fine. The thing I'm worried about with Italian not really being used outside of Italy (and the same problem I'm having with Swedish right now), is that not many people speak it so I won't get to use it so my comprehension of spoken Italian will always be minimal.

I'm thinking about Russian, but it's one of the harder Slavic languages for English speakers to learn. I already know quite a few words and phrases and can read Cyrillic but personally I feel like Russian is a language that would be better taught in a class ata university or something.

But I guess there are downsides to learning any language. And I shouldn't entirely focus on those downsides, but I don't want to completely overwhelm myself either.

I definitely want to start Italian, and Mandarin is really tempting. Russian is a strong consideration and unfortunately I just don't think I have time for Albanian right now Sad smile

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

I found this about rolling R:
Perhaps one of these tips and tricks may work and solve the question of pronunciation, for Italian and for other with similar characteristics.

Super Member
Joined: 08.04.2017

This is a really interesting discussion!
I know what you mean about not being able to find someone to practise your speaking with. You could try a Skype language exchange
Also, Routledge have a wide range of grammar/vocab workbooks in several languages. I used the German workbook and it was really useful

Joined: 09.04.2017

Berny Devlin - oh thank you! I'll check it out.

Hoffnung - thanks! That would actually be awesome, I'll also check this out. Having someone to practice with makes it better.

Add new comment