When learning a language, your “car” has to start on Gear One.
There’s just no way around it.
The initial “ramp up” period takes the MOST effort from your brain — while also making the LEAST amount of progress in return.
(If you’re not uncomfortable within the first 30 days of acquiring a new language, you’re doing it wrong and wasting your time.)
Your brain has to get “warmed up” to the language and forge those new connections — it takes a while!
You’ll constantly stop and look up what stuff means (and promptly forget it 30 seconds later). You might feel like there’s too much to learn/memorize with no end in sight. Just understand that it’s part of the process.
IF YOU STAY CONSISTENT, then before you realize it, your brain will have switched to Gear Two.
A lot of sentence patterns and common vocab will have “sunk in,” so you’ll find yourself “gliding” through reading or listening material a bit more easily.
There will be fewer things to look up when you read or watch content, and also fewer stops to begin with.
The learning activities will start to feel PLEASURABLE. The car is actually moving!
Eventually, you’ll get to Gears Three, Four, and Five. And the drive feels nicer and smoother at every level.
But here’s the KEY IDEA of this post: you don’t have to be at Gear Five to enjoy a car drive.
In the past, I’ve often struggled with being “patient.” I didn’t understand how language acquisition really worked, and was hard on myself with the wrong metrics, such as my ability to remember what I had learned the other day.
Newsflash: You didn’t memorize or rote learn the language you speak right now, and you won’t do it for the language you’ll speak next.
Day-to-day, just focus on driving the car — “Do I understand what this particular sentence is trying to say?” If not, dissect until it makes some sense. Then simply move on to the next sentence.
Look at the windshield, not the rearview.
The right metric to focus on is *how consistently* you are engaging in language learning activities — more specifically, the ones that make you slightly uncomfortable (being overly comfortable will keep your engine — the “brain” from ever switching gears).
Trust me, if you just keep going from one sentence to the next, enough times — you will get faster.
By the time you arrive at Gear Five (if you even care to!), you’ll look in the rearview and be amazed at the distance you’d already have covered — all the interesting content you would have consumed, the conversations you would have had in your target language, and the delightful people you would have met along the journey.
So take it one day at a time. You’re not “struggling” — you’re just about to switch to the next gear.