Learning a language, or any skill I’ve come to realize, takes time. It’s a humiliating process sometimes. This is epitomized in the famous Dunning-Kruger Effect shown above. Anyone who has learned a language knows how easy it is to get lulled into a false-sense of confidence at the outset. When I first learned Japanese, I was so happy to get a grasp on basic, travel phrases and such using this old Japanese phrase book, and through listening to lessons in JapanesePod101.com.
Then, when I got to Japan, I suddenly discovered how much more broad and complicated Japanese was. I could never understand what my wife’s friends and family were saying, and I still couldn’t make sense of a book or a sign at the store. I would still feel almost totally helpless.
That was years ago, and I was humiliated so many times back then, but slowly, slowly I kept at it and things made more and more sense. There was no threshold I crossed where suddenly everything made sense, it was just more about closing all the language gaps, to the point where I could follow along, and not sound like such a stupid newbie.
These days I am somewhere between “Ok, it’s starting to make sense” and “Trust me, it’s complicated”, but I am glad I stuck with it.¹ 🙂
¹ I haven’t been able to stick with Korean studies the same way though, since there’s less incentive to learn it, and fewer resources. Once my second child was born, many of my old hobbies died off too including this one. Now that my son is almost three years old, and life is slowly returning to normal that may change, but time will tell.