Monday, 10 December 2012

Learning Norwegian: reconsidering my goals

When I began learning Norwegian, I knew that it would be tough. From prior experience, I've experienced how tough learning a foreign language can be, both mentally and emotionally.

I thought I was prepared for this. I'd read a lot, and shared wry stories with fellow learners about the difficulties of motivation and the likelihood of looking and feeling very stupid. And for the most part I am ready for this - I can usually take it on the chin and treat it as part of the learning process. But sometimes it hits very hard.

Recently, while on a trip to Norway, I indirectly received some comments about my progress in learning the languages (I won't go into specifics here). It really knocked my confidence, especially as these words came from friends - they weren't meant to be personal and hurtful, I know... but the result was the same - I was hurt.

The comments were negative enough about my skills to make me question why I was even bothering to try, whether I was actually accomplishing anything and brought me very close to completely throwing in the towel. It affected me enough that, the next day, I refused point-blank an opportunity to have a conversation in Norwegian, something I'd been anticipating and looking forward to for weeks.

I'm still unsure what to think. I know full well that my main weakness is in my aural comprehension, struggling to understand what people are saying when they talk at normal speed, especially considering the multitude of accents, variations and dialects Norwegian has. The comments made me wonder if I'm ever going to 'get it', and whether it's even worth trying.

I could take it as advice, as a challenge - use this experience to drive me to improve my listening comprehension. I know that I can't get compliments all the time, and that anyone who tells me that my Norwegian is great and that I have nothing to worry about is lying to me and not doing me any favours. I need to learn from mistakes, and from failures, and try and make sure that, next time, these friends don't feel the need to make such comments.

On the other hand, my self-confidence and self-esteem have really been knocked by these comments. It's hard when you think you're doing well at something to be told pretty much outright that actually, no, you're not.

Am I ever going to get better? Am I ever going to be good enough at the language to make it worth continuing to put in all this effort? Should I switch my focus to another language, the speakers of which aren't all fluent in English anyway, rendering the learning more worthwhile? Or is it time to re-consider whether I really have those language-learning skills I've always thought I had since school?

Constructive thoughts much appreciated in the comments.