How to Learn a Language Better by Delaying Your Understanding

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understandingLet’s face it.

Learning a new language can be a frustrating experience sometimes.

Granted, anything you can translate literally to a language you already know is a piece of cake.

But it’s in those things that differ so much from our native tongue where the challenges surface.

And with those foreign words, phrases or grammar rules, we struggle. And that struggle is sometimes enough to make us quit learning a language.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be so frustrating.

By using a bit of awareness, you can steer clear of most of the struggle.

Let me explain.

Your Mind Wants to Understand Now!

Yes, it’s true. You have no patience.

Deep down inside of you, you always have to understand something you’re learning right now. Not in a few minutes, not tomorrow but at this very moment.

On the surface it looks like a good trait. Except that it isn’t.

In order to understand something, you need to have just the right distance from it. Either too close by or too far off brings the same result: you can’t see a damn thing!

With our restless minds, we always either jump on something difficult or we get too far away from it. It’s the classic fight or flight response.

Fight, and you sometimes get through it but ,most likely, your frustration levels will soar so much that your only option left is to:

Flight.

You flee.

You quit learning your new language.

Not good.

So both options are out of the window. Fortunately, you don’t have to fight or flee. A superior kind of behavior is possible.

Delay Your Understanding

So how can you outfox your fight or flight response and make learning a new language a less frustrating experience?

By deliberately delaying your understanding.

Sound strange?

It really isn’t.

Like I said, usually when faced with challenging material, we fight, we tighten up, we struggle … until we can’t anymore and we flee.

The time that we fight depends on the person. But it’s the fighting with the material that potentially leads us to quit learning the language.

The urge to fight really comes from that need to understand something right now. If we could somehow delay that urge we would prevent a lot of frustration.

Stepping Back

One way to achieve this is by stepping back when faced with a real challenge. Don’t try to understand. Instead, relax and step back.

Studies have shown that stress inhibits learning, so with learning a language we don’t want (negative) stress involved. 

So instead of fighting with it:

  • Relax
  • Step back, and…
  • Give some time to your brain to understand the new information

Some time?

Yes, a few minutes, hours, days or even weeks, if necessary.

You can’t force an Aha! moment. And even less when you’re stressed.

If you can’t understand how to use a certain grammar construction of your target language. You must be patient. Just move on to something else for now. Often, you understand it later down the road and without struggle.

Don’t Do This With Everything!

There are things you pretty much instantly grasp. Should you delay understanding those things?

Of course not. That would be shooting yourself in the foot.

You see, those things won’t stress you. They won’t trigger your inner alarm.

And that’s the key. Your inner alarm. When it sounds, when you feel the struggle, then it’s time to relax, step back and accept to delay your understanding.

You will understand later. It may just be a matter of enough exposure to what you’re struggling with, reading different explanations of it, or leaving it alone for a while for it to sink in. But if you stress out hard enough, most likely there will be no later.

Experience

If you’ve successfully learned another language, then you intuitively already know all that I’ve talked about in this article. You may even, subconsciously or not, apply this delay-your-understanding method already.

In that case, you learned from experience. But it took time and pain to figure it all out, right?

To those of you who haven’t learned another language yet: this is your chance to save a lot of time and frustration!

Instead of learning the hard way, start using this method now, or at least something similar, and you’ll have a gigantic advantage.

You don’t have to stress out about a difficult word or grammar rule. You really don’t.

Just recognize your inner alarm (the stress response), relax, step back and give some time to your brain to understand the new information.

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Comments

  1. Hi Noel,
    You have hit the nail on the head again! Unfortunately, I was one of those language learners out there who tried to immediately understand everything he came across about this subject. I tried to read and re-read the same article to figure out what was the point I missed. It was quite frustrating. I then realized that it was no use struggling on it and wasting time. It’s an excellent idea to search for other articles on the same topic..otherwise it’s better go on! Meanwhile, the only thing you can do is keep reading as much as possible and/or watching movies in your target language. That will probably make you grow up a “feeling” for all that you struggled on before.
    Cheer, Luke.

  2. In order to know something, you require having just the correct distance from it. also too closes by or too far off convey the similar outcome. Very informative post

  3. Keeping in mind the end goal to comprehend something, you need only the correct separation from it. Either excessively close by or too far-removed brings a similar outcome: you can’t see a damn thing!

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