The “Click”

If you’ve spent any amount of time learning languages, you’ve probably had people tell you that one day everything you’ve been learning and studying will all “click” together.  I’ve found that these moments do happen occasionally, and they’re incredibly motivating, but it’s a long process, and doesn’t always happen at one particular moment.

I can definitely remember my first “click” moment with German.  It was after I had been listening to German from my teacher for about 3 months, was barely understanding anything, and then watched the movie “The Producers.”  There’s one line in the movie where somebody starts singing German lyrics, and at that moment, I knew exactly what he was saying.  I thought, FINALLY, I’m staring to “get” it.  After a semester of sitting in class and not understanding what was being said because no English was used, being able to understand even one line was a great way to motivate me to continue studying.  It took about 90 hours to get to that point (I think…I wasn’t very good about going to class that semester because it was so difficult for me.  So it probably wasn’t really 90 hours).  I wish I could say I’ve had many moments like these.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have one with German again until recently when I overheard two people talking about a colonoscopy.  Now that was quite a realization–first, that I knew and had read/listened to enough vocabulary that I was even able to recognize what they were discussing, and second, that I no longer had the luxury of being able to not understand a conversation I would have rather not heard!

With Polish it’s been a little different.  I can’t say I noticed a particular moment where I suddenly realized I understood more, but looking back I can guess where the comprehension started to improve.  For this one it wasn’t until around 280 hours.  Yes, that long.  I’m not really sure why I had such a sudden moment with German but not with Polish.  Maybe because German was my first language and I was so anxious about passing the class that I immediately noticed when I understood more.  Or maybe some languages just don’t give you those moments.  Whatever the reason, I’m no longer looking for specific points of comprehension.  Language learning isn’t a quick and easy process, and even when you have a time where you understand everything, there are many more hours of listening and reading ahead. 

But I’m still hoping for a few more motivation moments! 

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One response to “The “Click”

  1. Simo

    I definitely know what you’re talking about. My “click” moment happens in a medium to long conversation/discussion where I am able to understand almost everything I hear. That would be similar to the colonoscopy conversation you overheard rather than the movie sentence example.
    I can only remember that moment for the 2 languages I learned after middle school. For some reason, both times it happened, I was listening to political speeches. For English, it happened while I was listening to a G. W. Bush speech. For Spanish, it was a speech by Spanish PM Zapatero. Probably because politicians don’t speak too fast and try to use a clear language.
    As you said, these can boost your motivation to study the language. I also think that they motivate me while learning other languages. No matter how complicated the language I’m currently learning may seem, just knowing that the “click” moment will happen keeps me motivated to keep going. I personally see learning a language as sitting in a dark room and waiting. People who have never learned a language would just give up and leave the room. For me, and even though I don’t know when the light is going to come on, I just know from experience that it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time. Of course the time depends on many factors: How related is the language I am learning to the ones I already speak, the difficulty of the language, etc…

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