Giving up on a language and why it shouldn’t be a failure

Recently, with the amount of people telling me about the languages they are learning and regarding my last post on the languages I know, I was thinking of the act of giving up the learning of a language. It sounds like a failure, am I right?

Even up to these days, many people still tell me that I made a mistake with stopping to learn German since it is an important language these days and its role in today’s world, especially considering the part of the world I am interested in. Or they ask me “are you going to take back German next semester?” Curiously, I am more than happy with Polish right now. Strangely, I am also approaching the same amount of time I spent learning German with Polish and I personally feel like I have achieved more things with Polish than with German. I can communicate with others in Polish and not stay there and talk about the weather or silly things, but also ellaborate on opinions regarding history, music or current events in Poland and the world. Things I couldn’t feel comfortable with doing in German, despite the good feedback I received from my teachers or random contacts with foreigners who speak German as a native language. Has it been a failure to quit a language and move on to another one?


How come? I learned a lot about myself in that process and how I learn more effectively. One of my biggest issues while learning German was the lack of practice after classes. It was so hard to look for tandem partners online or offline, or even interesting media to watch or listen. I felt like I could only use it in classes and learn certain vocabulary with it. Truth to be told, I had no deep motivation to learn German. However, why it wasn’t a complete failure to learn German? First of all, it did help me with Polish grammar and learning that there are things called cases and words do get declensions with them. I also learned about Spanish grammar in the meantime.

Then, I also learned about how an effective language learning method works for me. Classes are good tools, yet using the language you are learning must be like the most important thing for me. Actually applying that knowledge I worked hard to get in different situations. Listen to good music while cleaning or showering, voice messages with tandem partners, among other situations make me take a small step every day towards fluency in a language. It was a similar thing I had to do with English (except that I was living in an English speaking environment, then), but it was something that I had problems to do with German.

I didn’t feel like I had wasted time, money and knowledge with German classes. I didn’t feel that German was hard or so. I met wonderful people in my classes, for sure. And right now, after reading experiences of people that after years of not practicing, they had no issues with taking back a language they though they had forgot about it, it motivates to consider German, not in the short term future though.

Language learning is also a process of self discovery, especially when you are already at a certain period of your life in which you have other responsibilities at home, with loved ones or such. This should be also a matter of consideration. You have a life and health to take care of (especially now that I am coming out of a quite rebel flu). Do not burn your eyebrows by learning and instead, rest well, do what you have to do first and if you have time to spare, enjoy your learning.

Have you given up on a language? How did you feel?



  1. I gave up on Japanese 13 years ago after 10 years of study for a variety of reasons. I fully intended to get back to it in a few years when my Mandarin got under control but there have always been other languages that had to take priority, not to mention family obligations. Hopefully someday I can finally feel secure enough in my languages to find a way back to it.

  2. I gave up Arabic. I wasn’t able to practice it outside of class, and quite frankly because the teacher wasn’t a native speaker I felt like he wasn’t doing a very good job.

    • Suck to hear! However, native speakers are not necessarily good teachers. Foreign language teachers need to explain any kind of aspect of the language they teach and not say “it’s because we’re used to it”.

      • Well, I am a language teacher and I know that he wasn’t doing a good job. I took another class, in Arabic calligraphy which was taught by a native and I found out that the teacher didn’t even organize or group the sounds correctly. I’m saying it’s more important for me to have a native speaker than someone who went to university to teach. I never really studied Spanish for example, I came, I listened, studied on my own, carried a notebook everywhere and asked a lot of questions. When I finally went to CLIC 5 years later, they gave me a level test and I was put in C1. Can I explain to you the rules of where to put the damn tilde? Not really, but that’s not really why I want to learn a language.

  3. I don’t know what is wrong about German (or maybe “wrong” is a bad word), but I also feel like I can use German the most only talking to myself or in the class. I feel like people don’t like to talk to me in German. That is really scary.

    By the way, I am in the middle of preparing my post on which languages I learnt, thanks for inspiration!

    • And what’s worse is that despite I have less chances to use Polish in Chile, I still have managed to use it more than German. Even in Germany, I feel like I could run out of words or topics in German while in Polish, I am confident enough to talk about anything with apparently the “same level”.

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