When you want to give up… read this instead

Photo Credit: Astra Takes Photos

Anyone who knows me will know that for the last 9 months, I have been learning how to code. I love learning and I love editing my website, so I wanted to know more about Web Development and what it could teach me.

I started with a HTML course on Codecademy. After a week, I was totally passionate about it. I loved the logic, and the magic of typing something and then watching the screen change. I hopped my way though HTML, jumped into CSS and asked lots of enthusiastic questions at events.

Then I decided to make my leap of faith and spring into JavaScript. I made similar progress on freeCodeCamp until one day… my brain could not understand the lines of code in the exercises.

I cheated as much as Google would allow (yes, I cheated), but the solutions did not become any clearer to me.

I had a code crisis. My fear of JavaScript grew, and at the same time, I refused to go back to HTML and CSS because it was “too easy.”

So I stopped completely.

Does this sound familiar to you? Have you had a similar experience with learning English? When the beginning is easy, you try something harder, you find that too difficult so you stop?

The crazy thing about this is that I see this in students all the time and, for a while, I didn’t see that I was experiencing the same thing.

Now I’m back on track. I use slightly different methods, I’m happy with where I am and proud that I broke through my first challenge.

What I would like to share with you is three ways how I did that.

©MoreThanGrammar 2019

One: Realise you’ve hit an obstacle.

“Awareness is half the battle” so they say. This means when you see that you have a “problem”, you have already solved 50% of it.

There are three things you can be aware of here.

Firstly, you need to be aware that you are finding it too hard, and you need to find another way forward. You could be stubborn and continue in the same way (which I did at first), and the frustration will stay. You may even end up hating the topic… Or you could find another, easier, kinder way.

Secondly, you have to realise that you are not stupid. We all hit obstacles when we learn and you don’t need to give up completely because something is too big. Learning is easy if you take a big thing and break it into smaller parts.

Thirdly, you need to know that difficult is where learning starts. Difficult is a good sign. It means you’ve reached the border of your knowledge and now it’s time to go further. Be friends with difficult and this journey will be a lot easier.

Because it’s true © MoreThanGrammar 2019

Two: Go back to your “why?”

Now we’ve become aware of the challenge, the next step is to remember our motivation for learning in the first place.

When something is important or exciting to you, you will be more motivated to continue learning. It gives you the energy to continue even when it drives you a bit crazy. I write more about this here.

For me, it was simple: one day I want to work as a web developer and as a teacher. That dream still stayed the same.

And in order to be a web developer… I have to know how to code!

Plus, although it’s hard, I enjoy coding, I enjoy learning and I was still curious about how it worked.

So why do you want to learn English? Why did you start? Is it for work? Is it because you want to travel? Fix this goal very clearly in your mind and watch the excitement come back.

Note 1: If you can’t think of a good why… well, maybe it’s time for another hobby…

Note 2: If you have to learn English, I really recommend reading this post.

Three: Go back… but slowly!

So now you’ve realised you’ve hit a wall and you know you want to continue anyway, how do you get back to your studies?

The key here is to go gently on yourself. Do it slowly and do something that you enjoy.

Instead of springing headfirst back into JavaScript, I decided to forget my ego and go back to HTML and CSS. Instead of learning something that was too hard, I saw that it was better to make what I already know really strong first before moving forward.

Secondly, I watched more videos instead of doing exercises I found too hard. I trusted that the more I hear and read, the more things I will understand later (see below about “trust”)

Thirdly, I spoke to other programmers and learned that everyone hits this wall. It is a totally normal part of the learning process and, in fact, it would be strange if it didn’t happen to me. I would say the same to you about learning English.

I also finally signed up to a course. If this wall has taught me anything, it is the importance of having a teacher and a community of people doing the same thing. Self-study is always challenging and there always comes a point when it doesn’t work anymore. At this point, it is vital that you surround yourself with other people…. or you may go mad.

So you can see there are four clear steps here, which you can also use in your own learning:

  1. Revise what you already know and strengthen your knowledge there.
  2. Do an activity which is more relaxed and fun, e.g. play games, watch videos, read funny books.
  3. Speak to other people about your problems. You will see you are not alone.
  4. Find a course/teacher/community. This could be a meet up, or a study group or an English course.

A final note:

I mentioned trust. Trust is so so so important in the learning process. Maybe it’s hard now, so you need to trust yourself, your teacher and maybe the universe that, in the long term, it will get easier.

(Because it will.)

So to sum up, there are three clear steps here:

  1. Realise you have a problem.
  2. Remember why you are doing it.
  3. Go back slowly.

Easy peasy! Aren’t you so happy that you’re learning English again?

Of course, if you need some help, I can be there as your support. Contact me via email or phone and we can work out the best plan for your English learning!

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