The phases of depression while learning English (Agony Column-Whining Encouraged)


today I’m feeling really low about learning English. Yes, I’m not too ashamed to admit it: I am so depressed at the moment, I’m thinking about giving it up altogether. I just want take all the books and papers and texts and throw them out of the window. Let the wind take care of the rest! Do you know what I’m talking about? There you are, standing in front of that huge mountain called “English” and you’re looking up, trying to find its summit. But you can’t see it; it’s hidden beneath the clouds. That’s how high you must climb to get to the top! And as you take one step after another, the air is growing thinner and thinner, and it’s becoming harder and harder to breathe until you think you’re about to suffocate. You’re halfway up, clinging to a rock, holding on with all your might. You’re loosing track of time as the cold wind blows verbs and adjectives and tenses and prepositions about you. The gust is threatening to grab you and carry you away to you know not where. You’re hanging in there, cowering in crag. There you begin to wonder why you even bother. Why take the trouble of learning another language? Doubt and self-doubt is creeping into your mind and body; it chills you to the bone and your limbs are slowly freezing stiff. All you want to do is to go back down again. Leave the summit to the clouds and climb back down to where it’s warm and you don’t have to gasp for air anymore. You’re never going to reach the summit anyway, right?

Have you ever had that horrible feeling? Do you sometimes just want to give up learning English because it just seems like it’s too much? Do you feel overwhelmed and crushed by it? If your answer is yes, don’t be too embarrassed to admit it. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way from time to time. This thread is for you to let out all your frustration, depression, and anger! Not only are you allowed to whine and moan here, you are encouraged to do so. This is like the agony column of a newspaper. So, go ahead and vent until you start feeling better again.


Of course, I’m going to start and lament over my own attempts at mastering the English language. Here goes:

I like to write stories and have the great fortune to have found an English expert who goes over my texts. Before I send one to him, I work through my writing very hard, read it over and over and over again, fix some phrases here, polish a few sentences there. But whenever I get it back, I find out, much to my chagrin, that there are still plenty of errors left. Some of them even make me blush with shame! What annoys me most is the kind of mistake that I make even though I have written the same exact sentence a thousand times before–correctly! And no matter how often I go over my writing, it just won’t catch my eye. It’s as though the error is making itself invisible. Makes me want to growl.


Hi Claudia,

Please cheer up. If you can write as well as you have just done in your two posts, there is no need to be so downcast.


I think you need to lay off your books for the time being and have some fun by watching movies and cartoons in English.
It sure as hell beats reading ever so boring books on grammar.
And if you enjoy doing something that involves English, then your learning will be more effective. No sense in being bogged down in exercises all the time.

Claudia nothing is ever as bad as when you look at it despondently…

What are you comparing yourself to?

IMO - In a context of your average native speaker - “Mistakes are normal”

Learning to become like a native speaker is quite an achievement in any language.
But remember there’s a vast difference between your average native speaker and one who is professionally qualified to teach or one who writes professionally.

Which reminds me of a thread I had about mispelling in newspapers - which seems to be getting worse. I would say spelling generally is getting worse certainly in the UK.
You couldn’t be expected to realize it but I would guess you are probably very similar in English lit to a lot of well educated native speakers.
If you were striving to be as good as an average native speaker I would guess you have already made it without realizing. :slight_smile:

Hello Claudia,

if you ever come to dispair of your skills again, you´re allowed to have a look from your position at the hills middle on my basic skills. I hope that can comfort you. I mean, that might show you your improvement. But apart from that, doubts come across me, too, every now and then. But hey, that´s life and nobody is perfect. :slight_smile:
I myself am working as plant-designer for years now and sometimes think I were perfect. You can´t guess what disappointed and demotivated I am always getting notified that I´m not. That´s why my employer prefers to work as a team. Hardly any offer that isn´t proofread by two more coworkers leaves our bureau, neither any owner´s manual or what else letter does.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a manual and thought it had been good, at least, if not perfect. Proofreading it, my boss started frowning and asking me for explanations. :frowning: “Inscrutible!” was his orginal voice. That was too much for me. It drove me up the wall. I was sure that everyone -capable just the slightest technical comprehension- should have got what I meant. Actually, he emerged being right. So I corrected the manual and gave it to another coworker for proofreading. She pointed on some grammar mistakes and wrongly affixed sentence marks. After all, I hope we managed to create a writing that can be understood by our customer. :slight_smile:

So don´t worry, you´re not alone.


Fundamentally I think like sport and a lot of activities its all down to practice. I don’t think anyone can expect to reach the top at anything if you don’t sacrifice, go through the pain/boredom barrier and come out the other side?

But you can still be a damn good swimmer if you only swim 3 quarters of an hour a day.

Hi everyone,

a big thanks to all of you for your kind and encouraging words! I’m feeling much better and am ready to continue the climb.

It is as Jamie said: when trying to get to the top, you’re bound to go through hard times and feel discouraged. English is not easy and it often seems daunting. Imagine what it must be like when your future depends on it! When you need to pass the GRE, GMAT or TOEFL test in order to get a place at the University of your choice, or the job of your dreams. Working hard and studying is one thing, but what happens if–no, when (!)–frustration sets in? What happens when you get to the point where even the best advice is useless and perhaps not even welcome? You may not want to go to your parents to talk about it, or you don’t want to appear weak in front of your friends. But when you’re about to take a test and are all nervous and jittery, or when you just received the news that you failed, or when you’re like Michael and me and have written a text, thinking that it is really good and then found out that it actually isn’t, don’t give up learning English! Before you consider “throwing it out of the window”, use this thread to vent. Whine and cry about it. Sometimes, just getting it off your chest helps a lot! Only fools will think you a fool for doing it. I know when I posted my woe, just hitting the Send Message button made me feel as though a weight has been lifted from me. And of the almost 178000 registered users, I’m certain one will wish you good luck or tell you to keep at it.


Hi Claudia,

I know what you mean – I feel I am never going to make it to the top of that mountain you are talking about. The only thing I can console myself with is that I have studied English mostly on my own (I only attended a six month long English course which provided me with the basic knowledge, a long time ago).

I think your English is great – you have made it this far, you can’t give up now! You keep at it and I am probably going to cheer you on from somewhere halfway up the mountain. :frowning:

(Looks like this is turning into a thread where we all can sing Claudia’s praises. :-))

The worst phase I go through is writer’s block. It last for weeks at a strech and can be pretty frustrating since I like writing and its the only way of expression for me. Not that I can’t speak, but I don’t like talking much. And when I usually get rid of that writing block, thoughts just rush through my mind like a hurricane and I have to write them on peice of paper or other wise I loose magic of the moment. Sounds lame I think.

Hi Claudia,
Impressed by your openness.
But maybe you’re trying to become “a native speaker by correspondence”? I mean, like myself, mastering it without having possibilities to communicate with real native speakers /only reading, listening, watching/. Dipping is a solution. My second language is Ukranian /first -Russian/ but for a long time I couldn’t speak it fluently till I found myself among Ukranian students whom I was to teach in their mother tongue. It took me a year to get my wordstock awakened. From that time on I can easily switch from one language to the other, though rhymes arouse in my brain in Russian only. That is as to the perfectness. By the way, you know that among all the Russian literary men planted into the other-speaking-language environment only one /V.Nabokov/ mastered it enough to create in English? And one more stone to that wall:in your aspirations to be perfect in language, don’t you realise that lots of people born and bred English comfortably do with limited set of phrases never trying to reach the highest?
But, frankly speaking, you need no consolations. Doubts and boggles are attributes of a thinking human. You are certainly belong to the kind. I think it’s a great honour and pleasure to have people like you on the Forum. I mean it.
P.S. Would you care to introduce me to your stories in whatever acceptable way?
Best regards.

Ooh, I’d like that! Although it wasn’t my intention, I’d be a liar if I said that it doesn’t make me feel good. :wink:

Seriously, I thought English was your first language!! You are really language talented, if you can learn it without a teacher. Were/are you around a lot of native English speakers?

Same way for me. Writer’s block makes me feel as though I were mute. I’m not much of an essayist. I write in the novel-style with characters and dialogs. That’s like playing with dolls, except you’re doing it in the head. Perhaps an excuse to be a kid again. I like it when the characters come to life and do their own thing. If they don’t they are dead, like dolls laying around in the corner.

Funny that you say that! I call it the “language lever”. Like you, I either switch it on for my brain to work in English mode, or off so that it will work in my mother tongue. I have to admit, I’m not perfect in either language.

You are right, that’s why there are editors. I don’t know if it’s true, but I remember reading an article somewhere that Ernest Hemingway, Emily Dickinson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Wordsworth were driving their editors insane with their bad grammar and spelling. Gives us English learners hope that we can still make it without having to be 100% perfect.

Again, thank you all for your encouragement!

Claudia wrote:
"(Looks like this is turning into a thread where we all can sing Claudia’s praises. "
-I’m ready to stand for any person aspiring that much for perfection in the field they like. More than that, brave enough to expose their weakness /real or imaginary/ and not afraid to be ridiculed. Get your chin up,Claudia!

Ah, thanks for that, Claudia! :slight_smile:

A few years after taking that English course I mentioned, I worked for 18 months in a multinational company (located in a non-English speaking country), and yes, a few members of the staff there were native English speakers (from the UK).

Which reminds me… Time for a bit of whining…

Well, I was thrown right in there with practically zero speaking practice but, even from the beginning, I did not have much trouble communicating with the others and the natives were very surprised to hear that I hadn’t actually spoken any English before. I guess my struggle to find my words was not as obvious as I thought. Oh, but then there she was… this English woman, a colleague of ours, who kept repeating after every couple of words that came out of my mouth: ‘‘Sorry?’’, ‘‘Pardon?’’. Whoa, she made me fill so dumb that I just wanted to scratch her eyes out!
No, wait, I got so heated up just thinking about it, that I forgot I don’t do scratching! I meant to say: I just wanted to punch her lights out! There! I’ve said it out loud and I feel so much better now! :slight_smile:

The only reason which stopped me from hurting her -in any way- was that she did that to just about anybody, including the native speakers!

Hopefully, I haven’t scared anyone away / put them off this thread! This is the place where we are supposed to let off some steam, right? :slight_smile:

If she did it to everyone the problem was her deafness.

You certainly haven’t scared me. :slight_smile: Yes, this is exactly what this thread is for.

If this lady had a hearing problem, she should have said so. It is important to let others know if you have a handicap, especially at a workplace. Handicapped are definitely required to notify their boss, so he or she can take precautions and make adjustments, if necessary. If this lady was truly deaf, it would have been her responsibility to tell her coworkers. Instead, she just made everyone angry and annoyed the others by constantly saying “Pardon?” For an English learner, such a behavior can be very discouraging, indeed.

Hi Cqk,

I don’t suppose the lady in question felt she had a handicap at all. It is amazing how many people who develop an element of deafness through age (or excess earwax!) don’t acknowledge the problem at all.

Hi Beeesneees,

I agree, deafness often progresses slowly, but there comes a point where a person realizes that there is something wrong (when suddenly everybody sounds as if underwater, for example) and then goes to the doctor to get his or her hearing checked and a hearing aid. Repeating “Pardon” after every couple of words?

Cristina already said that this is what kept her from scratching the lady’s eyes out. Imagine she would have done it! Then the woman would have been deaf and blind! :wink:


Edited this post. :-S

Good one, Claudia! :smiley:

Hi Beeesneees,

I agree, deafness often progresses slowly, but there comes a point where a person realizes that there is something wrong (when suddenly everybody sounds as if underwater, for example) and then goes to the doctor to get his or her hearing checked and a hearing aid. Repeating “Pardon” after every couple of words?


I have my doubts that everyone takes the sensible route. I think people of a working age often tend to struggle on regardless. It seems from my observations that there is still a stigma attached to hearing aids which is not attached to other disabilities eg. glasses.