The Biggest Hurdle in Learning a New Skill

While picking up a number of new skills in the past few years, I have realized there is this common difficult phase that will hit the learner at one point in time. It is the same regardless of the skill we are learning, be it to speak a new language, to play a new musical instrument, writing, programming or even playing games!

The Hurdle

So what’s the Hurdle? The Hurdle happens when the learning curve starts to stray off the tangent and becomes so steep that the difficulty of learning drives our motivation downward. From there, not many are able to pick themselves up to continue the learning journey.

Let us take learning a new language as an example. Initially, our new-found interest in learning the language, coupled with the high motivation of kick-starting the learning process, will tide us through the learning-to-read phase easily(which explains why I can read more languages than I can probably understand them). This is also the honeymoon period where we are very excited about the language and seeks to practice it as much as we can. This phase usually lasts until the basic grammar is covered.

And then comes the Hurdle when a lot more grammar rules are to be learned. i.e. the 6 cases in Russian. Yet, there is no way to skip the stage of learning grammar. If we don’t learn the grammar of a language, we probably won’t be able to get our message across to the listener as smoothly as we’d like to. I remember having felt the Hurdle when I was studying Korean, the first foreign language I picked up, and also for Japanese, Thai, German, and now Russian. Fortunately, I had wonderful friends as my language partners that I was able to persevere through the Hurdle while learning Korean.

During the Hurdle

When the Hurdle starts, motivation falls. As motivation wanes, trying to place the fingers on the right stings to strum a chord, trying to look for the right sequence of code to solve a problem and trying to come up with a phrase to end the current paragraph suddenly become so impossibly difficult.

We will find ourselves progressing, and only regress again ever so often. Like how I would learn new grammar for Japanese, and then forget them again after a long pause at learning Japanese due to the immense difficulty of picking up that sheer number of grammar.

This constant tug-of-war often causes us to stop learning, because we find that there just isn’t any improvement at all in our learning journey.

Why We Should Overcome The Hurdle

When we overcome the Hurdle, our acquired skill level will, more often than not, allow us to pick up the pace of learning again, and with that, our motivation for learning.

By attaining these new skills (new chords, new algorithms, new grammar), we can now learn even more ever more quickly. This expansion of our resources will allow us to satiate our hunger to learn and practice, and therefore, accelerate learning.

Why I Share

I have seen many friends give up learning particular sets of skills because of the Hurdle. And I always hope to see them pick up where they left off, and attain the skill set they have always wanted to have.

By being aware of the existence of the Hurdle, I hope we are better able to understand what it is, and hopefully, overcome it. There is really no other way than to try to keep our motivation level positive during the Hurdle to continue learning until we finally defeat it. Maybe find a friend or two with common interest and march into the battle against it together. It’s much easier to leap over the Hurdle with friends right by us.

I hope all readers who are facing the Hurdle now regardless of what we’re learning will find the strength to break through it, and fulfill the hunger for learning together.

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