The Catch 22 Of Language Learning

Catch 22 of Language: When learning a word, if I repeat it, I am admitting I am stupid, but if I do not repeat it, I am admitting I am stupid.

The Catch 22 of Language Learning

Isn’t it annoying when people repeat something 3 times, maybe 4, some people never stop, why is this? The boss, my wife, my best friend, some people treat me as if I am stupid. I am not stupid, please stop repeating things?
“You are a nag?”

I feel like I never grew up, my Mother never stopped repeating, reminding, and hoping I would remember. I know she repeated because she cared, but in the end, “I won.”

I refused to obey, and that was my mantra until age 31,
“Nobody can tell me what to do!”

I lost many girlfriends with one comment,
“What part of ‘NO’ don’t you understand?”

Catch 22 of language

There is a conundrum of learning a foreign language words. And here I am again, in the language game, I am in Natitingou, Benin West Africa learning French, this is Francophone Africa.

Yet, people here often refuse to repeat French words to me; they refuse to treat me as if I am stupid, yet only a stupid person would believe any person on the planet capable of learning a word after hearing it one time.

Yesterday, in the Natitingoue market, I asked a girl to write down her name, it was,

“Non-political correctness for religions is dangerous,
Kaouchara is a Musulmans, a follower of Islam, and so the name is something along those lines. And, my name is Andy, or Andrew which is a Christian name, easy for a Christian to remember, spell, and write… unless you are a Muslim…

Should I remember Kaouchara’s name the first time she says it?

I know your answer, it is “no,” I do not need to remember it the first time; I am allowed to repeat, write it down, and practice. Why? Because the word is special, because it is a foreign word, but ain’t I learning a “Foreign Language“ here in Francophone Africa?”

But here in lies the conundrum, or should I be using the word “paradox?” If I do not say the correct word, if I do not use a word correctly, will you fail to learn? Oops, people often mispronounce words, or use the wrong word, this is annoying, but human.

This is the “Learning a Language Catch 22.”

If she repeats it, she is saying I am stupid, if she does not repeat it, I will not remember.

If I repeat it, I am telling you are stupid, if I do not repeat it, you will not learn it.

If I repeat it, I am admitting I am stupid, but if I do not repeat it, I am admitting I am stupid.

Only an idiot would not repeat a foreign word, but only a person willing to be an idiot can learn a language.

Learning is the responsibility of the student, when a Foreign Language Student accepts that he or she must force the teacher to repeat words, and then he or she will learn a language.

On the other hand, and language teacher that wants me to learn a word after one repetition is (Fill in the Blank.)
- Note the answer is written above.

I enjoy watching language students, with their language teachers, it is the normal Catch 22 of Languages, a comedy, no a conundrum, oh, I give up, it is a paradox.

The responsibility of learning must be the student, answering questions is for teachers, this is confusing.

Thank you,
Andy Graham
Natitingou, Benin, West Africa

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Comments 6


Even when you learn the basic rudiments of a language if you do not continue to use it regularly then over a period of time you lose it.
I 1st learned Latin in high school, not because I wanted to, it was a requirement which I learned some basics and never had any reason to ever use in the real world, I got a C mainly for being agreeable and cheating on tests.
I forgot everything but a few words very quickly.
I did not take any language in college but I did learn some Italian (all at once Some Latin jumped out of my sub conscious), German and Japanese while working and living in those countries.
Not much but enough to be understood when in restaurants, stores, meeting locals, etc enough to get by and not be embarrassed. The last time I used any of them was about 8 yrs ago when I visited friends in Germany.
I have again forgotten just about all of them. You have to keep using the language which my daughter does and she is very fluent in German, my ex is German.
One of the biggest problems today and for quite a long time is in just about all countries that are involved heavily in world commerce use English. Young students learn it if they want good jobs and many speak and write it better than many born English speakers. Somewhat embarrassing isnt it.
I now have a Chinese wife and I have her learning English as I am tired of trying to learn another one and besides when in China they also are learning English on a massive basis.
So if you want to learn do not feel stupid by asking for help, repetition and then use it over and over forever if you wish to stay fluent.

I know there are some people who learn very easily just as there are people that learn to play a musical instrument easily, and so on but they are not the majority they are those with the proper brain cells that work for them.


Why dont you use a recording device during some of your attempts to speak French?

(Wear a wire, as they say in the cop shows.)

Later, you could listen to the native speakers who wont slow down and wont help you, over and over, to your hearts content, or ad nauseam.

Try to find a tutor, preferably someone willing to do some language exchange, you teach them English they teach you French, no money involved, just time and energy.

You can have your tutor help you out with the pronunciation and interpretation of your recorded French interactions at a more suitable pace.

Since you would likely choose to record interactions about topics you were interested in and would inspire you to learn more vocabulary and grammar, perhaps your tutor would find your interactions useful too, for learning English.

You could help your tutor with the English versions of your recorded interactions, some role plays, listen and repeat pronunciation drills, etc.


Generally, any cooperation from locals is helpful, but can never be expected. Learning a language when 100 percent immersed as I am right now make it easy, I learn, or I burn, I truly have no choice if I want to eat, drink, or buy things.

Recording locals in Africa is as EcuadorDean said,
French and undereducated African French.

I learned Spanish in Mexico, and will regret this for the rest of my life. videos are almost the best to hear words. Locals, or people in any French speaking country can hack words to death.

Think of the USA, and how EcuadorDean was saying,
Learning English in Alabama.

Better to listen to tapes, or watch

I have massive amounts of digital French words saved on my computer now.

But, the Catch 22 of learning is you have to dominate the teacher, dominate the person talking in French, and force them to talk, repeat, and look at you.

Example: Today, I purchase two pairs of used shorts. The man asked 3000 CFA per pair, or 6000 for both. I said, I will pay 2000 or 4000.

He looked down, said something, and then found a plastic bag, and bagged them. I needed to stand there, and say Cuatre Mille, Cautre Mille, Cautre Mille. He refused to acknowledge me.

He held out his hand for money, I had 10,000, I refused to give him the money. Money goes one way on the planet, to them, and not back. I forced him to agree, say 4000, and finally I held up 4 fingers, and forced him to shake his head yes.

Confusion is a money making strategy on planet earth, buy an Airline Ticket online from Spirit Air, they are crooks, they try to make you agree, when you do not really understand.

So an idiot agrees to hear one time an pay money, but that is what people want, they want confusion, not clarity of repetition.

It is not possible to record people with a hidden mike, it would take one hour to learn one word, pure rote memory is no more than 5-10 minutes per word, not an effective ideaa. Tutors are a waste of time, unless you are not computer literate.

I have a French friend, from France, who I can all on Skype, if there is a really weird phrase I need to learn. It is not the easy stuff that is difficult, it is the local use of words that is baffling.

The wanker world of French teachers demand I listen to formal French, and yet, I have never heard anyone speak formally. I learned Formal Spanish, and guess what, I have yet to hear people use it.

Maybe it is used in Madrid, maybe Formal French is used in Paris, but I am in Africa, or Central and South America, and no sane person want to pay to live in Paris.


I found one of the most difficult languages Ive every tried to learn was Japanese, because culturally Japanese tend not to correct foreigners trying to speak their language- they feel its rude to correct them. No useful feedback, well, its very hard to learn a language properly.

You might want to try the Pimsleur Method. You could learn real/formal/Parisian French, and then use that knowledge and skill to learn the various local dialects and accents you come across in Africa and other places.

Also, it might suit your learning style. Check it out here:

BTW: there are some excellent links at the end of this wiki link.


Sorry...typo above Ive every tried to learn should be Ive ever tried to learn...


Yes, the Pimsleur method appears to me to be a sound language method. I think he understand students. Anyone can learn a language, we all learn at least one. I am always in reality learning situations, in situation where I need to learn, and can only build, or use the oore words the same a Pimsleur method. Auditory only is easy for students, and he would less students stop a class, making people study by writing words, such as I like to do is the non-lazy method, which is why I say, he understands people.

Anticipation and Organic are complicated ways of explaining language immersion. And, I am proud of this core language concept.

This is where language schools are just pure wankers. I have seen 100s of Spanish Schools where a student is put with a native speaker, and the teacher talks only in Spanish, more or less a waste of good money for the student.

Yet, the majority of students who study abroad, want to say,
I studied Spanish in Antigua, Guatemala.
They do not really care if the learned Spanish.

I told Greta, a Norwegian girl who studied in Antigua.
It is a great place to drink, party, and boom boom with the other language students.
It is a horrible place to learn Spanish.

She got angry at me, 12 years later when I saw her in Cuba, she said,
Andy, you was right.
And apologized.

Studying a language, to learn English is a great idea. I learned English grammar by studying Spanish grammar.

I can easily think in both French, and Spanish, never translating in my head. But this is because I am immersed, the brain knows, there is no reason to search for English word, they do not solve the problem.

The Japanese learning is exactly the catch 22.

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