Results 1 to 10 of 10
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland

    • Join Date: Nov 2011
    • Posts: 433
    #1

    learn the hard way

    I asked around (in another forum) what would be the best Polish opposite numbers of this English expression and my post there created an uproar for all the wrong (for me) reasons. While a number of adequate translations were offered, I was accused of using the the expression erroneously in an example which I posted there.

    Here is my allegedly erroneous use of the expression:

    "I had been learning English the hard way" (what I intended to say is, that when in 1980s I seriously took to it, there were no original English texts freely available, much less live or recorded authentic native audio samples except BBC short wave radio broadcasts hardly audible through all the interference hiss and static noise, and to cap it all I decided to go it alone).

    Does this sentence sound unnatural to the native ear, as I am told it does?

    Thank you in advance for any assisstance.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Jun 2010
    • Posts: 24,452
    #2

    Re: learn the hard way

    It sounds perfectly natural to me.

    That was certainly a hard way to learn English.

    Rover

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 41,819
    #3

    Re: learn the hard way

    Quote Originally Posted by JarekSteliga View Post
    I asked around (in another forum) what would be the best Polish opposite numbers of this English expression and my post there created an uproar for all the wrong (for me) reasons. While a number of adequate translations were offered, I was accused of using the the expression erroneously in an example which I posted there.

    Here is my allegedly erroneous use of the expression:

    "I had been learning English the hard way" (what I intended to say is, that when in 1980s I seriously took to it, there were no original English texts freely available, much less live or recorded authentic native audio samples except BBC short wave radio broadcasts hardly audible through all the interference hiss and static noise, and to cap it all I decided to go it alone).

    Does this sentence sound unnatural to the native ear, as I am told it does?

    Thank you in advance for any assisstance.
    "Learning something the hard way" has a rather specific meaning which doesn't quite fit your intended meaning. When we use it, it usually means that you learnt something very suddenly via an unpleasant experience.

    Dry ice burns. I learnt that the hard way when I dipped my hand in a canister of the stuff in the chemistry lab.
    Speaking English is very important in Yorkshire. I learnt that the hard way when I visited Yorkshire for a holiday and discovered that nobody spoke my language.
    Telling the truth on your CV is crucial. I learnt this the hard way when I was challenged on my claim to have invented the wheel during an interview for a car company. I felt rather stupid!

    For your piece, I would be inclined to say something like "My journey to speaking English has been a difficult one [due to the lack of resources when I first started learning]", or "Learning English was no easy task when I first became a student of the language".

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland

    • Join Date: Nov 2011
    • Posts: 433
    #4

    Re: learn the hard way

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    "Learning something the hard way" has a rather specific meaning which doesn't quite fit your intended meaning. When we use it, it usually means that you learnt something very suddenly via an unpleasant experience.

    Dry ice burns. I learnt that the hard way when I dipped my hand in a canister of the stuff in the chemistry lab.
    Speaking English is very important in Yorkshire. I learnt that the hard way when I visited Yorkshire for a holiday and discovered that nobody spoke my language.
    Telling the truth on your CV is crucial. I learnt this the hard way when I was challenged on my claim to have invented the wheel during an interview for a car company. I felt rather stupid!

    For your piece, I would be inclined to say something like "My journey to speaking English has been a difficult one [due to the lack of resources when I first started learning]", or "Learning English was no easy task when I first became a student of the language".
    I first glimpsed Rover_KE's post and felt ecstatic, but my ecstasy was a short lived one since no sooner had I indulged myself properly in the pleasant complacency when I spotted the ems2d2's entry .

    It is now dawning on me that "to learn something the hard way" cannot be used progressively with reference to a succession of unpleasant experiences, but exclusively as a reference to a one off (unpleasant) experience.

    Thank you (please also correct me if my conclusions are still inapt)

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 41,819
    #5

    Re: learn the hard way

    Quote Originally Posted by JarekSteliga View Post
    I first glimpsed Rover_KE's post and felt ecstatic, but my ecstasy was a short lived one since no sooner had I indulged myself properly in the pleasant complacency when I spotted the ems2d2's entry .

    It is now dawning on me that "to learn something the hard way" cannot be used progressively with reference to a succession of unpleasant experiences, but exclusively as a reference to a one off (unpleasant) experience.

    Thank you (please also correct me if my conclusions are still inapt)
    It's not that you can't use it - the problem is that anyone who is familiar with the usual meaning of "to learn something the hard way" will probably immediately jump to that definition rather than the one you mean. I agree with Rover's statement that you certainly chose a hard way to learn English!

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Dec 2009
    • Posts: 6,332
    #6

    Re: learn the hard way

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    (1) I am an old man who walks every day for exercise.

    (2) Problem is that I do not think that I am old, so I walk much too fast.

    (3) A year ago, I breezed past a gentleman who speaks English as a second language. He warned me:

    "You have many years. Don't walk so fast."

    (4) I smiled and continued my fast pace.

    (5) A few weeks ago, I was walking as usual when I suddenly fell down on the sidewalk and scraped my knees. I could have

    even broken some bones.

    (6) I learned the hard way that the gentleman had been right. I now walk s-l-o-w-l-y.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland

    • Join Date: Nov 2011
    • Posts: 433
    #7

    Re: learn the hard way

    It is now more than a year since that thread was opened, but I encountered this video Michio Kaku: The Dark Side of Technology - YouTube and began to wonder. Michio Kaku said in the clip (2:25) that when the US began to enrich uranium, they did it the hard way.

    I believe he used the expression, "to do something the hard way" in exactly the same sense in which I used it in my original statement about learning English. Am I to understand that "learning" is somehow excluded from things which can be done the hard way in this sense of the expession?

  3. bhaisahab's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Ireland

    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 25,592
    #8

    Re: learn the hard way

    I see nothing at all wrong with your original sentence.

  4. emsr2d2's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 41,819
    #9

    Re: learn the hard way

    I think there is a huge difference between "learning something the hard way" and "learning something a hard way".
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland

    • Join Date: Nov 2011
    • Posts: 433
    #10

    Re: learn the hard way

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    I think there is a huge difference between "learning something the hard way" and "learning something a hard way".
    Thank you for your recurrent attention to this thread and for your bearing with me, but I have to say that in view of your last remark I find myself back at/on square one on this.

    I also reread a number of times your post #5 in this thread and think it improbable that anyone could interpret the expression "learn the hard way" as "learn something by burning one's fingers sort of way" (meaning a rude awakening) in the context of learning a foreign language, where the sudden acquisition of ultimate knowledge through just one unpleasant experience is just not on (and I wish it were BTW ).

Similar Threads

  1. [Grammar] 'learn to swin' or 'learn swimming'?
    By wotcha in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 25-Mar-2011, 12:54
  2. he struggled hard or he was struggling hard?
    By phoenixqn81 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 06-Mar-2009, 09:39
  3. hard working/ working hard/ hard work
    By Nefertiti in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 08-Apr-2008, 13:48
  4. Reasons why the English language is so hard to learn
    By dgdesk in forum Teaching English
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 10-Feb-2007, 20:56
  5. how to learn speak english not learn just grammer
    By noora in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 09-Apr-2006, 09:16

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •