a steep learning curve

KYC

Senior Member
Mandarin
Hi everyone:

I just came across the phrase "steep learning curve" and I looked it up in a dictionary. I also checked other threads about the phrase. However, I am not sure if I catch the meaning. I want to say "learning English phrases is not easy."

Here is my try" It is a steep learning curve to learn English. All you can do is to keep practicing."

Could you please check it for me? I am also wondering if my sentence is natural or not. Thanks a lot.
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Steep learning curve means that it's very difficult to learn.[...]
    One great problem with the expression is that while maybe some people mean this, many others mean the opposite.

    For me a steep learning curve, with time on the x-axis, suggests that learning is fast, and, therefore, maybe, that whatever it is is easy to learn.

    The thread linked by Copyright contains posts which explain the dangers of all this clearly.

    My advice is not to use the expression; people who do use it often aren't clear how to use it to express what they wish to say.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I agree with panj's summary in the thread Copyright linked to:

    In common use, it means that a lot has to be learnt in a short time.

    I'm not saying that it's a correct usage, but it's how I see it being used all the time. It may be as much misused as "light years away", which has come to mean "an extremely long time" to a lot of people (and to the Cambridge Dictionary).
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    This post from the earlier thread points out that in common use 'a steep learning curve' means the need to learn a lot in a short time.

    In this sense, we could say that Donald Trump, having no previous experience of government, faces a steep learning curve in his new office.

    Cross-posted with velisarius.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    This post from the earlier thread points out that in common use 'a steep learning curve' means the need to learn a lot in a short time.
    That's what I've always understood it to mean. :)

    So, going back to the OP's question:
    " It is a steep learning curve to learn English. All you can do is to keep practicing."
    There, the steepness of the curve (i.e. the amount you have to learn), is what gives rise to the need to keep practising because it's otherwise not easy.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It depends on the goals you set yourself whether learning English is "a steep learning curve". If you have no pressing reason to reach a certain level or pass certain exams by a certain date, it needn't be steep at all.

    I've been learning Russian on and off for years (mostly off, I'm afraid) and I've enjoyed it, but I can't say it's been a "steep learning curve"—though it was certainly difficult without a real live teacher to help me.
     

    Aventador LP700-4

    Senior Member
    Persian
    And so nothing to do with learning? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.
    This phrase has a scientific basis (Wikipedia has information on its origin and scientific usage), but is most commonly used to indicate that something is difficult to learn. It refers to a person’s rate of progress in learning a new skill as it might be plotted on a graph. In this case it sounds like the computer program itself is difficult for beginners to use effectively, not that it is not good at learning. I have never heard the phrase used that way, though I suppose it could apply to a program that uses artificial intelligence.

    Source:
    What is meant by "steep learning curve"?
     
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