7 ways to stay motivated in your language learning
So we’re now a few weeks into 2015, and chances are all the resolutions we made in a fit of great excitement on January 1st are a dim and distant memory. If one of your goals for this year is to learn a new language, here are a few tips to help you stick at it, even when real life gets in the way, and your motivation starts to fade…
Make it fun
You’re far more likely to learn if you’re enjoying yourself. Of course, the best way to pick up a language is to take a trip to the country where they speak it, but that’s not an option for most of us, particularly so soon after the expense of Christmas! So instead, get yourself an app like uTalk or pick up some Flashsticks to post up all over your house (and office, and car…). Or if you’re on a budget, make up your own game. There is no right way of learning a language, and everyone’s different – but wouldn’t you rather be having fun while you study than poring over a grammar book trying to memorise verb endings?
Make it a competition
I’m currently learning German, and know for a fact I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the uTalk challenge. I don’t really need to learn German – I’m not going to Germany in the immediate future, nor do I have a German mother-in-law to impress – but I fancied trying something new and different. The problem with learning a language just for fun, though, is that it’s very easy to give up without a pressing reason to keep going. The uTalk challenge gave me that reason; I’m a very competitive person, and I wasn’t about to let my colleagues beat me (well, except Nat, who destroyed us all). Knowing that I had to come into work each morning and update my score on the board has kept me motivated, and as a result I now know probably several hundred new words that I didn’t know before.
Focus on the end goal
While there are many people who, like me, decide to learn a language just for the fun of it, there are many more who do it for a specific reason. So if you feel your enthusiasm starting to wane, focus not on learning the language, but on what it’ll mean when you’ve learnt it. Maybe it’s a new job, a new relationship or a forthcoming trip. If you concentrate on what you’re getting from knowing a new language, suddenly putting the time in to study won’t seem nearly such a chore.
Reward yourself regularly
Remembering your ultimate goal is important, but that can sometimes seem far, far away. If you were about to climb Everest and didn’t plan to stop till you got to the summit, you’d probably never start (and who could blame you). So make sure you set yourself achievable ‘in-between’ goals, and reward yourself appropriately when you get there. Personally, I find chocolate to be an excellent incentive. Or you could allow yourself an episode of your favourite TV show, or a shopping trip. Whatever works for you and will keep you motivated to press on.
Set aside time
Life can be incredibly busy, and often it feels like there isn’t enough time to do everything, so learning a language can slip down the to-do list behind other, more pressing tasks. To combat this argument, try setting aside a fixed amount of time each day, or a few times a week, which is only for language learning. Where that time fits into the rest of your schedule is up to you, but the important thing is that nothing else gets in the way. And if you can make use of ‘dead time’ like your daily commute, so much the better – that way you’re not using up hours that would ordinarily be used for other jobs.
Tell other people
I’m a great believer in this one. Tell friends and family that you’re learning a language, and chances are at some point, they’re going to ask you how it’s going. And if they don’t, ask them to. If I know that at any moment someone’s going to demand that I say something in another language, I’m much more likely to keep learning it, just in case. (Of course, when they do ask me to say something, my mind will instantly go blank – but that’s another story.)
Don’t give up, even if you slip up
As with any goal, there are going to be pitfalls along the way. You’d have to be incredibly determined (and slightly superhuman) to never have an off-day or consider giving up. And that’s ok, but the important thing is to pick yourself up after this wobble and keep going. Knowing you’ve overcome a few obstacles is only going to make the moment you have your first conversation in another language that much sweeter, because after all…
Good luck (or should I say Viel Glück)!