Learning a language should be an enjoyable experience but commitment and dedication are also required.
Here are a few suggestions to help keep you motivated at each stage of learning a language.
1. Starting a new language
One of the biggest challenges for most people is to start. Sometimes in life you have good reasons to learn the language: You could be learning at school or university where you are obliged to put in the hours! Perhaps you have moved to a new country. Or maybe you’ve fallen in love with someone from another country. All great reasons! But still in each of these cases you will find that you still need motivation to get going.
In many cases, however, the impetus is not so immediate. If you are learning alone or at night school then you need clear goals and solid motivation to help you along the way.
But first you must start.
“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” – Lao Tzu
2. Initial excitement of learning a language
There’s a good chance that after you’ve set some goals, you will have an initial excitement and you’ll be very eager to learn. This may last a week or maybe only until you complete the first chapter. In a lot of cases, you’ll still be eager to give it a go no matter how bad the resources are!
It’s a good idea at this stage to keep looking for useful and reputable resources that are likely to help you on your learning journey. If you need some advice, click here to find out what to look for in a language course.
After your initial excitement, you will need to learn how to pace your learning. There’s a good chance that you will not have the energy or time to keep that initial spurt! A realistic learning plan with is a good starting point.
Don’t worry too much about what may seem like slow progress at the beginning. It’s normal that you forget new words even if you’ve learnt them twice or three times already. A lot of learning will be done in the background passively. It is important that your learning requires active thinking!
Here it is important to stay calm and focus on each step.
“Grass doesn’t grow quicker if you pull at it” – East African proverb
4. Overcoming fears of language learning
This is also the biggest challenges for most people before they start. Many people have had what one of our linguists calls “negative language learning biographies”. Gradually, some doubt may creep in about previous experiences and failed attempts. You will need to stay positive.
5. Get proactive
After you have overcome any fears, you need to make sure that you practice in live environments so that you receive feedback. Accept that you will make mistakes and this is a perfectly normal aspect of language learning, indeed any learning.
I used to suffer terribly when people laughed at my mistakes, especially in German. It wasn’t until I laughed at someone else’s mistakes that I realised, oh, actually there’s something enjoyable about hearing something completely ordinary being pronounced in a novel and interesting way.
In these situations, it’s a good idea to have some basic phrases that you can practice with someone who is patient. Your conversation will be basic so you need a patient language partner. Make sure it’s a “safe” environment so that you don’t become disheartened.
6. Keeping up the motivation
I remember as I was starting to learn Arabic, one hour of Arabic tired me so much that I felt as if I had taken an exam. It is a lot easier to slump in front of the television and let the brain slip into alpha or beta mode. But likewise, an hour of sport is tiring but the benefits are beyond question. “No pain, no gain!”
At this stage, persistence is crucial.
“If it was easy everyone would be doing this.” Take it as a challenge and enjoy the challenge. Get some satisfaction out of doing something demanding but worthwhile.
7. Making the time for language learning
We are all busy, but when we’re excited about things we make the time. At an early stage of language learning, or any type training where we need commitment, a routine helps. For sports training, it helped me to know that every Tuesday evening, for example, I was in the pool – no matter what. It then felt strange if I wasn’t!
Training and language learning motivation
I believe there are a lot of similarities between sports training and language learning and I was eager to transfer some of some of the approaches and attitudes from a successful sports life into language learning, to my benefit. As with everything, you need to figure out how you do things and employ an approach that reverberates with you.
Ultimately, the learning will become easier and exponetially more enjoyable. You will develop a curiosity for subtleties within the language and gain confidence. You will also develop a better understanding of the “logic” and you will understand more about the way you think and your own language.