Staying motivated is probably the biggest factor of being successful in learning a language. This topic has already been covered by many Polyglots and language enthusiasts YouTube videos (Language Tsar, Language Boost, Richard Simcott, Steve Kaufmann) and blog posts (Learn with Oliver, Omniglot, Fluent in 3 months) before, but I want to give my own tips on how to stay motivated.
#Why do we fail to keep ourselves motivated when learning a language?
I think that losing motivation (or failing to keep yourself motivated) is usually a combination of many separate things.
Let me give you a real-life example: I have many friends that have been very excited when they have started to learn a new language. What happens next is almost always the same. They sign up for a 6-month language course in one of the local schools. In the beginning they are very excited and focused. Within the next few weeks their motivation starts slowly fading, and then they drop out of the language course half way through. That same thing has also happened to me.
The main problems (motivation killers) that I think that language courses have:
- Stress - You are tied to the schedule and progress of the language course. If you miss one or two classes you get easily stressed because it is hard to keep up with the course. Having to do homework brings extra stress. This kind of stress in learning eats motivation fast.
- Lack of flexibility - Maybe on the day that you should be attending your class you just don't feel like studying that much, on the next day you might want to study more than normally. Language courses won't allow you to be flexible, you just have to follow the common schedule and learning methods of the teacher.
- Lack of personal goals - You can set personal goals when attending a language course, but I don't think that many people do. The goals of the language course might be clashing with yours: they can move too fast or too slow compared to what you would like to. They can prioritize things in a different way than what you want to.
- Lack of tracking progress - Language courses focus teaching certain amount things in a certain time frame. There is usually no personal tracking for the students. It is often hard to tell if you actually managed to learn all the important things or what your current progress in the language is.
- Lack of fun - Language courses usually use the same material (the same book) from start to finish. This means that you are not getting any variation in your learning content or methods, which means that you can easily get bored.
So, what if you haven't been attending a language course? The things that I have listed above are actually not only related to language courses, they are huge motivation killers in general.
#How to do the right things to stay motivated
- Learn in small chunks. Spend at least 10-15 minutes each day with the language. If you want to study more than that, just split your learning into multiple 10-15 minute chunks. Read, watch videos, listen to podcasts, speak with another person in your target language.
- Make learning a habit. That 10-15 minutes of learning only really works if you do it every day. Create a habit out of learning a language. That will mean that you do not forget what you have previously learned.
- Be flexible with your learning. Don't force yourself to learn a language if you are having a bad day. That can cause you to lose motivation. You can get more out of yourself on a day that you are feeling good.
- Set small goals that you can reach easily.
- Focus on doing things that you like to do. Example: Do you find language books boring? Then don't try to force yourself to learn with one. Watch Youtube videos with subtitles instead.
- Track your progress. Make sure that you have a way to track your current learning progress. It will help you to keep your motivation because you know that you are making progress. There are different ways of tracking progress: you can find learning material (books, videos, etc.) that are grouped by levels and make sure that you fully know one level before proceeding to the next one. You can also use software like LingQ to track how many words you currently know. You can compare your knowledge to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages to know what your current level is.
- Keep on changing content and methods. Read, listen and watch content from different authors. Rotate apps that you use for learning on your computer or phone. Change the book that you use for learning. Speak with someone you haven't spoken before.