When it comes to language learning, it’s more than okay to admit that you’ve hit a wall or could use a little extra motivation. In fact, it’s bound to happen at some point. Language learning is a long-term process — it takes commitment and enthusiasm. And just like any long-term goal, we all need encouragement from time to time to keep us going.
With that in mind, here are our top tips for staying motivated to keep learning:
1. Remember Why You Started
When you first started your language learning journey, it was for a reason. Perhaps you wanted to reconnect with your heritage, get more out of your travels, or make yourself more competitive in the marketplace. When your brain is focused on learning grammar and verb conjugations, it makes sense that these concrete goals may slip out of your mind. But research shows that returning to these images and visualizing your goals can help you succeed. So go ahead, get lost in that daydream of sipping rosé in the French countryside.
2. Reflect On What You’ve Learned So Far
Learning a new language is undoubtedly a huge undertaking, and it’s easy to look at everything you still have left to learn and feel overwhelmed. But before you look ahead, take some time to reflect on how far you’ve come. As an exercise, try writing a short story or poem in the new language you’re learning. Being able to hold something tangible that’s a direct result of your effort will help you stay on track as you increase your skills.
3. Identify Distractions
Motivation ebbs and flows, but there are strategies we can use to keep us going even when our energy dips. One way is to identify the other choices we are making that are distracting us from our goals. Maybe it’s our commitment to staying up-to-date with every television show our friends recommend to us, or that extra hour of Facebooking we do before we go to bed. Whatever our distraction of choice, it’s important to recognize it, and ask ourselves if we can do without it. We have a limited amount of time and energy, which means that every decision we make has trade-offs. The key is finding a balance so that we have enough time to achieve the things that are really important to us.
4. Reward Yourself
We saved the best one for last. To stay on track, divide up your main goal of learning a new language into smaller goals and milestones, and then reward yourself after you reach each one. Perhaps that means after you master all the vocabulary in the food and drink category you’ll finally throw that fancy dinner party you’ve been dreaming about (which doubles as an excuse to show off your new skills to all your friends). A big reward at the end, such as an international trip, can certainly be motivating, but don’t forget to also celebrate your small triumphs along the way.