Do you struggle for motivation when learning a language? Here are five top tips for consistent and effective language learning.
In my time as an English teacher on italki, I have seen students come and go. Of course, the students that improve the most are those who take regular lessons rather than randomly flitting in and out of their studies. These students don’t learn effectively because they don’t make language learning a consistent routine and life’s other priorities get in the way. Students always start with the best intentions: “I really want to improve my speaking”, “My goal is to reach the next level”, and “I’m so motivated to learn!” Does this sound familiar? If so, I’m here to share a few tips to ensure that you achieve consistency in your language learning on your way to achieving your goals.
1. Attend a language meetup
If you live in an international city, then chances are that there is a flourishing social scene on Meetup. This website allows local people to organise ‘meetups’ for various activities, and one of the most popular activities is language exchange meetups. Whilst living in Melbourne, Australia earlier this year, I wanted to practice my Spanish speaking skills, so I joined a language exchange meetup that met in a city centre bar every Wednesday evening. I could help Spanish-speaking visitors to Melbourne with their English and in return they assisted me with my Spanish.
Every meetup group in every city is different, but if you can find a group like this in your city, then it’s a great opportunity to practice your conversation in an informal setting with a native speaker or a fellow learner. You might be surprised by how many languages are spoken in your city!
2. Download apps on your smartphone
Critics of the modern age say that today’s society is addicted to the smartphone, but you can put this addiction to good use by downloading a few language learning apps that will help you to learn vocabulary and practice grammar while you travel on the subway or procrastinate on the sofa at home. I have found popular apps like Duolingo and Memrise in being very helpful for picking up new words and there are plenty of other apps to choose from in the Apple app store and Google Play Store. Remember also that italki has an app that you can use to keep up-to-date with your lessons and to remind you of your next class.
Apps have an advantage over websites in that they are easier to access on a smartphone and they can send you notifications to remind you to learn every day. Receiving a buzz on your phone is a great way to persuade you to spend some time every day practicing your target language. Remember, daily learning motivation is just a download away!
3. Subscribe to a YouTube video series
Whenever I have a little time to play with, I tend to head over to YouTube to watch videos. If you’re like me (a YouTube addict!) then make the most of this downtime by learning a new language. There are many great vloggers that have made easily-digestible videos to explain grammar points and widen learners’ vocabulary.
Just a simple YouTube search will unearth a treasure trove of resources, but some of my favourites include:
- mmmEnglish (English)
- Learn French with Alexa (French)
- Butterfly Spanish (Spanish)
Whichever language you are learning, there’s bound to be a YouTube channel dedicated to it. Subscribe to the channel to ensure that you receive the latest videos (and to keep up your dedication to consistent learning).
You can also find plenty of English TV show episodes with subtitles on YouTube, and this is another great way to utilize the Internet to learn a language. One of my favourite language-related TV shows is a very dated English comedy called “Mind your language”. If you have ever tried to learn English, then you’ll find plenty to relate to in this funny show. Here’s the first season to get you started.
4. Keep a diary and publish it on italki
The community part of italki is really great for practicing your writing and getting it corrected. You have the ability to discuss your chosen language with other learners and ask questions to the hundreds of language experts who are sure to give you a quick reply. It’s a fantastic resource for a language learner, and I know a few of my students regularly post diary entries or opinion pieces on the Notebook part of the community site. They like the fact that they can get corrections and advice on their writing as well as start a discussion with people from around the world on topical issues. Having your writing corrected takes a bit of bravery as it’s not easy having your language skills displayed for all to see, but remember that everyone is willing to help and will try to give you constructive advice. Give it a go!
5. Buy a language package with an italki teacher
If you’re really going to learn a language, then you need a regular schedule of lessons to make sure that you don’t get distracted or fall behind in your targets. Booking a five lesson or ten lesson package with a professional italki teacher commits you to taking lessons, and you can book the lessons however regularly you like. Try to book the same time every day or every week - that way you will create a routine for yourself and language learning will become a part of your life.
Remember to book lessons for times when you will have a lot of energy and concentration. Lessons that start as soon as you wake up or late at night are probably not going to be as effective as lessons booked for times when you are prepared and ready to learn.
Another advantage of packages is that teachers on italki often give a discount to students who book packages compared to students who book single lessons. Language learning feels even better when you are saving a few dollars through committing yourself to a teacher. Browse through a few teachers’ profiles and feel free to message them if you have questions about their packages.
Remember above all else that it is far easier to forget a second language than to remember one, and that the only way to prevent this is to consistently practice and use the language. Most importantly, don't forget to enjoy learning languages!
Hero image by Andrew Neel (CC0 1.0)