A common question you’ll get asked is: what language are you learning? Instead, let’s ask: what’s your excuse for not practicing that language today?
Not such a common question, but a really common problem. Today? I’m too busy, I’m too tired... We all know the feeling. We all know we should do a little everyday, and practice makes perfect. But, life happens and suddenly you’re falling into bed at the end of the day and - oops, I forgot to do some language practice.
Think about the excuses you’ve used over the past week. Write down ten reasons why you skipped a day of studying.
I bet no time, no money and no motivation were high on your list. I know because I’ve been there - and I am there everyday when it comes to learning Japanese. I have all the excuses in my top pocket ready to go.
So let’s beat these excuses. With a bit of logic and application we can overcome them.
Here are my top six excuses and how we can beat them:
1. I Have No Time
Sure, some days are so busy there’s barely time to scratch your head - let alone concentrate on the finer points of foreign grammar. But everyday? If learning a language is something you really want to do, trust me, you will be able to find five minutes to study every day.
A way you can make time is to link your language learning to something you already do everyday. Whether it’s brushing your teeth, eating meals, watching TV, taking the bus, driving your car, washing the dishes - what learning tools can you use at the same time? Try flipping through your flashcards on the bus, listening to a podcast in the car, conjugating verbs while you brush your teeth.
- If you try to connect a new habit with an old one, it’s much more likely to stick.
2. I Don’t Know Where To Start
There are so many tools, courses, apps and books you could use out there. But let’s start where we are, not where we want to be. First have a look at the books, apps and materials you already have in hand. Some of them you may have never looked at properly before. Review all of your current resources and see if they fit your needs right now.
Ask yourself what is it you want to do now with your language. Pass an exam? Give a presentation at work? Talk with your friends? Find your reason and then find the materials to help you accomplish just that. Here’s a really great tip: find a resource you love and stick with it. Try to wring as much as you can out of the material which you have chosen. You will progress if you stick with one resource and keep using it. If you switch around, you may progress, but you also might get lost starting over and over again.
3. I Don’t Know How To Practice
All the materials, courses, books and apps out there can be overwhelming. Don’t get caught spending more time planning your study sessions rather than actually studying!
Keep things simple. Stick with a few chosen materials and then use them. Focus on what you need to do in this language, and think of the steps you need to take to get there.
Try to break your problem down into small steps. For example: I want to be better at speaking in Japanese, but my biggest problem is not understanding what people say to me - so I need to improve my listening skills. Right now, I don’t understand enough when I practice my listening because I don’t know enough words. So my short term goal is to focus on learning more vocabulary. If you are struggling to break your problem down, ask a teacher to help you direct your efforts into effective study methods.
4. I’m Too Tired
Sleep is really important for your brain. Research shows that memory is strengthened by sleep and puzzles are solved more efficiently if you can sleep on it. Your brain will not love you if it can't rest, as other research shows that tired brains can’t learn effectively.
So go have a nap (now!). Afterwards, pick up that book and study for five minutes. You’ll feel so much better.
5. I Have No Money
There are things that you do need money for. If you want a teacher then it will cost some money. But a teacher will help you not only with the grammar and vocabulary, but can also give you advice on methods of studying, and the best tools to use.
There are many many free online resources for practicing writing, reading and listening, finding a language exchange partner, or practicing your grammar. Find something (or someone) that you like, and stick with it. You don’t need loads of apps or books, just one that works for you.
6. I Have No One To Practice With
Welcome to italki! There are hundreds of teachers and tutors waiting for you, as well as millions of fellow students you can practice with.
Having trouble finding a teacher? Search within the times you’re available to shorten the list. Don’t disregard any teachers because of their flag, non-native teachers often have great skills at explaining complicated grammar or vocabulary in your language. Read the profiles and see who appeals to you. Take a trial lesson or informal tutoring, and have fun. You don’t need to be a certain level, or know a certain amount of words, just enjoy meeting someone new.
Was there anything else on your list of excuses? Next time you feel a reason bubbling up inside of you saying why you can’t study your language today, will you give into them?
Instead, tell yourself you can! Overcome your inner voice and reach your language goals.
Hero image by Fred Mouniguet on Unsplash