Learning a language is a process that takes time, and with anything that takes time, students occasionally lose motivation. Perhaps it is due to a difficult concept or a grammatical topic that they have been struggling with for several weeks. As a professional language teacher, I have found that students usually begin their learning process with a very high level of motivation. However, over time and after dealing with complex and difficult topics, their interest starts to decrease.
With this in mind, I decided to come up with some advice that could help students get back on track with their language studies. So here they are: five effective tips to stay motivated when learning a language.
Personalize Your Studies
If you’ve been studying nothing but grammar and generic vocabulary words for weeks on end, you’re definitely going to be less than thrilled with your target language. That’s why you need to make sure you learn things outside of the traditional curriculum guidelines.
What are your interests? What are your motives for wanting to speak a foreign language? Think about the main reasons you are learning the language and what you want to obtain from speaking it fluently. Keep focused and name a few things that are a big part of your everyday life, whether they be for work or leisure.
Many students do not know that in order to speak a language, they have to improve their grammar, vocabulary, reading, listening, speaking, writing and pronunciation skills all at the same time. Once you know this, your learning process will be more interesting because you now know that you have much more flexibility in how you manage your skill development, and you can arrange the topics and lessons in whichever order works best for you. Remember that even when there is roadblock ahead, you can always improve your learning from other directions.
Take a Break
Sometimes students have just got too much on their plates. This usually happens when students are in a rush to learn and all of a sudden they get worn out. Taking a break from studying is a great way to get through these feelings of burnout, as long as you don’t stay away too long. Take a week or so off from the hard stuff and relax. If you still want to keep the language in your daily life, you can put the books and lessons aside and watch videos, listen to music, or play games in your target language.
If you’d rather just not think about the language at all for a bit, go ahead, but be sure to set a date for returning to your studies. That way, you don’t just drop it altogether.
Use a Goal Notebook
Many of us know that the secret to great progress is taking little steps, but it certainly doesn’t always feel that way during the little steps part. Using a goal notebook can remedy that by not only pushing you take the little steps, but by showing you how quickly they can add up to something big.
Use a notebook to write down some of the goals or projects that you want to work on every day over the week and keep a daily log of what you have done for each of these. At the end of the week, write a summary of your progress and set some new goals for the upcoming one.
Sometimes you will find that you haven’t really done too much to achieve a goal. Don’t get disappointed! Remember that each student learns at his/her own pace and you should keep working until you achieve those goals.
As a added benefit, you can also try filling out the notebook in your target language. You can easily make this into a challenge, being that it will basically force you to learn the vocabulary that you use on a daily basis.
Compete and Cooperate with Friends and Language Partners
There are many reasons why this is a good idea. Studying a language with friends automatically gives you someone to practice speaking with. Some of my students often gather in video chat groups where they debate a specific topic and practice their speaking skills, while learning and listening to others.
Another benefit is the added level of accountability, since being in a group with others will force you to keep working on your target language. Furthermore, as a learning group, you can challenge yourselves by setting some goals to achieve together, and help each other to improve your skills.
Also, find a language partner who is a native speaker and who wants to do a language exchange. italki gives you the opportunity to contact other students who are interested in learning your native language and who would like to help you learn theirs as well. Take advantage of this and practice as much as you are able to, while helping someone else at the same time.
Reward Yourself Every Time you Achieve a Goal
After you have determined your weekly goals, also decide on a reward for yourself. By doing so, you will be giving yourself some additional motivation to do your best and achieve your goals. Whenever you feel like you’re having a hard time and you’re lacking in motivation, think of an exciting reward that you can give to yourself once you have accomplished an objective. Always keep in mind that the best prize of all is what you will obtain once you finally are able speak your target language fluently.
In conclusion, learning a language is a process that will take time and will challenge you to do your best in order to attain fluency. There will be many times when you will feel frustrated and you will think that you are not advancing at all, but don’t give up!
Be flexible about how you learn and alternate between skills, instead of just focusing on vocabulary and grammar. Whenever you feel exhausted from studying a difficult topic, don’t hesitate to take a break from your studies for a week or two before starting over. Determine weekly goals using a goal notebook, and use this notebook to keep track of your weekly progress. Motivate yourself to achieve new objectives either with a rewards system or by thinking of the new opportunities that will open up to you once you achieve fluency. Take advantage of every chance you have to practice and search for other students to have conversations with. And finally, whenever you feel like giving up, keep yourself motivated by just remembering why you wanted to learn the language in the first place and what advantages you will get from speaking it fluently.