School holidays are great. What could be better than weeks of freedom from responsibility, assignments, early mornings and academic pressures?
Perhaps you’re the kind of person whose holidays are jam-packed with exciting activities and adventures? Or maybe you prefer to take things easy with long lazy days spent in front of the TV? Either way, that seemingly endless break before the start of the new school year is one with mountains of possibilities for the young (and the young at heart).
Yet, inevitably, they always come to an end. And then what? Unsurprisingly, it can be a bit difficult to get back into the strict routine of academic life. It’s not that you don’t want to learn. It’s more that your academic muscles have withered slightly after all of the care-free indulgence you’ve enjoyed during the previous few weeks.
And, ironically, the start of a new academic year is often when we need to be on tip-top form. It’s the opportunity to get a head-start on all those upcoming projects, those intimidating goals and those crucial grades.
This can be especially true for language learning. When faced with competition from formal education, self-motivated learning often loses out. This is understandable, of course. Students often experience tremendous amounts of pressure, and language learning can seem like just one more nagging commitment. Perhaps even one that can be ignored a little?
What we need is something to motivate us back into action. And this is what this article intends to provide. Included below are some proven tips for going back to school, college or university with the right mindset for not only maintaining your language learning enthusiasm, but reigniting it.
1. Reassess your goals
I’ve mentioned before that concrete goals are the cornerstone of a consistent language learning routine, but when was the last time you updated them? If you’ve been at least slightly disciplined, you must have edged towards at least a few of them. If so, what you need are new goals.
These could be anything from mastering a new tense to learning fifty new personality adjectives. The key is making targets that are achievable in the short term and quantifiable. If you’ve been neglecting your language studies, however, reassessing your goals can act more as a reminder of what you should be doing and where you want to be. Either way, it’s a useful tool for getting yourself back on track.
2. Remind yourself why you’re learning
When was the last time you reminded yourself why you were learning? Of course, the list of possible reasons is long and varied: to travel in a foreign land, to bag a dream job, to win the respect of your peers. However, it’s easy to forget about this when you’re months or even years into a seemingly never-ending routine of slowly improving your language skills, one small step at a time.
So, take a step back. Think about the original reason why you wanted to learn a foreign language. The act of forcing yourself to remember your original aims works wonders for reigniting a passion for language learning. Picture yourself in that exotic market haggling with a salesman or closing that deal in a foreign country using perfectly constructed language. Sometimes the only push you need is remembering why you started on this journey to begin with.
3. Try a new approach
Sometimes we get stuck in a rut with language learning. We’ve found a routine that works pretty well and we’ve repeated it until we’re nearly crying with boredom. Well, how about mixing it up? There’s more than one way to learn a language and incorporating a few different learning techniques into our routine can be incredibly effective for inspiring us afresh.
This could mean setting ourselves mini challenges that force us to engage with our target language in a new way. Perhaps listening to one foreign language podcast a week or reading an entire novel in the language we’re learning? It could include a complete shake-up of our learning methodology; swapping reading for writing or dry grammar books for online games. But crucially, changing the way we approach learning can seem like a breath of fresh air after sticking to a rigid system for so long.
4. Find an accountability partner
Language partners on italki are a sure-fire way to improve your conversational skills with a native speaker or a fellow learner. But have you considered using the feature to find an accountability partner? For those not familiar with the term, an accountability partner is someone who helps you keep commitments to learning.
This is how it works: shoot a message to your language partner at the start of the week telling them what you intend to learn. It could be twenty-five new pieces of vocabulary or it could be a particularly tricky form. At the end of the week, just let them know how you got on.
The benefit of an accountability partner is that it provides another reason for not getting sidetracked and neglecting your language learning. And remember, this is a mutually beneficial arrangement. So, you should also be acting as the accountability partner for them as well.
5. Blend language learning with your other commitments
Academic obligations sometimes have to take priority. This is especially evident during exam periods. So, how can you keep up with your language learning during this time? Well, one way is to incorporate language learning into your existing workload. Studying the history of the British Empire? Try learning the names of all those countries in your target language. Getting caught up in your chemistry homework? How about jotting down the names of standard lab equipment in the language you’re trying to learn?
The possibilities for incorporating your target language into your existing academic commitments are almost endless. But the benefits don’t end with improved language acquisition. By combining your “regular” studies with language learning you’re finding new and interesting ways to retain information, thus benefitting both obligations with very minimal extra effort.