Learning a language is HARD! Ask anyone who has learnt a second language.
Here are a few tips to help keep you on track.
1. Don’t study a language!
This might seem a bit extreme. What I mean is study things that interest you in that language. OK, if you are a complete beginner this is going to be difficult and doesn’t really apply to you but if you are like many and you are studying the past perfect for the 5th time and still can’t seem to put it into a conversation, maybe you need to try something different.
Are you into cooking? There are so many cooking programs out there. The hard decision will be deciding which one to watch. Here’s a list of just a few:
- Masterchef – you can find many languages and accents (e.g. Australian, British, American, Italian, French, etc)
- Jamie Oliver
- Two Fat Ladies
- Hells Kitchen – perfect for learning bad words.
If you are learning English and like watching television and films why not program your television to automatically be in the original version. It will be harder to change it back to your native language. For learners of other languages it can be a little more difficult to find films and series, but not impossible. With a little effort, you can find anything on the internet!
Do you like watching sport? Look for a game with the commentary in the language you are learning.
Are you setting up a business? Look for free online courses or social media. There are so many resources, guides, videos and podcasts. Make use of them.
The list is endless but you need to sit down, decide what your interests are and then search for resources that are useful to you.
You don’t learn to walk by following rules, you learn by doing, and falling over. – Richard Branson
2. Set yourself goals
Think about why you are learning a language. What is your motivation?
Do you set specific goals? Did you know that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them than those who don’t?
A study carried out by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California found that people who write down their goals are 21% more likely to achieve them and if you write them down and send a weekly progress report to a supportive friend you are likely to achieve 76% of the goals that you set.
Make sure your goals are realistic. If you know it is impossible to achieve you won’t even try. Setting yourself the goal of going from a complete beginner to bilingual in 3 months is not realistic (no matter what they promise on the internet!) but having a conversation with a native speaker and feeling comfortable is attainable.
Break down your long-term goals into short-term, more attainable goals. They will seem ‘easier’. Being exposed to the language you are learning for 15-30 minutes a day is a great goal.
And don’t forget! Send that weekly progress report. It may be a whatsapp group, an email or a phone call. It will help you to see what you have achieved and see how you are getting closer to your final goal.
Here is a Ted Talk from the famous Tony Robbins who discusses the “invisible forces” that motivate everyone’s actions.
3. Learn more than the language
So many people who dominate their second language don’t only have a passion for learning the language. They learn about the culture, whether it be intentional or not. And learning the language is so closely linked to learning about the culture which is why so many people are drawn to learning languages. A Spanish friend of mine has a passion for the history of the English monarchy (who doesn’t love a good decapitation story!) which she discovered when she started learning English. And how many people have started learning Spanish after taking a latin dancing class or listening to music?
What if you have to learn the language for work? Does that mean that it has to be all vocabulary and grammar learning? The short answer is NO, NO and NO. In fact, learning about the culture is in your best interest. Office etiquette and being polite is very important, but rather than just learning what you should and shouldn’t say or do, don’t you want to know why it is how it is?
Don’t push yourself too hard. Learning a language is a long-term goal and pushing yourself too hard is a perfect way to lose motivation. We all know our own limits.
If you are doing an intensive course you will feel overwhelmed at some stage. This is completely normal. Take a break. It may sound counter-intuitive but taking a week off from classes and letting your brain absorb and assimilate all the information will help you to come back with a new found motivation.
But don’t take too long. More than a week or two and you will start to forget the things you learnt beforehand.
4. Reward yourself
So you’ve set your goals. Now you have to set your reward. Try to have it relate to the language you are learning.
Here are a few ideas:
- Do you love travelling? Take a trip to a place where they speak the language you are learning
- Go to a concert.
- Find a restaurant that has waiters who speak the language
- Buy yourself a book if you love reading
- A tour of your own city (we never do that!) with a guide that speaks the language you are learning
- Cooking classes
These are just some of the ways you can stay motivated. If you have more, put them in the comments section below. We would love to hear them.