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How to motivate yourself to learn a language

Am I the only one who’s struggling to keep up language learning motivation now that my schedule is returning to relative normality following quarantine? Between school work and work work, your girl is swamped.

I’m well aware of my priorities… and I won’t lie by saying that studying Vietnamese is at the top of that list. I’m still making sure to get about an hour of study in everyday, but it’s definitely been a struggle.

I was borderline religiously squeezing in 3 hours daily during quarantine, and now a mere 60 minutes is pushing my limit.

Often, I have to push study till the last few hours of the day when my energy is already waning.

Sound like a self pity party? I know. Those are some of my excuses– what’s yours?

I want you to really think about why your motivation has been hit so hard lately.

Pinpoint the reasons. It’s hard to fix an issue that you don’t know the cause of.

However, if you’re either staring at this article lost, or you’re well aware of the reason and confused on how to “solve” it, then i’m here for you.

These are some methods that work for me, other learners, and seasoned polyglots on reinvigorating motivation. So make sure to save these ideas for later.

Diversify your methods

There’s not anything as energy-draining like a learning method you’ve totally exhausted. As in one you’ve used for months on end without wavering.

I’m not saying to give that method up. If it works, keep it in your routine.

But start including some other learning methods as well. Like instead of relying solely on Anki, add in YouTube or a podcast.

Instead of always writing your notes, try speaking them instead (and save them in a safe spot on your device!) If you always prioritize listening practice during your study sessions– try prioritizing writing. Or vice versa!

You’re not limited in the methods available to you– so don’t act like you are. Though “diversifying your methods” is a very broad suggestion, it’s typically the root of your lack of motivation.

The moment language learning becomes boring and taxing, it starts to feel like a burden. Find a method that makes you want to study.

Change up your resources

How to motivate yourself to learn a language

Quite similar to the suggestion above, changing up your resources is all about keeping your study routine ‘spicy’.

A new teaching tool can be tons of fun and extremely informative. With all the online sources available, there’s no reason for you to only be using one.

There are probably formats out there that you haven’t even considered. Like a textbook for tech lovers, or Rocket Languages for paper lovers.

Rocket Languages is a multi-platform application that uses the key strategies successful polyglots use to learn languages.

Their methods are all about making sure you have fun as you learn— which is the key to maintaining motivation.

Languages offered: Arabic (Egyptian), Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Korean, French, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Spanish, Russian, German, Japanese, American Sign Language

While Rocket Languages doesn’t offer the language I’m currently learning (Vietnamese), I can personally vouch that their Spanish program is amazing.

As some textbook suggestions, you may love:

And don’t sleep on workbooks! They’re much more engaging than most study methods and ensure you’re partaking in active study.

Some workbooks you may love:

Ask for input

You can ask for input for a number of reasons.

  • To assess your language process
  • For guidance on which direction to go in
  • To see the results of your work in action (and feel better!)
  • For advice on learning
  • … and a few other reasons

Involving someone else in your language learning process, especially someone you respect or at least know personally, is a great way to hold yourself accountable.

Actually applying the language skills you’ve learned so far will prove to you that your work isn’t in vain. Plus it’ll make you more comfortable in actually engaging with the language in the real world.

Of course, this person should be someone who knows the language. That way they’ll give you real advice.

But if you don’t have access to a fluent speaker, then your next best bet is a fellow learner of your target language.

Reconnect with your “why”

How to motivate yourself to learn a language

This tip can literally apply to every single thing in life that one is able to lose motivation in.

You have to remember why you started in order to keep going. You did not start to give up.

You started because you truly thought you could do it. You could reach a decent level of proficiency in your target language. You wouldn’t have started if you didn’t think you were at least capable.

You started for a professional reason, family reason, personal reason, or some other legitimate reasons. Even “it’s a hobby” is a completely legitimate reason.

Every language opens up doors. It opens up the possibility to make connections with foreigners, which is a fabulous why in itself.

So don’t forget your reasons when things start getting a little hard. Think of your end goal. Think about how cool it’ll be to one day speak the language in a real-life setting.

And if you’re feeling so unmotivated that you can’t even figure out what your why was, then check out 15 motivational quotes for learning a language.

And remember my favorite language quote:

Language is a window to the world.

Susanna Zaraysky

Connect with other learners!

Excitement is contagious, and even if yours is waning, there are other learners out there eager to give some of theirs.

Language learning communities exist all over the web. Social media is a great place to start, with Facebook groups offering some truly one-of-a-kind experiences.

There are also plenty of language ‘influencers’ on Instagram with a major following consisting of other language learners. (10+ Instagram Pages that actually get what language learning is all about) We’re like hens you guys– we flock together.

Reddit has plenty of ‘threads’ for language learners to connect on and share advice with one another.

Pinterest has plenty of boards stocked full with inspiration. (Check out Easy ways to use Pinterest to learn a foreign language!)

And quite frankly, there are probably even people in your circle of friends who are trying to learn a language. Granted you’re not all learning the same language… but who cares?

The process of language learning isn’t actually that different from language to language. Of course, some languages are way more difficult than others for English speakers, but the basic principles stay pretty consitent.

Learners of all languages have to practice reading, writing, speaking, and listening (outside of sign languages!). And all learners have to learn vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation.

So we’re all more than capable of helping each other out. Plus it makes the process so much more fun.

Take advice from language learning pros (YouTube is your friend!)

Unfortunately, we’re not all friends personally with a polyglot. Who undoubtedly provide some of the best language learning advice.

But… we all, for the most part, have access to the internet. You are reading this article after all.

So hop on YouTube, read a book by an expert, or follow a polyglot on social media. Unlike the 20th century, none of us have are on our own in figuring out how to learn a language.

There are polyglots and multilinguals who post videos all the time. There are plenty of books written by pro learners who taught themselves.

One reason your motivation is down maybe because you feel like you’re not making enough progress. Once upon a time, your progress was exponential… but now? More like a straight line.

Chances are your methods just don’t work anymore. Once you reach a certain level of fluency, it’s logical to have to switch from the methods you used as a beginner.

The longer you’ve been learning, the more likely that it’s time to make a change. And there are plenty of pros out there willing to help you figure out what that change is.

Take a mini break… and then get back on track

If you’re anything like me, any skip in your learning schedule feels like a failure.

But if you study daily, this can really take a toll when you don’t actually want to do it anymore. So it’s okay to take a refresher.

I give you permission to skip a day or four in order build up your motivation again. Just don’t let the break drag on.

Temporarily lower the rigor

A better alternative to a full-out break is just lowering the rigor for some time. That can mean cutting back from an hour to 45 minutes or from 30 to 20.

That can also mean swapping out some of your active forms of study for passive ones. Watching Netflix in your foreign language isn’t nearly as mentally taxing as online teaching platforms.

Using YouTube or audiobooks can also make the task feel a lot more pleasant on a tired mind.

Passive study isn’t as effective as it’s active counterpart, but it still is effective. Quite frankly, it comprises the majority of how babies learn languages, so it honestly isn’t a bad thing at all.

I say “temporarily” but if you find that an A-B pattern of passive study followed by active study on consecutive days works best for you– then go for it.

Organize your space

Oh my goodness Cierra, how does organization have anything to do with language learning? Hear me out.

You can’t organize your mind if the space around you isn’t organized. It’s a lot harder to remember that word for “bag” if you’ve got 10,000 sheets of paper strode across your desk.

It honestly feels so good to sit down in a neat area with an organized office layout.

So put your pencils in one area, your highlighters in another, and your notebook ready for access. It’s not hard.

Aesthetically pleasing study areas are the best for motivating yourself to sit down and get to work. They’re so pretty you actually want to have an excuse to spend some time in them.

And language learning is a perfect excuse.

If you need a little organization assistance, check out this Mesh Desk Organizer with a Sliding Drawer, Double Tray and 5 Upright Sections or this Rose Gold 5-Piece Desk Accessories Set.

Treat yourself to some new ‘office’ supplies!

I don’t know about you, but I used to always love “back-to-school” shopping. All those new notebooks, crayons, folders, and binders were enough to make me giddy.

And I think you can 100% connect with that feeling by treating yourself to some new study supplies.

There’s nothing like a gorgeous set of gel pens to help you color-code your notes. Or perhaps colorful page markers to mark your spot in a textbook or journal.

They can make your study routine feel so much more put-together. And they’ll totally transform your notes! (Check out 10 effective ways to organize your language notes.)

Which is a totally great reason to motivate yourself right back on track!

Before you go…

If you’re still not feeling totally motivated, head over to The Top 10 Reasons you hate language learning & what to do instead.

My love for language learning expands to multiple platforms so you can also find me cranking out DIY language learning inspiration on Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t hesitate to direct message me or comment on one of my posts! I’d love to get to know you beyond this blog.

Aside from that fun, if you’re still here then I want to make sure you don’t miss out on your free language learning toolkit.

All exclusive content curated specifically for atypical language learners looking to make their D.I.Y. language acquisition process as fun and creative as possible.

Equipped with a 4-week checklist, 100 fun learning ideas (read the first 50 here!), a rapid acquisition 2-week plan, memory-based guides to creating a language journal, and free language progress tracking printables. All straight to your inbox. And trust me– I never spam.

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How to study a language for multiple hours

Keep learning languages my friend! And I look forward to seeing you again real soon.

How to motivate yourself to learn a language
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