Why is it that the majority of those who begin to learn a language quit half way… or when they’re nowhere close to reaching half way?
Why does the fire with which they start off their learning process get extinguished, making them completely lose their motivation?
Did they trip over unexpected stumbling blocks which eventually caused their curiosity, ambition and enthusiasm to crash and burn?
Most language learners only want to find out the easiest way to learn a language, thinking some secret method will eventually equip them with enough linguistic skills.
But that’s not true. No matter how effective a language learning system is, you still have to use it again and again until you achieve proficiency or fluency.
The importance of being continually motivated when undertaking a task, (learning a new language in this case) is often not highlighted and people end up not giving it due attention.
Don’t make that mistake.
By now, I hope you have an idea about the language learning goals you want to set for yourself.
If so, I have this one question for you: why must you learn a language and achieve the level of proficiency in the time frame you just set for yourself?
That is, is learning a certain language well a “must” for you or a “should”?
We never achieve our “shoulds”. (“I should exercise more”, “I should stop watching TV now”, “I should improve my public speaking skills”…) We only achieve our musts (“I must finish this project by Wednesday or I’ll be fired”, “I must leave now or I’ll miss my plane”…)
But we all get what we must have.
And why is this important?
Because the majority of language learners who quit do so because of a lack of purpose.
So, must you learn that language well… and fast?
Think about it first.
Do you want, hope, wish to achieve your language goal or must you?
Or do you, while telling yourself that you want nothing but the best, hope for the best, and settle for whatever you can get?
If you are one of the latter, I want you to stop “wanting” to achieve the language goal you set for yourself in Chapter 1. I want you to stop saying to yourself “I’d very much like to achieve my language goal”, “It’d be good if I can achieve my language goal”, or “I’d rather achieve my language goals”.
Imagine the following scenarios:
- I smile to you and say, “I’d be really happy for you if you can achieve your language goal.”
- I look at you encouragingly and say, “If you achieve your goal, I’ll half the price of this book.”
- I point a gun at your head and say, “You really don’t have a choice. I swear I’ll hunt you down and kill you if you don’t achieve your language goal.”
Which one would direct you towards your actions most? Of course the third one!
If you can’t picture the above, try this.
You are going to be thrown into a foreign country, with no language assistance of any sort, and no access to your friends or bank accounts. You’ll have to find a job, rent a room and get around the country…all by yourself.
What would you do now? Slack off or learn that language which your whole life would be dependent on?
Repeat after me. Say it out loud if there’s nobody around you or if you don’t care. Murmur the following after me otherwise.
“I must achieve my language goal. It is not a hope. It is not a want. It is a must, because I have no choice.”
You don’t need to be a Star Wars fan to remember that famous line Jedi master Yoda spoke.
No, not “may the force be with you”. The other one.
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
For a small green guy, he sure knew what he was talking about. He was not giving Luke Skywalker an option of failure.
Once you have decided to learn a new language, reject the possibility of giving up. And do not even consider failure as an option. Don’t even think about it. The only end result that you should achieve is mastering the language.
There will be especially trying times when you feel like you are stuck in a rut. You learning curve hits a plateau and your motivation is at an all time low”. You think that you are not learning anything new or that you are not improving.
Remember one thing. You are not the only one. Many language learners have hit that plateau before.
And I’ve hit it many many times.
But what I discovered was that once you break out of it, you’ll experience an amazing improvement in your language ability.
Be patient. Keep learning. And wait for it to happen.
You have got to have patience and faith that you will get out of this rut.
Try modifying your learning system, challenge yourself a little harder than before. Or you could even just take a break. Sometimes that works wonders.
Either way, you are never to give up just because you feel that you are not improving anymore. There will always be more things to learn so just hang in there and soon your learning curve will once again incline.
The key is to have faith.
Faith is not knowing how to get from A to B. Faith is knowing there’s a B.
So have faith, and always believe in yourself.
The honeymoon period is over. The initial enthusiasm you had for learning a new language are wearing off. All the resources you have spent a fortune gathering are collecting dust. You are this bit away from calling it quits.
So what do you do now?
If that is you, then the only problem you’re facing is the lack of inspiration and fun. Identifying what is lacking in your language learning process could prevent your passion from turning into something you dread.
As I mentioned previously, many people stop learning a language or just let their language skills deteriorate because they felt that learning it was no longer interesting or that it was no longer relevant to their lives.
One effective way to avoid ending up like them is to put in some extra effort to make things interesting and relevant.
Being an avid fan of the reality TV show America’s Next Top Model (and unashamed of admitting it), I decided that to help me with my German, I would watch Germany’s Next Top Model as well. Practicing my listening comprehension could not have been any more fun. On top of that, it made me want to look for more TV programs to continue practicing my listening comprehension.
Treat learning a language as an interesting and exciting game.
People get addicted to playing games for a variety of reasons: the fun, the competitiveness, the adrenaline rush, or the satisfaction upon completion of challenge…
Whatever it is, you should channel the same impetus while language learning. Treat your language acquisition as a game, and get addicted to it.
Being competitive can actually be a great motivating factor. If you have people or friends learning the language together with you, use them as your driving force to improve your language skills continuously. Always aim to be better than them. Even if you do not have learning partners, you can still compete with yourself.
Ultimately, language learning, like a game, should be fun.
In addition, as you progress in your language endeavor, keep reminding yourself why you decided to learn this language in the first place. What is it about the language, or the culture, or even the people that you like?
Remember Einstein’s famous saying, “Interest is the best teacher”? When you have an interest in learning languages, you won’t think of it as a chore. Instead, you’ll want to do it because of the fun it brings you.
The system you’re about to learn is fun and easy to implement, and some techniques will definitely make you smile. It’s a great way to stay motivated and it also makes the material you’re learning a lot more memorable.
“You are your biggest enemy.”
No matter what level your language skills are at, there is always room for improvement. No matter how well or how badly you perform in a task or test, you can always do better.
Keep challenging yourself and don’t be too easily contented. Once you have accomplished something or have reached a certain level, aim higher. If you hit a brick wall, keep yourself motivated and you are bound to get over it sooner or later.
As mentioned earlier, competition can be a great motivating factor. Not only can you compete with others, you can also compete with yourself and aim to be better the next time round.
Have friendly “competitions” between classmates or study partners, and Aim to beat them each and every time.
When there are challenges, there should be rewards too. The whole system works only when successes are matched by rewards.
As you are learning, set yourself up for small successes along the way to boost your morale. Periodically set goals at each step of your learning process and promise yourself rewards after you have accomplished them.
These rewards need not always be related to your language learning. They could be simple things like treating yourself to a shopping spree or a good movie if you do well in a test.
Do bear in mind your own limitations and don’t set unreasonable expectations for yourself to achieve. Remember, you are motivating yourself, not demoralizing yourself.
If you do feel that some task is too difficult for you to achieve, break it down into smaller tasks and accomplish them part by part. Not only will they be more achievable, you’ll also be getting multiple rewards.