Maintaining Language Learning Motivation

(Today, we have a guest post from Rob, of Spanish Obsessed. Enjoy!)

If you’re like me, starting a language is an exciting new journey. I love the feeling of slowly getting to know a culture and language from the inside out, and seeing a whole new world and viewpoint slowly start to emerge. Taking up a new language is also, I think, one of the easier parts of learning it. The hard part is to carry on – how often do you find yourself looking at that language with the same enthusiasm six months or a year down the line? And let’s be honest, if you want to learn a language properly, you need to be in it for the long haul. For me, the key to language learning lies in one very simple idea – not stopping! And the only way you carry on is to keep your motivation.

Why do we lose our motivation?

Here are some of the main reasons from language learners I’ve spoken to:

  • We finish all the “easy” stuff, and get bogged down in obscure vocabulary or grammar
  • We stop seeing the quick progress which we experienced at the start, as the learning curve flattens out
  • We forget why we started, and lose our way
  • We don’t use it for what it’s there for – communication. If we can’t communicate, language is just an exercise in abstraction.

How to get over the language learning “wall”

Remember your initial enthusiasm

When you start a language, write down as many reasons as you can for why you’ve started it. If you can’t think of any good reasons, perhaps it’s not the language for you! Keep those reasons, and when you feel your motivation start to slip, referring back to them is a huge help.

Give yourself something to aim for

Use the reasons you’ve made to set yourself goals. For example, if one reason is “to be able to speak to X”, then setting yourself a target of a 15 minute conversation with that person will be a motivating goal to aim for. By equating your goals to your initial motivation, your language learning takes on a new significance.

Do stuff which interests you

Perhaps a no-brainer, but lots of people endure boring grammar exercises or vocabulary lists without being interested or engaged in what they’re doing. It’s a simple concept – if your language learning process doesn’t interest you, then it’s a matter of time before you lose your motivation. Don’t trawl through dictionaries and word lists because it’s “good for you”, if in reality it bores you. Watch films you enjoy, listen to music in your target language, check out magazines and so on. The majority of what you do in your target language should interest, captivate, and inspire you.

Use it more

Language was born out of a need for humans to communicate with each other, and when it gets divorced from that concept it becomes fairly irrelevant. I find that if the language I learn loses its human aspect, it’s not really a language any more. It’s really important to use the language with real people in real situations as soon as possible after taking it up, and to keep up interactions and relationships in that language. I believe that’s the reason that people who go through immersion in foreign countries learn that language so quickly – it’s not necessarily that they study more or harder, but that all of their interactions and relationships to other people are under-pinned in that language.

Share the love!

I’d love to hear about other ways which you keep yourself going when you hit the language learning “wall”. For me, language learning is more about your emotions and mind-set towards the language than any intellectual prowess. And if nothing else, remember that you can only fail at learning a language when you stop!

Who am I?

I’m Rob, and I’m very happy to be posting on Language Geek today. I’m also a passionate language learner, but have a special soft spot for Spanish, as I lived in Spain and various South American countries over the last few years. At the moment, I’m sharing my passion and experience on Spanish Obsessed, so check it out and let me know what you think!

One thought on “Maintaining Language Learning Motivation

  1. Andrew weiler

    As has been well put, there are various reasons for lack of motivation and how to maintain it but a key one is that learners lose their mojo because they don’t know how to maintain their learning so it is neither too difficult/frustrating nor too boring/easy…that is keep it at the “sweet spot”.
    Successful learners in whatever fields manage to stay in their sweet spot. Language teachers have the same problems, so don’t be toohard on yourself about it. One key is to make the tasks you set yourself not too big..so you can experience success and not to small..so it bores th pants of you!

    Reply

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