We all encounter shortcomings and setbacks with learning languages at some point or other. It can be a lack of motivation, laziness, using a method that doesn’t work for you, being surrounded by or even the complexity of the language itself (ex: the grammar, particles, cases, genders, etc). I have to say most if not all of these have applied to me in the last 3 years and it’s a harsh truth to face. But no less, I’m admitting to it right now. I have not adequately allowed myself enough time to one of my passions! What happened? It’s been a mixture of depression and discovering new passions. I learned a lot about myself during this time. Positive and negative. I haven’t completely thrown language learning out with the bathwater but, I haven’t dedicated nearly enough time to learning languages.
What’s the major problem? The lack of a regular routine/schedule!
I recently took up bullet journaling and immediately had an epiphany about how this system would benefit me. Then it hit me: I needed a schedule! Something I can refer to on both a digital and written basis that would keep me on track with what I was learning. I even pondered: How Spontaneous Can You Be When Learning A Foreign Language? and asked: What’s Your Daily Language Learning Routine? during times where the lack of motivation was at its worst.
Another toxic habit I developed was toxically comparing my progress with others! I would often feel the need to either compete or criticise my own progress and even this website/blog as being inferior to others. It ultimately just made me feel horrible and demotivated me from learning languages. I soon realised that I don’t need my website/blog to look like: “The world’s best language blog ever”. Which defeats the purpose of trying to inspire and provide people resources to learn languages in the first place. However, there’s always room to improve!
How Do I Get My Language Mojo Back?
Doing something, anything in the target language. Even if most of what I’m learning is passive. I need to eventually be able to activate it. Which means having a regular scheduling time to speak with native speakers. Even when I’m still at a beginner level in the language. Right now, I am learning Finnish and thanks to Lindsay Dow’s monthly language challenge on Instagram (#IGLC or Instagram Language Challenge), I’m able to keep myself accountable on a regular basis with my Finnish. (I’ve also done this challenge in Japanese, German and Catalan. Even all three at the same time. Little did I know that this challenge would be a life-saver. It brings my motivation back to life when nothing else does!
Another factor that plays a major role is organisation! Yes, I am someone who needs to have a clear vision of exactly how to get there. Or at least a general idea or routine no less. For a while, I did have a working routine of just showing up and spending up 8 hours a day immersing myself in Japanese. Sure, I would learn a new word or useful phrases here and there. However, there were two notable flaws in that plan. Can you guess what they were?
1) I wasn’t learning anything new at all. If I learned anything, I shortly forgot it afterwards. The content was also more entertaining rather than relevant to what I wanted/needed to learn. Don’t get me wrong. I ALWAYS encourage using fun engaging content to learn languages. It helps keep us motivated in our new language(s) and is useful when you want to stay immersed without focusing on the learning aspect.
2) I wasn’t practising the language with others (ex: tutors on Italki, Verbling, or even GoSpeaky) nor actively using the language. Like I did years ago with my Japanese Ameba blog to practice my written Japanese. It actually helped me think in Japanese but at the time, I didn’t have anybody to correct my Japanese so it ended up not being all that beneficial. But at least I engaged with the language. If nothing else, that’s worth noting! I am starting to realise that I need to incorporate BOTH passive and active learning into my routine. Not favouring one over the other like I have in previous years.
As mentioned earlier with the Instagram Language Challenge. There are often language challenges hosted by Italki throughout the year. I would highly recommend participating yourself if you haven’t done so already. These challenges have really helped me make progress in Japanese, German and Catalan. Check out how I did with each challenge: Boost Your Fluency with the Italki Language Challenge, Italki Challenge Week 2: Making The Most Out Of Learning Japanese, Italki World Cup Language Challenge Week 8: The Results!, I Finished The Italki October Language Challenge Early! Italki New Year’s Language Challenge 2015: I won again! These challenges not only forced me to make learning my languages a priority but also created a routine for me that stimulated my motivation and kept me accountable for the progress I was making in each language. There’s also the #Add1Challenge which I’ve had previous students do. Although I have yet to try it out for myself so I can’t say whether or not it’s worth doing. But if it helps you improve your language skills it’s definitely worth it of course. LingQ also has it’s 90 Day Language Challenge that occurs every so often.
Of course, you could always create your own challenge for yourself catered specifically for your own personal needs. Rather than what the textbook, Teach Yourself Book, other people, etc think you should learn first. Just make sure you set up an outline of what you want to achieve and simple actionable steps to reach it every SINGLE day. Which is seriously what I need to do!
Practice Self-Love And Self-Care
What do I mean exactly by this? Isn’t this some sort of woo-woo new age concept? Not necessarily. This is essentially taking time for yourself when you need it. Such as remembering to take a break so that you can eat (breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack), stretch and/or do some form of exercise, taking a step away from technology to prevent your eyes from being strained and most importantly: Staying hydrated. Don’t agonise what you can’t do in the language and celebrate your milestones. Pat yourself on the back on how far you’ve come since you began your journey with your new language. Don’t compare your progress to others if it’s going to leave you feeling discouraged. Take care of yourselves!
How do you prevent yourself from becoming disenchanted with learning languages? What keeps you motivated? Let me know in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you.