I’d argue that the most difficult thing about learning a language, is not the grammar, nor the words, but finding the motivation to learn it day after day. It can be difficult, and I don’t want to claim that I’m perfect when it comes to learning my second language, it’s just that these things help me, and hopefully they can help you too!
The first is the reasons for your motivation. If your reason for learning a language is “I’ve always wanted too” then maybe you should think of something better. Honestly if that’s your best reason I suggest quitting. Not the best start to a motivation post, however maybe I can give you some good reasons that I choose to learn myself.
The only reason why I chose to learn my specific language in the first place, was because I knew a lot of friends who spoke it, and could practice with them. I wanted to learn a language already, but it made sense to learn a language I could actually use with friends right? Learning with them made me learn much quicker, but also made me feel more motivated (and more importantly obligated) to learn.
But friends who know the language you’re trying to learn are hard to get right? Well in person yes, however this is the age of the internet, you can always find a language partner online! Recently I did a review of HelloTalk, which is a language exchange platform where it’s probably harder to not find a language partner (depending on how popular your language actually is) in my opinion. Help each other, set up promises and obligations and you’ll find your motivation will increase.
You can also set promises and deadlines. For example I have a set amount of time to learn these specific parts of the language before I’m tested, because a friend will hold me to it! Ideally that’s what you want.
The next tip is gamification – make learning as fun as possible. If you follow the tip from above, then you can see instantly how much more fun it would be to learn a language with another person, but if you can make it fun for yourself alone in a productive way, isn’t that also great!
Memrise feels a lot like a game to me, not just of memorisation but I like getting points, watering my flowers, and seeing that score rise every day. If you like me got your Gran into learning German you can add her and compare progress, and see how everyone’s doing this week as well.
Learning can be made fun, and if your not enjoying what your doing, is there a way to change it?
You may not find the process of learning it fun, however have you ever played a video game to completion that you didn’t enjoy? Take my experience with 100% completing Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, it is very tedious, and very annoying, and a waste of time. Though I didn’t enjoy the process, I did enjoy ticking off each quest one after the other. The completion was satisfying.
In the same way, I may not enjoy looking at grammar points for example, however there is something satisfying about seeing the number of points you need to learn go down. Completion can be satisfying, even if the process isn’t that great.
The thing is, unlike a video game, those tedious things actually have a use and can be used in daily life!
A feeling of obligation is next, and kind of important as well. Everyone I know closely knows that I’m learning a language, and what’s especially worth mentioning is that the people who have helped me, invested time into my development know I’m learning the language.
It creates a feeling of obligation, but for me it’s not a bad feeling, it’s good. To want to learn a language partially for others as well as yourself makes it much easier.
Take it like the scene from one of my favourite anime’s. It was about a middle weight boxer who entered a world title fight. He was much worse yet he still won. Why? Well it was the friends and family he had watching. He kept on fighting for them, because he not only wanted to do it for himself, but also wanted to win it for them as well.
Essentially, power of friendship works.
Besides these reasons, the main thing that keeps me motivated is the progress that you see. It’s fun being able to say things that you couldn’t before, and talk about topics you just learned.
When you’ve gone so far that you’re able to make sentences in your head quickly out of the blue, it will feel amazing. As you start to learn it more, the more you will understand it.
I personally don’t believe in direct translations, each word in it’s own language will carry a meaning, but to each different person that word will be received slightly differently. For example the sound of how a word is pronounced impacts how it will be received by the recipient.
The sad consequence of this is that the way I want to talk with everyone now is a mix of Chinese and English, as there are some things I feel are best expressed in my second language.
Sometimes I try and write something in Chinese, realise I’m not confident I got it correct, so I then switch to writing the English. But then I’m like, wait, I would never ever say anything like this! It’s strange, but being able to express yourself in a different way only opens more options for you. It sounds odd, but I think it’s cool.
As an example I would never say “Good morning” as a greeting in English, however I say 早上好 (Zǎoshang hǎo) in Chinese often, yet it still means the exact same thing!
As a side note, there’s also something so much more fun about saying 早啊 (Zǎo a) as a greeting.
I’m a little out of ideas, but hopefully this is good enough. I think motivation is very difficult, and when the alternative is something easy and lazy like netflix or video games, you need to have good motivation.
What I will say is that, the worse your reasons are, the shorter the amount of time they will carry you.
I encourage everyone to learn the language, however if your just forcing yourself everyday to learn, and it’s painful, and it’s horrible, and you hate it, and your reasons for doing it aren’t that great. Then maybe this is a case where the journey is not worth the destination. I would first encourage you to try new strategies to make it fun for yourself, mixing things up as much as possible, but yeah, if it gets to a point that bad, obviously stop.
A lot of what helps you stay motivated is also the methods you use, and the very short term goals, instead of the overall ones that are very far off. If you want to hear more advice in that specific area, stick around!
In the meantime, please drop any advice you may have, it’s always good to exchange notes like this. As well as that, maybe let me know how you’re language learning journey’s progressing so far!