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How to stay motivated when learning a language

A lot of people struggle with motivation at one point or another during their studies, and it's completely normal. There have been plenty of times during my language learning journey that I’ve been so unmotivated I’ve considered giving up entirely. You're not a "bad student" because you're not feeling motivated every second of every day. But giving up isn’t the answer. Here’s what you can do when you’re in a motivation slump to get back on track.

While this post focuses on language learning, the different methods can be applied to any subject.

  1. Set a long term goal

  2. Break bigger goals into smaller chunks

  3. Set a schedule

  4. Don’t get stuck with the same resources/methods

  5. Reward yourself!

Set a long term/overall goal

Do you want to move to and work in the country where your target language is spoken? Want to study abroad? Talk to friends? Watch TV without subtitles? Whatever it may be, having something to work towards, especially something you're passionate about, will help you work through the low motivation moments. Keeping in mind why you started can help keep you on track, even when you don’t feel up to it. Making a mood board or something similar can help as a visual aid when you're feeling low, to remind you why you started in the first place! It’s ok to adjust this goal as you go and your ideas change, but make sure you have something bigger to keep you going in the long run.

Break your bigger goals into manageable chunks

Whatever your overall goal may be, you'll need to know vocab and grammar structures. Depending on how much time you have and other commitments, setting smaller daily goals you can easily tick off will show you how much you are achieving and make you more motivated to stick with it. Even 5 words a day will add up and make all the difference! If you’re aiming for an exam, for example, you should be able to find a rough guide for what you need to know for the exam. You can use this as a guideline to break down the content into daily or weekly tasks. Being able to see the smaller picture will make the bigger goal less overwhelming, so will help to keep you going even if you’re feeling unmotivated. 

Set a schedule

This will look different for everyone based on individual circumstances, but having a set time to study during the day/week can help you keep consistent and motivated. Start small with 10-30 minute sessions, and adjust your plans as you go. It will be easier to build up to longer sessions than drastically cutting your study time (that in itself can be really demotivating). Try to build excitement before your study sessions, it shouldn't feel like a chore! Try and have your materials and resources ready to go beforehand by setting things up at the end of the previous session to avoid wasting time (trust me, faffing around trying to find pens and the right notebook can kill hours over time which would be much better spent actually studying!)

Don't get stuck in the same resources/methods

Even if you find something that works for you, doing the same thing or using the same textbook over and over can become repetitive and boring. Try mixing in some other resources and methods to keep your study sessions interesting and keep you engaged. If you're a textbook person, video lessons and apps can be refreshing. Also watching TV or films in your target language can be a good way to listen to the language in use and help you pick up new vocab. Try and set different activities for your language studies during the week, such as a day to do some reading or listening, to keep things fresh. This can also help build excitement for your study sessions if you’re looking forward to one particular task, for example if you enjoy reading having a session dedicated to reading at the end of the week can help you get through the other tasks before you get to your favourite!

Reward yourself

Whether your reward is a new pen or an episode on Netflix, give yourself something to look forward to so you keep going. Small rewards more regularly will be more effective than a big reward for big goals. Try rewarding yourself for each chapter or section you finish to encourage yourself to keep consistent. If you only have a reward for the end of the textbook, you may burn out a lot quicker and become demotivated easier. Little and often (as with language learning) is key!

How do you maintain motivation when language learning, or studying your other subjects? If you have any tips to share, be sure to leave them in the comments!


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