How To Stay Motivated When Learning Languages

By Jonay Suárez, Head of Marketing at Wibbu.

Every year we set ourselves goals. And learning a language is always on the list.

“This year I’m going to learn Spanish!” you say to yourself.

And with the idea fresh in your mind, you ask a friend if she knows someone who could teach you. You get in touch with the Spanish teacher, you buy the book that she has recommended and you get ready for the lesson on Monday.

The first lesson goes wonderfully. The second one less so. You almost fall asleep in the third lesson. By the fourth lesson, you’re fed up of conjugating verbs. And the inevitable happens after the fifth lesson.

The eagerness to “learn Spanish this year” has yet again come to an end.

Types of motivation

It’s normal to lose motivation when studying something new.

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic, when you do something simply because you enjoy doing it; and extrinsic, when you do something because you have been asked to do it, you have to do it or you know it’s good for you.

We all studied at school because it was just something that we needed to do. The motivation was extrinsic. Good marks were a way for you to avoid punishment or to prove yourself to be better than your classmates.

Or maybe you taught yourself to play the guitar because it was your passion. You loved sitting in your bedroom and practising non-stop. You had an intrinsic motivation.

Neither of these two types of motivations is better than the other. Whichever one applies to you, by maintaining them at a high level, they can help us to achieve our goals .

Here are a few suggestions of ways to stay motivated and to achieve your goals:

Keep your spirits up and be persistent

Only 16% of what’s needed to learn a second language has anything to do with intelligence. Learning a language, just like being good in business or in love, has more to do with human qualities such as perseverance, joy, and sensitivity.

Set realistic objectives

Whatever they may tell you in the adverts, it’s difficult to learn a language in three months. You’re influenced by factors such as the country in which you’re studying (whether or not it’s a country where the language you want to learn is spoken), the method that you use, how much free time you have, etc. The best thing to do is to set yourself a goal that you believe to be achievable. Be realistic.

Break down your objectives into stages

By dividing your final objective into weekly or monthly goals, you’ll be able to maintain motivation. Divide your work into phases and it’ll be more manageable.

Sit down to work; but don’t stay seated for too long

Sir Richard Burton, a British explorer, spoke 29 languages. He once said, “I never studied for more than fifteen minutes straight.” Today, with all the distractions that we have, it’s difficult to maintain our concentration for more than an hour. But who doesn’t have fifteen minutes a day to study?

Always reward yourself

We’re talking about learning a language, which has many nuances and evolves over time. Strive for perfection but allow yourself to make mistakes along the way. They are a common and necessary part of the learning process. Reward yourself when you do well; but also when you make a mistake. Every mistake will teach you something new.