Want to speak a foreign language? Make a habit out of it!
We all have this initial motivation boost when we decide to learn a foreign language.
It’s always exciting, at first.
We feel like buying every single book we can get our hands on, endlessly looking for the perfect tools that we’ll lead us to fluency. We are eager to discover more and more about the language of our dreams.
We feel like conquering the world! (I am not exaggerating, am I?).
Well, there’s a catch.
Motivation fades. That’s the ugly truth.
It can happen all of a sudden. One minute you’re collecting resources and the other one you feel like postponing your language activities to the next day. Again, again and again. You know what I’m talking about, do you?
There’s no need to get discouraged. Here’s one piece of advice that will help you:
“Make language-learning a lifestyle change.”
Let’s say that you have the goal of being able to speak Spanish fluently in a year or so. ¡Qué bueno!
The best way to achieve it is to make a habit out of it.
You need to welcome Spanish into your daily life and commit yourself to use it on a regular basis.
Find a routine you can actually stick with
We all learn in different ways. It doesn’t exist a routine perfect for everyone. You need to create your own. The key is to make your routine so simple and so clear that you’ll do it without thinking. Self-knowledge is vital in this case. Understanding the type of learner that you are is extremely important. Experiment and see what works and what doesn’t.
Don’t aim too high
Having high standards is great but it can be overwhelming.
You may get super excited and do 4 hours on the first day, but the question is: will you be able to keep this habit for a whole year? That’s where the heart of the challenge lies.
Doing too much for a short period of time can drain your batteries. If you work too hard and try to outdo yourself, you will probably burn out very quickly. Burning out often leads to giving up and that’s clearly the worst thing you could do. If you give up, you’ll never be fluent. Go easy on yourself when you’re just getting started. Do as much as you can manage. Make small, sustainable changes, things that you are able to continue afterwards. They are more likely to stick. Being excessively harsh on yourself is counterproductive. Don’t worry: “baby steps” will get you there.
Keep yourself accountable
You could write a language journal or start blogging about your progress. People will know what you’re doing and you’ll not want to let them down. Plus, you’ll have tangible evidence of how far you have come in your quest to master a new language. There is always a feeling of self-accomplishment when you monitor your successes over time.
It’s also a beneficial tool to practice your writing skills. Do I really need to say anything else?
Take a challenge
Language challenges are quite popular nowadays! Why don’t you join one?
I have two suggestions for you:
In both cases, you’ll be adding a language that you’ve always wanted to learn or improve on, together with other awesome language learners.
The Italians usually say: “L’unione fa la forza!”, which basically means… the more, the merrier!
It’s an expression similar to the English saying: “There is always strength in numbers.”
I certainly agree!
Celebrate small wins
Celebrate every single achievement, no matter how small.
Reward yourself for completing the habit.The reward can be going to the cinema with your friends, eating your favourite dessert, or whatever you like. Don’t skip this step! You’ll look forward to your treat, so you’ll be more keen to complete your task.
The 30-Day Rule
Invest in a habit for 30 days and it will become completely automatic. That’s what the Google engineer Matt Cutts claims.
“It turns out 30 days is just about the right amount of time to add a new habit or subtract a habit — like watching the news — from your life.” – says Cutts in his TED Talk.
Now It’s Your Turn: How do you incorporate your target language into your daily life?
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