Motivation is one of the key factors to effectively learning a language, and learning a language takes a lot of work, and sometimes a lot of motivation. No matter how much we like or love learning (or have to learn), there are periods of time where we seem to burn out and want to stop studying all together. Here are some ways that I like to motivate myself to keep going with learning a language:
1. Take a Break!
If you’re been studying a lot or doing a lot or just plain busy, sometimes it helps to take a breather and recharge. If you take a few days without studying, it won’t be the end of the world and you’ll come back to your language with fresh new eyes and pumped for the next lesson (or review session). For you intense studiers, if you don’t want to stop completely, it might help to ease up on your study routine and take it slow.
2. Travel (or a desire to travel)!
Look at travel blogs, travel Instagram accounts, old travel photos, look at things related to travel! If you’re motivated by travel, especially to a specific place or your target language country, this is a huge motivation for language learning. Traveling with knowledge of the language helps a lot, not only with getting around but familiarizing yourself with the culture and becoming friends with the people.
If you’re looking to travel abroad, some programs have a language requirement or even a placement test, so depending on your level, you need to know some of that language or you can test out of a few levels. Motivation for academic purposes + travel!
3. Communication aka Networking!
A lot of my motivation comes from making new friends and being able to communicate with them in their native language. Having friends who speak your language(s) makes learning it so much more fun and enjoyable because you’re experiencing the process with someone. Not to mention, you’ll probably learn a lot of slang and terms that you wouldn’t see in a textbook.
This networking also helps if you want to go to school, work, or travel to your target language country. Sometimes, depending on what it is, the people that live in your target language country naturally know more about these kinds of processes (visas, applications, etc.) and will be able to help you.
Sometimes “family” purposes aren’t the number one reason why kids or teenagers want to learn (or retain) their language. This is especially prominent for heritage speakers of X language. You may have family that lives in another country or family that speaks another language, and it’s hard to communicate with them if you don’t speak that language.
This is (or can be) a really sensitive subject for heritage speakers who don’t have a lot of confidence in their heritage language, but family as well as a part of who you are can be a big motivation factor for re-learning or improving the language. It’s possible that the generation that knows X language is an older generation, which means they have a lot of life experience and stories to tell, you just need a way to communicate.
5. Cultural Things!
This cultural element is for those of you that have specific interest in things like literature or history. You can also apply this to other things, but these are the first three things that came into my mind.
A lot of the literature we know and love was originally in a different language. There’s Don Quijote by Cervantes (Spanish), Ana Karenina by Tolstoy (Russian), Les Miserables by Hugo (French), Metamorphosis by Kafka (German), and a lot, a lot, a lot of other classic novels whether or not it’s recognized. One of the best things about learning a foreign language, if you like literature, is getting to read the original stuff! When something goes through a translation, there can be various takes on it, therefore, various Don Quijotes in English. So if you like literature, pick out one or two books you really want to read and use that as motivation to get your language skills up to par.
There’s a saying that “History is written by the victors” (Winston Churchill). Whatever you read may or may not be a very biased point of view what happened. If you’re a history buff, then it might be ten times easier to find source material in your target language. That being said, you may just learn a LOT about your target language’s country, whether in your native language or target language. I don’t recall ever learning anything about Brazil or Portugal in high school history classes, which makes me curious, what were they doing and where were they?
If you are (or want to be) immersed in the news and pop culture of your target language country, it’s a lot easier to do so by knowing the language. There won’t be as many sources in English documenting Dilma’s “progress” in Brazil, but you bet that there’s a lot of those sources in Portuguese. If you like film, you can most likely find interviews and behind-the-scenes clips on YouTube of actors of your favorite foreign language films, among other things.
Those are just a few of the things that keep me going and motivated; what works for you? What are all your tips for motivation?