Posted on by Peter Rettig

8 Zenhabits for 2013 Language Learning

why learn a languageIf the number of promotions and discount offers by language learning companies around year end is any indication - 2013 should indeed be a banner year for learning a foreign language.

While nobody knows how many such offers have been accepted world wide, we can safely assume that there are indeed many who have made learning a new foreign language their New Year's goal.

Motivation Tips

There is no lack of research and literature that analyze and describe the challenges of achieving our goals. I recently came across a post from 2008 on zenhabits.net. Here are some suggestions how this blog can be applied to language learning:

  1. Start small. Many language programs overwhelm a learner with too many options and choices. We, at Gamesforlanguage.com, add 15-20 words with each lesson. The phrases of each lesson are part of an ongoing travel story. Learning these words and phrases should take about 20 minutes. If you get into a daily habit of committing those 20 minutes, you'll have made a great start. You can always add more time later.
  2. One goal. Focus on one achievable and realistic goal. No, you will not speak a new foreign language fluently in a year - unless you are willing and able to commit considerable time and energy. Learning a new foreign language as an adult requires discipline and sustained effort. Completing the course you have purchased, subscribed to, or enrolled in may be your one realistically achievable goal.
  3. Examine your motivation. Write down the reasons you want to learn a new foreign language. Maybe you plan to travel to a foreign country, you have a friend, spouse or relatives you want to communicate with, or your education or business interests motivate you.
  4. You have to really, really want it. The above reasons have to be strong enough for you to commit the energy and time needed to make real progress. If you can stay excited about your choice long enough to reap some benfits, e.g. reading an article or a book, watching a foreign movie or video, chatting with a friend, etc., your feeling of succes and accomplishment will then carry you along. But if you have just been “seduced” to learning a new language by an unrealistic promise such as “Speak a language in 10 days,” or other slick marketing ads, think again. You have to stay excited about your goal and continuously fuel your enthusiasm.
  5. Commit publicly. Today there are many ways to do that. Many online language programs let you post your progress scores on your Facebook page. If you are into blogging, you can report your experience and progress. You can tell your friends. And, especially if you have friends that speak the language you are learning, let them know.
  6. Get excited. See also 4. above. The more you learn, the more opportunities will open up for you, whether reading on-line blogs or articles, watching foreign movies or videos, linking up with online chat rooms, or preparing for your trip. You need to find your way of visualizing the benefits of achieving your goal.
  7. Build anticipation. You may want to start today: Buy that CD course you saw in the mall, enroll in the Adult Ed course your local college promotes, or subscribe to an online course you saw advertised. But hold it! First do some homework: What is your learning style? Are you a visual or an aural person? Where and when can you commit the time? Before work? After hours? At home? In a class setting? At work?, e.g. during a lunch break? What is your budget? Think it through, take some time and make your choice deliberate.
  8. Print it out, post it up. (Right from the blog): “Print out your goal in big words. Make your goal just a few words long, like a mantra (Exercise 15 mins. Daily.), and post it up on your wall or refrigerator. Post it at home and at work. Put it on your computer desktop. You want to have big reminders about your goal to keep your focus and to keep your excitement going. A picture of your goal also helps,” e.g. a picture of you friend, spouse or relative, or of the foreign country you want to visit, etc.

Even if you have followed all the above tips and have carefully set your goal, you'll need to find ways to keep going when your enthusiasm starts to wane. In several of our future blogs, we'll apply the "20 ways to sustain motivation when you are struggling" to learning a foreign language.