Posted on by Peter Rettig

7 More Ways to Stay Motivated When Struggling to Learn a New Language

The New Year is often the time when we make a fresh start and set new goals. If learning a new language is one of your goals for 2014, then preparing for the potential struggles ahead may help you achieve this goal - and maybe others as well. (And even, when the path to reach the top is obvious, staying motivated is key...)

In January 2013, I read on Zenhabits.net the blog post “The Ultimate Guide to Motivation – How to Achieve Any Goal,”  and applied its “8 Ways to Motivate Yourself From the Beginning” to our blog post 8 Zenhabits for Language Learning.

I also really liked Zenhabit's “20 Ways to Sustain Motivation When You Are Struggling” and, in a recent blog post, adapted the first eight ways to language learning.

Here are (selected) seven more: (Sentences in italics are taken directly from the just mentioned Zenhabit blog.)

  • Find like-minded friends. Online communities for the language you are learning are great avenues to connect with like-minded learners. Even better, if you can find a partner with whom you can practice. My wife and I - we both want to improve our Spanish - have made it a habit of reviewing some Spanish vocabulary and grammar every day at the end of lunch.
  • Build on your successes. Every little step along the way is a success — celebrate the fact that you even started! That's why we believe that a game-based approach to language learning is so effective: Games let you experience your successes though scores, points, medals, etc. Start with just a few words, phrases, sentences a day. The next day, recalling what you learned the day before will feel good, and you can slowly increase your progress and feelings of success.Celebrate every little milestone. Then take that successful feeling and build on it, with another baby step.
  • Just get through the low points. It's easy to lose motivation, especially when some of the grammar points make no sense at the beginning and none of the words or phrases seem to want to stick. But hang in there. Just stick it out and wait for that motivation to come back. In the meantime, read about your goal, ask for help, and do some of the other things listed here until your motivation comes back.
  • Get help. It’s hard to accomplish something alone. But there are plenty of resources out there today, both free and for-pay online language programs, CDs/DVDs, classes, tutors, and online communities or forums you can join.
  • Chart your progress. Many online language programs indeed help you chart your progress with scores, number of words learned, goals to be reached, etc. You can add your own progress chart of hours/days studied: This can be as simple as marking an X on your calendar, or creating a simple spreadsheet.
  • Reward yourself often. As you are celebrating your successes (see above) you should also reward yourself for achieving certain milestones. It helps to write down appropriate rewards for each step, so that you can look forward to those rewards. These could be watching a foreign movie after having completed a portion of the course, downloading some great foreign songs iTunes, buying a CD, or foreign audio book. Or you could go for the ultimate reward: When you have achieved your overall language goal, plan a trip to the foreign country to practice your new language.
  • Go for mini-goals. Language courses typically are organized by lessons and levels. Set yourself some achievable mini-goals of 5 or 10 minutes a day, every other day. You don't have to do a full lesson every time. Just get into the habit with mini-goals, especially at the beginning. Once you feel good about achieving those, you can always set yourself more challenging ones.

Clearly, many of the ways to stay motivated are connected and support each other. There is no single “trick” to keep you motivated at all times. There are just many little ways that - when done together - will nudge you to reach your language goal.