Posted on by Peter Rettig

Language Learning and New Year's Resolutions – and 5 More Ways to Stay Motivated

A recent article (January 12, 2014) in the Boston Globe, “The Breaking point for New Year's resolution,” reported some bad news and some good news.

CAUSE FOR PESSIMISM: A survey suggests that nearly half of people ultimately give up on their resolutions; and nearly half (43%) of those who quit do so by the two week mark.

CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM: 76% of people who keep their resolutions through February 1 keep going.”

We know that most adults learn a foreign language only when they need to or have a personal reason to do so.

Therefore, it's not surprising that learning a new language is not one of the Globe's Top 10 Resolutions for 2014. (However, it could be part of #3: Improve Financial Conditions, #8: Improve Family Relationships, #9: Travel More, or #10: Become Better Educated.)

This blog post completes our December '13 and January '14 series of ways to stay motivated when learning a new language, all three based on the Zenhabits.net blog “The Ultimate Guide to Motivation – How to Achieve Any Goal,” and its “20 Ways to Sustain Motivation When You Are Struggling.”

Here are the last five (5) more ways to get you at least to February 1.

  • Get a coach or take a class – Studying just by yourself can be hard, and for some, a class environment with both peer pressure and peer support will be the way to go. For others, a coach or tutor not only provides added motivation, but also accelerates the learning progress. While learning with a tutor can run into money, you might know a friend who will provide coaching or counseling for free.
  • Never skip two days in a row - This rule takes into account our natural tendency to miss days now and then. We are not perfect. Obviously, a skipped day here and there happens to all of us. But if you avoid skipping extra days, you'll quickly notice how much faster you progress, which in turn, encourages you to go on. (That's why at GamesforLanguage, learning is FREE for those who play & learn at least three times per week.)
  • Use visualization – Visualize what it would mean for you to know the language you are learning. Think about a successful business meeting, a conversation with a foreign friend, chatting with locals in a foreign ccity – whatever the reason was that motivated you to learn a new language in the first place. Imagine that you can understand and speak it. Now here’s the next key: do it every day. For at least a few minutes each day. This is the only way to keep that motivation going over a long period of time.
  • Be aware of your urges to quit, and overcome them – With self-teaching language programs, it's mostly about finding excuses not to take out the book, not to listen to the audio, not to open the app/language program on you ipad or laptop. Zenhabits notes and recommends: We all have urges to stop, but they are mostly unconscious. ... A good exercise is to go through the day with a little piece of paper and put a tally mark for each time you get an urge.” Then have a plan for when those urges hit, and plan for it beforehand, and write down your plan, because once those urges hit, you will not feel like coming up with a plan. Your plan may include tricks for re-starting your enthusiasm, fun things to do (see below), or a visualization of the goal that matters to you.
  • Find pleasure again - No one can stick to something for long if they find it unpleasant, and are only rewarded after months of toil. Learning a new language can be a grind unless you can make it fun and interesting: Find a course you can truly enjoy, and once you have mastered some basics, find easy reading materials, stories, newspaper articles that really interest you, watch foreign movies, etc.

Maybe learning a new foreign language is one of your resolutions for 2014. If so, then you may find one or two of these “ways to stay motivated when you are struggling” helpful.

And, if you find some other ways, please let us and our readers know: Keeping motivated is certainly one of the key elements for successfully learning a new foreign language as an adult.