Lack of motivation is a common problem faced by many language learners, so if you’re struggling to get motivated to learn, you aren’t alone! For those of us who have taken up the task of independently learning a language, low motivation can be even more difficult without peers around you for encouragement.
However, there are plenty of tactics and resources that can be used to improve your motivation levels and accelerate your language learning, including simple hacks like goal setting and watching movies! Stick with us to find out more about how you can become more engaged and motivated to learn your target language.
Why learn a language in the first place?
When trying to improve motivation, it’s often helpful to come right back to the start and think about why you wanted to learn a new language in the first place. To refresh your memory and kick-start your motivation, we’ve listed some of the main benefits of learning a new language below.
- Career: You’ve probably heard this one time and time again, but that’s because it is so important. If you aspire to a career either in a different country, or working for a multinational corporation, or even if you already have a successful business and want to expand your client base overseas, having some knowledge of foreign languages is essential and can help you take huge leaps in your career. Proficiency in a foreign language can be hugely rewarding in your work life, both financially and in terms of job satisfaction and your professional network.
- Travel: If you have the wanderlust bug, then it’s pretty likely that you have at least attempted to learn basic phrases in a foreign language. Getting to grips with a second language is an amazing way to uncover thousands of travel opportunities. In many countries across the world, tourism-heavy areas are prominently English-speaking, but if you want to get off the beaten track and explore more remote areas, a knowledge of the native language is essential! Besides, there is something really special about having the ability to communicate with people from different countries and cultures!
- Intellectual stimulation: For many of us, we feel that we haven’t learned anything ‘new’ since we were in school, and feel the desire to stimulate our brains. Well, learning a new language is the perfect way to do this. Because there are so many different methods to learn languages, such as classes, apps, exchanges etc. it can be a more attractive subject to study than something more scientific or numerical for example, that require lots of problem solving and logic.
- Friendship and dating opportunities: Being monolingual means that you are only able to communicate with a tiny percentage of the world! Think of all of the great friendships and relationships you could be missing out on just because you don’t speak the same language! Being able to speak a second language instantly opens up your world to millions of new people, and therefore gives you the potential to create lots of new friendships and relationships!
The science of motivation — what affects our motivation?
There are a lot of opinions and studies on motivation and what affects our motivation levels. One of the most common theories is Henry Murray’s need for achievement theory; that is the desire to reach a certain goal or become skilled or successful in something.
This can be tricky for individual language learners, because in order to drive the need for achievement, we need to be able to visualize our previous and current successes. When you are learning something individually and don’t have anyone to reinforce that you are improving or doing something right, it can be very easy to question yourself and feel demotivated, or that you aren’t progressing at all.
In order for language learners to stay motivated, they should have clear goals in sight, review and change their goals regularly and have some form of testing in place to find out whether they have successfully achieved their aim.
Motivation tactics for language learning
Let’s look at a variety of tactics and resources that can be used to improve and maximize motivation for language learning.
1. Scheduled learning time
Although this seems simple, lack of dedication is probably the main reason that motivation starts to drop off when you’re learning independently. It is wise to set yourself a time for language learning every day, even if it’s only ten minutes on your bus ride to work. Simple hacks like setting ‘10 minutes Spanish,’ as a recurring task on your to do list makes it a priority to learn something every day. This not only helps with getting into a comfortable study pattern, but actually boosts your productivity!
2. Set yourself interim goals
As we mentioned before, motivation relies heavily on the need to achieve goals. In school the presence of exams and coursework helped with this, but when you’re learning independently, you have to set your own goals. This could be something as simple as ‘Learn ten new words every week,’ or ‘Have a 5-minute conversation in Spanish.’ These bite-sized, regular targets are great to keep you on track. It’s also a good idea to set yourself more long-term targets too, such as ‘By summer, I will have read a whole novel in Italian.’ etc.
3. Meet people who are learning the same language
Motivation is very closely linked with competition and what better way to have a little healthy competition than finding yourself a study buddy! Maybe someone at work or school also wants to learn a new language, or you might meet someone online with similar language goals. Not only is learning more fun when you have a partner to do it with, you can also help each other out, use practice your speaking skills with each other and feel motivated to showcase your progress.
4. Use language exchanges and meetups
If you’ve already been learning for a little while, it can be highly beneficial to speak to a native speaker of your target language. This will really help you to gain confidence, which is also closely linked with motivation, as well as improve your fluency and accuracy in pronunciation and conversation skills. Nowadays it is easier than ever to access native speakers and this can be done through language meetups organised in your city, Skype sessions and language exchange apps. We wrote a whole post on language exchanges here!
5. Try a class
If you are able to, it can be worth trying to find a language class in your area. As we mentioned before, it really helps boost motivation if you learn with peers. A class also ticks the box for scheduling learning time, as you are making a regular commitment to learning the language. Finally, attending a class will also mean that you will be set tasks and assignments, which can serve as language goals. When you know you have a test to study for or a report to write, you will probably maximize your effort to get the best result possible!
6. Giving yourself something to look forward to
Of course, the ultimate achievement with learning a new language is actually being able to use it. If you keep an ultimate goal in sight, you will have something to look forward to. Whether it’s planning a trip away to the depths of the Amazon rainforest or securing a deal with a huge German supplier, having an end goal in mind can be a fantastic way to stay motivated.
Different ways to keep language learning exciting
Another key factor in maintaining a high level of motivation is keeping your language learning exciting! Lucky for you, there is a massive variety of tools and resources to help you learn languages, so we listed down some of our favorites.
- Apps & Games: If you’re looking to have fun and learn at the same time, smartphone apps are a great way to go, and you’ll be spoilt for choice with the range of apps out there! Apps like FlashAcademy uses bite-sized interactive lessons to help you stay engaged. Some apps like our Word-Up! App are entirely game-based. These are a great choice because they don’t even feel like learning!
- Movies/Radio: Do you see yourself as a bit of a film, TV or music buff? Then why not expand your horizons to your target language? Try researching popular movies, TV shows and musicians in your target language and listen away to your heart’s content. You’ll absorb the language and improve your listening skills, whilst doing what you love best!
- Meetups/classes/exchanges: Using sites like Eventbrite and Meetup, using Skype or finding classes in your local area can be a great way to break up your language learning and introduce a more social element to your learning.
- Reading: Now reading might not exactly scream ‘fun,’ but how about finding your favorite book or play in your target language and reading it? You could also find popular magazines from your target language’s native country and get lost in articles. We also recommend following famous celebrities native to your target language on social media, as they will often share updates in their native language. That way, you’re getting all of your celebrity news but you also learn at the same time!
- YouTube lessons: You might not know it, but there is a whole world of language YouTubers out there. Whether you decide you prefer channels dedicated to teaching language lessons, or simply discover some popular vloggers speaking in your target language, YouTube is an excellent fun and free resource to help you learn!
So now that you’re equipped with some tricks and advice for improving your motivation and kick-starting your language learning, you can go ahead and set yourself some exciting new language goals!