WHAT WENT WRONG?
The answer is simple: at some point, the motivation to learn a language has become your enemy. In other words – it ran out. That’s why learning itself has disappeared from your priority list. Learning a foreign language is a long process that requires determination, regularity and, above all, patience. And as in the case of, say, going to the gym, you have to wait for the effects. But when they come, you’ll find that it was worth persevering and not giving up.
The new year is an opportunity for new resolutions. If your plans involve learning languages, here are some useful ways to keep you motivated to learn.
MOTIVATION TO LEARN A LANGUAGE – HOW TO FIND AND KEEP IT
Answer the question – why do you want to learn a language?
If you know why you started learning, it will be easier for you to stay motivated throughout the process. Professional development, travel, emigration, reading Shakespeare in the original – any reason (also known as the learning goal) is good if you know that in a few months it will still be important and inspiring for you. The best way to remember it is to write it down on a piece of paper and hang it in a place important to you.
Set language goals and create a plan
The learning goal should be supplemented with so-called language goals. Determine and write down what you specifically expect from your learning, and what skills you want to master, e.g .:
- “I want to master irregular verbs”
- “I want to use the language in practice more often”
- “I want to be able to use conditional sentences”
Each of the goals should be included in your learning plan with a specific deadline (if it is a continuous goal, e.g. regular vocabulary expansion, you can break it down into weeks, e.g. “I want to learn 30 new words per week”).
Language goals should be regularly updated and monitored by you. This will not only keep you motivated to learn the language but will also help you to assess your progress and pace. It is unlikely that you will be able to execute the original plan perfectly and in its entirety! But don’t worry – you can treat the first schedule as a draft, and update it regularly while learning more about your pace of learning and the amount of material you are comfortable with.
You can keep your plan, for example, on a computer – in Excel or Word, in your planner, or in the form of a mind map.
Develop a habit
Even the best plan won’t work if you don’t learn regularly. So develop a habit that you will be able to maintain. Therefore, first of all, determine how much time you can devote to learning. It can be even a few minutes a day – if they become part of your routine, you will notice the results anyway.
If you have problems with being systematic, short daily lessons of up to 20 minutes are the best choice. Over time, you may begin to gradually increase your study time. Accept the following rule: the easier it is for you to sit down for each lesson, the more time you can spend on it.
Prepare your perfect “learning spot”
If possible, choose one place that you will use to learn the language. It doesn’t have to be a desk, it can also be a sofa with a table, or even a bed. It is important that you are comfortable and that the surroundings do not distract you too much (that’s why we do not recommend, for example, a couch in front of a TV in the living room).
After choosing a place, it is worth making sure there is good lighting. In a brightly lit place, it will be easier for you to focus, and your brain will not get tired of acquiring new information too quickly. Of course, it is better if the light is natural. However, if you study in the evening, make sure that the bulb light is warm and gentle (we do not recommend fluorescent lamps).
You can equip your ideal learning spot with items that will help you organize your learning, e.g. bookmarks, highlighters, post-it notes. Separating and designing a space in which we will study regularly will help to develop a habit and maintain concentration.
Show off to your friends!
Let people know! First, it is very possible that they will cheer you on in achieving your goal, and such support is very motivating. Second, friends or family members can become your “progress monitors”. What does it mean?
If you are worried that your motivation to learn a language will fade away quickly, ask one or more trusted people to ask you from time to time about your progress. This question, hated by many people who, for example, are writing a thesis, may irritate, but this irritation will be a surprisingly accurate measure of your commitment and regularity. Simply – the more you are annoyed and stressed by the question “how is your language learning?” the greater the chance that you are letting go of it.
You can also ask your loved ones to motivate you during these harder moments. Maybe you can even persuade someone to get involved in learning with you!
Don’t worry if you have a worse day, or even a week
This is, paradoxically, a very good way to stay motivated. If you let your frustration grow with every failure or bad day, sooner or later you’ll probably start thinking that further learning is pointless.
It is best to approach learning with the thought that you will not achieve spectacular results in a week, or even a month. But, if you maintain regularity, you will see effects that are durable and regular. Remember that learning a language is a process, and in every process, there are moments of doubt or weakness, and making mistakes is also a natural part of it. If you feel you need a few days of rest and a break from studying, do so – but remember to come back to regular lessons after your “vacation”. If you have less time temporarily, lessons may be shorter, but try to stay systematic.
Enjoy the learning process itself
Don’t be obsessed with achieving the language goal. Take the time to find the methods and tools that suit you best, and which, combined with a tailored learning plan, will help you enjoy the process of learning more words, idioms, and rules.
Become interested in the language that you learn also from the cultural and historical side. Perhaps you will find books or movies in this language that will fascinate and motivate you to keep developing your skills. Awaken your curiosity as an explorer, and you will enjoy learning more, and it even might become your hobby over time. The relationship between the thirst for knowledge and the motivation to learn often appears in the works of Dr Woźniak – for example in the publication “Formula for success in learning. The power of knowledge ”.
WHAT ELSE DOES DR PIOTR WOŹNIAK, THE CREATOR OF THE SUPERMEMO METHOD, SAY ON MOTIVATION?
In scientific publications and articles by Dr Woźniak, there are several interesting theories and methods that you can use, not only to keep yourself motivated to learn a language, but also to get more pleasure and satisfaction from it, and at the same time increase its effectiveness. In this article, we will take a closer look at the ideas which we found most interesting:
Natural creativity cycle – take out of it what you can
In 2017, Dr Piotr Woźniak wrote an article “I would never send my kids to school” in which he described the problems of school education, and how it affects the potential and motivation of students. The ideas contained in it were supported, among others, by the theory that every person can experience the sequence called the Natural creativity cycle.
The Natural creativity cycle occurs instinctively in all of us, and it consists of several elements. At the beginning, full, uninterrupted sleep and a gentle awakening are important. Then, the best time for creative, effective learning arrives in the morning, when your brain is fresh and ready to go. Later in the day, our mind will alternate between the focus and creativity stages. How can we navigate between them? When you come up with an idea, a conclusion, a breakthrough, take notes. Thanks to this, the brain will be able to focus better on them. The last, but still important part of the Natural creativity cycle is taking a break, and more specifically – a nap. It helps the brain prepare for the next portion of the tasks.
According to Piotr Woźniak, the key is to protect this break time from things like stress, stimulants, multitasking, or even … an alarm clock. However, we are all aware that this is becoming virtually impossible these days. That’s why our advice is – do what you can. It is a good idea to take breaks during the day, even for a few minutes. As Woźniak explains, the Natural creativity cycle distinguishes between morning and evening creativity, so you can try to take short naps, e.g. after you come home from work. Avoiding drugs and stimulants certainly won’t hurt either.
The wow factor
In the same article, Dr Woźniak also describes the phenomenon known as The wow factor. The word “wow” here describes the moment when we make a sudden discovery or breakthrough in our learning which gives us great pleasure and satisfaction. That is why, during the entire process of learning a language, it is worth looking for “wow” moments that will drive you to further action.
You will find such moments primarily through curiosity and by trying to understand the material you are learning. A discovery can be, for example, a new word, a piece of linguistic trivia, or a link between a grammatical rule and other elements. The wow factor is useful not only when acquiring a language, but also whenever we want to learn something new.
Commandments of effective learning
In the article “Learning Decalog”, Piotr Woźniak listed 10 principles that help to stay motivated and increase the effectiveness of learning. Here are 3 of them that we believe are most important:
Regularity and repetitions are key
The principle is closely related to developing a habit. The lack of regular repetitions means that we quickly forget what we have learned, and material that is not repeated increases day by day. When we finally want to catch up, it turns out that there is so much of it that we can’t cope, and we might come to the conclusion that further learning is pointless.
If you have problems with regularity and organizing your work, in the SuperMemo application you can follow the repetitions that are set by the algorithm, which observes the pace at which you remember.
Select your material
This means that you should adjust the amount of material to your capabilities, so that it does not overwhelm you. Do not take on more words or rules than you have the strength or time for. It is also a good idea to learn from the general to the particular. First, learn the basics of the topic well, and then gradually add more details to your knowledge.
Small, systematic steps – that is, moderation in learning is good
This is a rule related to the “Select your material” rule. At the beginning of learning, the best method will be short, but frequent and systematic lessons (which we also wrote about in the section “Develop a habit”). Why? Thanks to this, you will avoid the impression that you have to spend a lot of time studying, which you usually lack.
Of course, you don’t have to follow all of the motivational methods we’ve outlined. All you need to do is choose those that are best suited to your personality and daily routine. Then there is a greater chance that they will get into your blood and you will be able to use them not only while learning a language, but also when studying in general. Good luck!