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Acquiring the right motivation

One of the biggest factors that determine your success is whether you stick with the language you choose. 

You are unlikely to truly learn a language you have no motivation to continue with. Consider if your reasons for learning are enough to keep you motivated. If not, you need to find a reason that will.

If there is some factor on your list that is important but you don’t feel it will motivate you to sit down and study, you need to consider why you feel that it’s important in the first place. It may not be truly important to you.

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Spend some time trying some of them out

If you’re still undecided, it’s generally advised to spend a bit of time listening to and potentially even studying each language that interests you. 

You could even spend some time learning about the languages as they relate to your priorities, such as culture, its usefulness in work, or what the difficult aspects might be. 

Any amount of time learning a language is useful for future languages because it helps you understand how a language can work, and you will start to see similarities that make learning new concepts much easier.

Compelling content is key

If you’re not engaging with content that interests you, then your motivation to learn your target language will naturally melt away.

This might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how ingrained the dry, scholastic approach to language learning is in our mindsets.

From an early age, we’re led to believe that we learn languages in the classroom with bland, inauthentic textbooks, reciting words and phrases ad nauseam until they stick. 

Before we can use and enjoy a language, we must first acquire the skills.

In principle this makes a lot of sense. A school is a place of learning. We acquire skills in other subjects and areas of life there. We even acquire the skills of our mother tongues there. So why would it be any different when learning a foreign language?

The issue isn’t so much that languages are taught at school, but rather the way in which they are delivered. Laborious skill-building approaches do little to stimulate our minds. Worse still they don’t even work; skills come as a result of doing, not the other way around.

Put another way, skill-building makes about as much sense as reading books on how to ride a bike. Until you actually hop on and fall off a few times, you’ll never really know how to ride one.

How this affects motivation

The good news is that a good resource is far more engaging than a school textbook.

Yet it still represents what we might refer to as an active form of learning. 

It focuses on developing your ability in a target language through various useful tools. 

There should be a lot of repetition — and not much in the way of authentic content.

Authentic content represents news articles, music, movies, video games etc. Content that is created not with the intention of teaching a language, but as a natural expression of it. It’s here that we see it in its true form. And this is where the real learning takes place. 

That’s because we don’t need to motivate ourselves to do things we enjoy. The motivation is just naturally there.

And therein lies the key to keeping your language learning routine fresh: introduce your target language to things you enjoy.

How to find compelling content

A good learning tool or resource should be a fun and useful addition to almost any language learning routine. But when done to excess, the initial enjoyment will often give way to frustration and boredom.

Therefore it’s important to strike a good balance between active and passive learning. Good resources, for the most part, represent the active. While reading books, watching movies and listening to music in your target language represents the passive.

If your motivation is waning, simply do more of the latter. Not only is this where the fun takes place, it’s also where the real learning happens; where you enact everything you’ve acquired through your resource of choice in an authentic environment.

It could be as simple as listening to music in your target language and following the lyrics, reading some mini stories, or changing the language settings on your favourite TV shows on Netflix.

So when the motivation dries up, take a look at your routine and see where you can freshen it up. Focus on having fun when the going gets tough!

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