You’ve been studying this language on and off, you’ve stopped progressing, you abandon it when you face obstacles and you feel frustrated for not fulfilling this dream of mastering it. There are various reasons why this is happening, not only to you, but to thousands of language learners around the world. There are ways to avoid this cycle of excitement and disappointment.
First find out what language learning success means to you.
It is different for every person, and you should not aim at fulfilling other people's dream.Give yourself some time to think in deep about your motivations and ambitions about language learning.
Find your 'WHY'
What is it you truly want to achieve by learning and mastering this language?
Is it just for personal satisfaction?
Do you want to use it in your travels? or to advance your career?
If the latter is the case, is it to improve your CV, or to get a promotion?
How bad do you want this change?
What things do you want to do in the language? Is it reading? Business calls? Speaking with potential clients? In this case, success for you will be the amount of profitable business calls you have in the language and how easy you find the interaction.
What will the outcome be for you and your family if you succeed?
Jot down all the answers. I ask all my coaching students to think about their “Why” in the first coaching session, so that they can have a clear idea of what they want to achieve. Thus, they are in a better position to realise what success means to them.
Once you know what you’re aiming at, you’re more likely to take full responsibility of your own study. You become more proactive when dealing with language learning.
Take responsibility for your own learning
You know what’s at stake and you take more action and don’t rely exclusively on tutors or coaches.
Successful language learners do the work.
Successful language learners understand that they must do the work and that the tutors are there to give a helping hand. You must spend time with the language. There are no quick fix or magic bullet. Language learning is hard work and a successful language learner knows it. The coach can’t memorise the vocabulary or phrases on your behalf; you should find the time to do it. You should embrace the thought of becoming an independent learner. Do not use only the resources offered to you, buy books, listen to the radio in your target language. Read or listen to a podcast on your lunch break. Do the work you’re asked to do. You should have an active relationship with the language, or you will not reach your goals.
Little and often
I always repeat to my students that language learning is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s true. It is better to work for 5-15 minutes in a consistent way than a whole weekend submerged in language learning activities, trying to cram all the information at once. Guess what? You will not be able to progress as you should, and most importantly, you will get easily bored and abandon language learning for good.
Be consistent. Plan to study every day even if it is for 5 minutes.
Language learning is a marathon: pace yourself
Memorise the grammatical concepts. Learn the different patterns and use them. With practice the use of the correct grammar structure becomes second nature without having to learn complex explanations. Learn like a child .
Focus on communication
You do not need to use complicated linguistic concepts to communicate your ideas. Keep it simple. Learn words and phrases relevant to you to grow your vocabulary pool fast. If you want to communicate with clients, learn vocabulary related to the kind of exchange you’re going to have, and less about medical vocabulary that you will not use, for example.
Practice is important. Write down the type of conversation you would have with your client, the vocabulary and expressions you would use. Repeat them aloud so that you’re able to rehearse your pronunciation as well, whilst exercising your diaphragm and your mouth muscles to produce the right sounds. When watching films and videos, practice some of the sentences by repeating them just after you heard them and progressively almost at the same time. Practice until speaking becomes a reflexive activity, just like it happens in your mother tongue.
Mistakes are inevitable
Most language learners shy away from speaking because of their fear of making mistakes. Let me repeat for the umpteenth time that making mistakes and looking like a fool are inevitable part of the learning process. It occurs to all of us, the brave enough to learn a foreign language. Moreover, embrace them, learn from them and be forgiving with yourself.
Perfectionism will be the death of your language journey
It’s your worst enemy. Perfectionism will hold you back. As in everything, start before you’re ready. If you’re waiting to know 10 000 words, all the grammar rules, and a perfect native accent to start communicating in your target language, let me tell you that it will never happen. Not even the native speakers speak the language “perfectly” as you will notice. Your priority should remain communication. If people understand you and interact with you this is enough.
Compare yourself with yourself
Don’t measure your progress with others’. You are your only reference. Everyone goes at a different pace.Register your progress in a journal, daily or weekly and reassess it monthly. You’ll be surprised at how much you are achieving.
Enjoy the journey
Add fun activities to your language plan. Incorporate your hobbies so that you can kill two birds with one stone. I enjoy singing. When I am learning a language, I download songs and I learn them. It’s an excellent way to memorise the new words and expressions as well as common idioms without effort.
Even though you don’t understand everything, you will see how your knowledge of the language will increase with time because of your immersion in contents that are relevant to you. Words and grammar structures often repeat themselves and they become easier to recall.
Language learning takes time, and don’t believe anyone who falsely states the contrary. As a marathon, you should pace yourself or you will burn out quickly. Things are not always easy. There will be days where the language will flow effortlessly from your mouth and others where you will struggle to find that word at the tip of your tongue. These are to be expected. It is healthy to think about your end goal as a motivational boost, but don’t linger over it too much. Learn to enjoy your successes along the way, no matter how small they appear to be, and remember constancy is key.