Anyone who has ever started learning a language knows that there is a really great chasm between the desire to do something and bringing it to an end. In many cases reading different motivational texts is not enough. The initial fervor quickly goes out when encountering unforeseen obstacles, and they do not have to be large at all. One tiny little thing can turn upside down the entire study plan. Fortunately, some of these problems can be prevented, and this is exactly what this text will be about. The rest is up to you.
1. Do not force yourself to learn a language
It is true that nowadays knowing foreign languages is a desirable skill. However, you cannot afford to get yourself carried away by trends or promptings of friends. If you do not learn from necessity or because it is a source of direct or indirect pleasure for you, you should simply let go. There is no point in forcing yourself to do something you are not convinced of, when you can devote your leisure time to develop various passions.
2. Do not announce your goal
It is quite widely believed that telling your family and friends about your plan of learning a language will help you achieve that goal. Unfortunately, this is not true and can be even harmful. Language learning is a continuous process in which the limits of fluency are really blurred. It is difficult to objectively assess whether someone has made the expected progress. This can be the cause of unjustified criticism on the part of others, which lowers the motivation for action, or overestimating one’s efforts, with the result that the person stops trying so hard.
Publicly challenging yourself can also end in a different course. It is not uncommon for people from one’s environment not to take such a declaration seriously, to not be concerned about whether someone has actually got cracking. In some cases, this may result in the learner throwing away his or her learning goal completely, feeling insufficient external motivation to continue. In addition, the study of people who have bragged about what they were about to do has shown that it has not helped them, and has even given them the belief that they have done more than they actually did, and due to that their results were worse.
3. Avoid general goals
When learning a language, you cannot suddenly declare that you have learned it. A similar rule applies to reaching the levels of its knowledge – these abstract borders only approximately define your skills. If you want to measure your progress objectively, you need to set more specific goals instead of general ones, such as going through a chapter or textbook, learning how to order something in a restaurant, memorizing a list of words, communicating with somebody without having to look into a dictionary or reading a text with a satisfactory understanding, etc. All of these are things achieving of which shows with great accuracy how much you can already do.
4. Plan only as much as necessary
If you think that you are doing it right by planning everything from start to finish, you are unfortunately barking up the wrong tree. Some things are impossible to predict, so the only sensible solution is to limit yourself to write in a notebook (not a computer, mobile or tablet) a plan for one or two days. The complexity of such a list should not be too large. It is best to break the daily study session into small points, each of which can be ticked off after no more than an hour. It helps a lot in focusing on performing a given task and gives you satisfaction when the list for the day is finished.
5. Use time effectively
Studying every day brings the best results. You should assign yourself some more or less fixed time for learning, so that maintaining regularity will become your habit. Moreover, you can also use the time spent when driving a car, bus or train. Your session should consist of no more than 20-minute segments of intensive learning, separated by up to a maximum of 10-minute breaks. You can change its duration according to your taste, as long as you keep a level head and spend a minimum of an hour on it. You do not have to study in one session, because most important is the overall amount of time spent on learning.
6. Set yourself possible goals
Plan on doing just the things that seem to be achievable in the short term. This prevents discouragement caused by waiting too long for visible results. It is also worthwhile to give yourself little challenges in the form of assigning yourself a few percent more than you consider feasible in a given time. If you are successful, it will increase your motivation; and if you fail, you will have no reason to worry, because all the same you have accomplished your basic goal.
7. Isolate yourself from distractions
The modern world is flooding us with a lot of distracting stimuli. The main source of these are people and electronic devices, which together effectively draw us away from language learning. This can be remedied by finding a quiet place, warning others not to disturb us and disabling distracting hardware or even removing it from our field of vision. In situations where we are forced to use them, it is sufficient only to disable or temporarily dispose of digital distractions, for example using browser extensions blocking the most tempting pages (e.g. StayFocusd).
8. Learn right away
Relatively often, when learning a language, a problem occurs with choosing the right materials. Searching for better and better textbooks, courses, or articles on the Internet leads to neglecting real learning. If you do not incorporate immediately the content you found into the to-do list for the day, then gathering a stack of titles and links will be for naught. Besides, just by trying to learn something you can discover the weaknesses of the found materials, the faults of a learning plan or the shortcomings in your knowledge. And from that point, there is a clear way to fixing them and avoiding similar situations in the future with more ease.
The above guidelines help to prevent most problems associated with understanding a foreign language and communicating in it. Generally speaking, it will be enough if you remember to set yourself appropriate goals, make the most of your time, and be serious about learning, then foreign languages will stand open before you.