Every January, millions of people choose to take up a foreign language as their New Year’s resolution. But how do you keep your motivation going throughout the year?
Luckily, Tandem’s CEO, Arnd, knows a thing or two about learning languages! We asked him for some tips on how to stay motivated with learning a language in 2018. Here are his top five!
1. Find a good reason to learn the language
Behind every motivated person, lies a good reason! I struggled with learning languages when I was younger simply because I didn’t have a clear idea in my mind WHY I wanted to learn. Our busy lives don’t leave a lot of room for extra studying. So I figure that you need to be clear on why you’re doing it before you begin.
For some people, this is an easy first step; those who need their new language for their job, or studies, or even moving country. For others, the reason might be a little more vague, but that shouldn’t stop you from having a clear idea in your mind of why you’re putting in the hours of work. Write this reason down, shout it from the rooftops – it will be your driving force when your motivation starts to ebb!
2. Find something you love to do in your target language
Like most people, I remember sitting in the classroom, dutifully learning the contents of my pencil case and the directions to the nearest library. But my motivation waned fast when all I had to talk about was this basic vocab. It’s just not interesting enough! So, my recommendation is: get connected to your target language and find something to talk about that is both relevant and interesting – from your very first words.
Whether you fall in love with Argentine tango dancing, or German techno, or Korean horror films, you’re giving yourself a great reason to find out more about the language and culture.This is why choosing a topic on your Tandem profile is so important. This way, your prospective partners can see clearly what you’re interested in!
3. Set goals that make sense
It might feel like it’s a reasonable goal to “learn French” in 2018. For most people, it simply is not realistic as a short-term goal. Learning a language is a long-term project – I’m a native German speaker and I’m still learning new things about my language!
So, don’t treat “learning a language” as a goal, but rather create some realistic, short-term, achievable goals. Exams or holidays can provide amazing motivation, but if you don’t have the luxury of these in your life, there are other goals you can set. Here are some our Tandem members are using in 2018 for inspiration:
- “I want to be watching anime in Japanese without English subtitles by next Christmas”
- “I’m going to have a full conversation in Vietnamese with my Grandma next time she visits”
- “I’m going to order Glühwein in German at the Munich Christmas market this December”
4. Keep things human
Look back to the “reason for learning a language” that you set yourself. No doubt, the reason is something connected with communication (unless you really just want to watch those Korean horror films by yourself and not discuss them with anyone…!) We are naturally social and the biggest lure of speaking a language is the ability to communicate even more effectively. So, play up to this by making sure speaking to real people is part of your language practice from day one.
Mobile apps have made it easier than ever to speak to native speakers from around the world. Language exchanges through Tandem are a great way to practice and discuss your progress with a real person who speaks your target language perfectly. Speaking with someone else is really the best motivation out there for improving your skills! And who knows – you may end up with a friend for life in the process.
5. Track your progress
Don’t be surprised if you have some highs and lows when learning a language. We all have days when we feel super confident and on top of the world with our skills – and others where, frankly, it’s hard to feel like we’ve made any speaking progress at all! I always make sure I track my progress to ensure that I can see how far I’ve come over a certain period of time.
Whether it’s by keeping track of all the days when you speak to your language exchange partner, or keeping record of new learnt words in the same notebook which fills up satisfyingly over time, make sure you regularly look back and see how far you have come. Tracking your progress with a partner is a good way to ensure you stay motivated – and their positive feedback is likely to be an even bigger incentive to keep trying!