When you don’t feel motivated to learn a language

You’re probably here because you’re looking for motivation to continue studying a language. Maybe you’re burnt out or maybe the original passion you had for the language has died out. Whatever your reason, read on to find some tips on what to do when you really don’t feel up for studying.

First of all, let’s try to identify the cause of your lack of motivation. By identifying the cause, you can come up with the correct solution. Some reasons might be:

1. Being scared of failure
This is one of the most common reasons why people struggle to sit down and study a language. They are so scared of making mistakes and messing things up that they don’t even try. In this case, your anxiety takes over your motivation.

Often times, our fear of failure stems from not seeing instant results. We look at people on YouTube or Instagram and see how fluent they are in the languages they’re learning, but we don’t see the time and effort they put into achieving the results. This brings me to the next point – you’re probably looking at the bigger picture and not taking language learning in bite-sized chunks.

2. Thinking ahead too much 
You’re thinking of the future too much. You wanted to be fluent, like, yesterday. Thinking ahead of how good it’ll feel to be fluent might be a good driver to study, but it won’t keep you going because that’s just mindless dreaming and not real action. You need a plan and goals to achieve your dreams – just thinking about them isn’t going to be enough. In our world of instant gratification and so-perceived overnight successes, it is becoming harder and harder to live and work with patience. You must understand that learning a language takes time and it requires a strong base and patience. Hold onto that. Language learning takes years, and nothing happens overnight.

4. Tiredness and mental health
Studying 24/7 is not effective for anyone. In fact, it will make you tired and demotivated since your body needs rest and a break. Your brain cannot take in massive amounts of information at a small time. If that were the case, language learning wouldn’t be a journey or an exciting thing to add to one’s CV because everyone in the world would be able to learn any language in minutes. Reward yourself for every little step you’ve taken and how far you’ve come, no matter if you feel progress is slow.

How to overcome lack of motivation

Remember why you started
Having a reason to begin and a reason to continue is crucial in language learning. There will undoubtedly be times when you feel tired of the language, crying over grammar at night, or feeling frustrated with yourself because you lack vocabulary. Remembering why you chose this language in the beginning can give you some hope! It’s not good enough to say you want to be fluent. Think of a tangible, measurable reason. Do you want to work in Italy? Do you want to converse in Tamil with your boyfriend’s parents? Do you want to understand Anime without subtitles? All of these are valid, measurable reasons. 

Change up your learning style and consider getting a study buddy or tutor
You might be stuck since you’re only using one textbook, or only going to classes once a week, and not using the language outside of that. Try adding variety to your language learning! If you’re used to sitting and studying from a textbook, try phoning a friend in the language instead. You can also get a language tutor if you’ve never gotten lessons from anyone yet. I love using italki to meet tutors – there are so many tutors for different levels and needs. Even if I have a busy schedule, I’m bound to find someone whose schedule fits mine. Try out italki and get $10 free credits for your first lesson here!

Clean up & change up your work space
We underestimate how much our environment affects our productivity and mental state. I think some of the popularity with studyblr (photos of people’s study spaces and notes on Tumblr) stems from the fact that the spaces photographed are very charming, tidy and quirky. Though you don’t need to go out and buy a new desk or flowers, just giving your work space a quick clean-up and making sure you have all your materials with you is already a big start.


Some more tips in this video:
Check out this video I made on motivation and language learning.

Don’t be so hard on yourself, and pat yourself on the back for what you’ve done so far. Can you see progress from a year ago to now? If so, you’re on the right track and you’ve done an excellent job. Keep going! It’s okay to slow down. Just don’t stop.

My friend Alex Rawlings said he once heard someone tell him that learning a language is like swimming in a river. If you stop swimming, you float back because of the current. If you keep swimming, no matter how slow, you’ll at the very least stay at the same place or move forward slowly.

You can do it, and I believe in you!

Illustration by Oops

 

 

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