Broadly speaking, I am blessed to be surrounded by students who are into English and demonstrate interest and love for the language.
However, learning a language is a long-distance race and over the years I’ve also heard some students’ complaints such as: “I feel stuck” / “I’ve been studying English all my life and my level is still intermediate“ / “I always make the same mistakes”/ “In spite of all my efforts here, when I go to English-speaking countries I don’t understand people”/ “Phrasal verbs are impossible to learn” and the list goes on.
Do you relate to any of this?
If such is the case, read on, because in this post I am about to share some self-motivational tips to keep up your enthusiasm.
When your motivation is running low, create a list of the benefits of learning English
Consider the satisfaction speaking a language can give you. We tend to think about what it takes from our life but: time, energy but what does learning a language add to your life?
These are some of the advantages that I can think of, right here and now. However, I highly recommend that you write your personalised list with reasons that are meaningful for you. In doing so, you will be giving yourself an instant boost of energy. Feel free to bring your list to class if you are a current student.
1. It opens my horizons and the information and contents I can have access to.
2. Conversations with foreigners when I am travelling run much deeper and can turn into friendships.
3. It challenges me and arouses my thirst for knowledge.
4. I can grasp the lyrics of songs.
5. Watching films/series in the original version and listening to the actresses’ and actors’ authentic voices is awesome.
6. The sound of the language lifts me up.
7. There is beauty in the concept of reading books in the same words the author used.
8. Expanding my vocabulary in a foreign language gives me joy and a sense of achievement.
9. Last but not least, through language learning I also get to meet some interesting people locally: (fellow) students and teachers.
Go the extra mile: give a specific example for each of these points. For instance:
About point 5. To name but a few: Hellen Mirren’s impeccable British accent, Harrison Ford’s deep tone, the versatile qualities of Meryl Streep’s voice or Ewan MacGregor’ cheeky Scottish accent.
Be realistic. Practice makes perfect but practice means “time”
Logically, your progress is bound to the amount of time you are willing to allocate to that purpose. As with other things we learn, there is no magic pill and attending a course is far from enough.
But in this regard, luck is on your side. It’s true that time is hard to find but regular English practice can be integrated into your routine. If you like reading, read in English. If you are into series, change the language mode. When you are doing a task that doesn’t require much attention, play the radio or a podcast in the background. It may take a few weeks till you get adjusted to this self-immersion but once you get the hang of it and it becomes effortless: A round of applause for you!
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t advise to do it all at once and risk becoming overwhelmed. You know what is going to work for you. Pick and choose. And the key word here is: enjoyment!. Go for what raises your spirits and you can look forward to. You will be more receptive and time will be more effective.
Set small goals
Completing a task brings a sense of achievement and thus, increases motivation. Instead of setting unrealistic goals like: “Over the course I am going to become totally fluent”, rephrase it into a less daunting objective like: “I am going to go deeper into small talk phrases* so that I feel at ease in that context”.
Nobody knows better than you what you can get round to doing, realistically. Personally, as a French student, I know I can’t set aside time to study on a daily basis, much as I would like to, so I do it on a weekly basis. On top of that, I read a bit every day, for pleasure.
*More on small talk in a future post
Go the extra mile: if you feel demotivated or you keep procrastrinating, create a sort of chart where you write your goals for the day, week, month (whichever is applicable) and tick when finalised. Two for the price of one here, ticking will cheer you up instantly and these mini-planning charts can also help you keep track of your progress over time.
Ideas for small, achievable goals that you can accomplish in a 10/20 minute chunk. 3 minutes for planning can go a long way.
Goals for this week
|Do 5 grammar exercises in self-study grammar book.||20’||Monday evening|
|Read an article for general meaning||10’||Thursday am|
|Scan the article again and this time, highlight useful expressions I’d like to remember||10’||Thursday am|
|Write down these expressions in my notebook.||10’||Thursday am|
|Revise some expressions from previous notes.||10’||Friday coffee time|
|Watch a film at the weekend||2 hours||Weekend|
A few years ago, I met a student whose passion was music and understanding the lyrics was an incentive for him. Logically, there were other areas of the language he had to work on but because he put his heart into learning the words in songs, very often, when certain words or structures turned up, he would associate them to songs. Music was pivotal for him and gave him motivation and focus.
Similarly, another student was inspired by cooking; Recipes, cookery books and videos were a force for him. Some people love watching the telly, so if you are temporarily unmotivated, set the textbooks aside and hook on a series. Avid readers, same for you, pick up a page-turner. Football or other sports fans, follow the football news, read, listen, watch youtube videos…
In a nutshell, let your passion be the core of your learning.