5 tricks for finally getting yourself to learn a foreign language

I say it time and time again, but it always bears repeating – nobody can make you learn a language. It is pointless to expect that your teacher will just pump your head with all that you need just because you are paying them. I believe that for you, the fans of Language Mentoring, this is nothing new and you are ready for self-teaching – all you need are effective methods and a long-term plan. With those at your side, you have nothing to worry about.

Perhaps you have already started learning a few times, but you got lost and didn’t know where to actually begin. Maybe you’ve already tried it, but as soon as a problem came up, your enthusiasm ran out, and once again, you put learning on indefinite hold. That’s completely fine. Motivation is a fickle thing. That’s why we’re bringing you 5 proven tips to get over a learning crisis.

1. Download a reminder app to your phone (Habitica, Todoist, Fabulous, Goal Tracker, Reach)

If you’ve already tried to work with Duolingo, you will know that you can use it to have a learning reminder sent to you every day as an e-mail or phone notification. But why stop there when you can do that with all learning-related activities?

There are  lots of apps for writing down your daily goals and times when you’re going to do them (read four pages from a book, make a Goldlist headlist and filtration, watch a YouTube video…). The app will send you a notification at the set time, so you don’t need to remember everything. Nifty, isn’t it? Remember, learning every day is key! In time, learning will become a habit and it will require much less effort.

2. Even small accomplishments warrant a reward!

Nobody likes to work all the time without seeing results. Think about what materials you are using and define small steps that will get you to your goal. For example: before summer is over, I will get half-way through this book with advanced vocabulary/ I will watch season 1 of The Simpsons/ I will do exercises for all tenses in the Murphy’s textbook, and so on.

And when you do that, treat yourself to a small prize, like a day by the lake, a small trip abroad, a bucket of ice cream, a relaxing massage, or that book you’ve always wanted.

3. Write down your learning time… above your bed?

You wouldn’t believe how big a motivator a series of days of back-to-back language learning can be. That’s why it’s great to write your learning time down in a chart – it will help you keep track of how far you’ve come. Hang it above your bed, so that you have it in sight before and after bedtime.

If you meet all your daily goals, color the spot green. Then just keep your Goldlist notebook on your bedside table, and you will see that after getting up the next day, you will immediately want to make another headlist and color the next space green.

4. Double the people is double the fun.

Learning on  your own is hard. It’s like going to the gym – if you agree to meet your friend at the gym at six o’clock, you are way more likely to actually go there. You have an agreement, after all.

So why not ask a colleague, friend, neighbour, or daughter and start learning together? You’ll have each other’s backs. You’ll also find a conversation partner as a bonus!

5. Remember there’s no time like the PRESENT

Imagine you’ll finally get around to learning French. Now imagine how great it’s going to feel in a year when you order a cup of coffee in French on a terrace somewhere in Paris? Or when your language skills get you the job of your dreams? I guess that you’ll be really grateful that you got yourself to learn over the year.

I know now is not the best time to learn a language. You are busy at work, at home; everyone needs you to do something. But let’s be honest, do you really think that will change in the near future?

Lack of time is just an excuse we haul with us for years because we don’t want to or don’t know where to start. But there won’t be more time in autumn, or at Christmas, or next year. And time marches on…

If your schedule doesn’t allow you to learn a language regularly and you just keep putting it off, read our article on how to find time for learning without neglecting your other obligations.

So, what now? Will you choose at least one of these tips to finally jump-start your learning? Just remember, learning a language is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes some time and effort, however, when you have your first fluent conversation with a native, or get a promotion, you’ll see it was all worth it.

Translation: Pavol Huraj

Lýdia Machová

Language mentor
I have learned 7 languages by myself, and I usually add a new one every two years. As a language mentor I've helped thousands of people to learn languages by themselves, in ways different from traditional classroom methods, and with much better and faster results. I'm a TED and TEDx speaker and a former organizer of the Polyglot Gathering, one of the biggest world events for polyglots.
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