Lack of motivation when learning a new language – What to do?

Congratulations! Since you have put in all your effort to get to this article you have already started learning a new language. On the other hand, you are probably facing a problem that a lot of learners have after a certain time – a lack of motivation.

The lack of motivation can last a short period of time like a day. Typically, these are the days when you know that you have to continue with your own set language routine but you simply feel tired. Let me tell you the following: That’okay!

To cut a long story short you have passed the honeymoon phase. After some time (depending on the language) you start to see the progress. Real phrases have replaced your initial babbling and your motivation is rising and rising. But then, little by little something changes.

Do you still remember the day when you have chosen your new language, your new project for the next months or even years? You were full of motivation, might have made a language learning plan and wanted to start.

Since a picture is worth a 1000 words I would like to share a diagram with you that I found in another blog and that shows perfectly the different stages of language learning.

The language-learning motivation curve
source: https://myhovercraftisfullofunagi.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/the-language-learning-motivation-curve/

In the orange area you will find the time that I call ‘honeymoon phase’. You have started your language adventure and want to absorb every little information that could help your progress. During this phase you also learn a lot of new words and expressions. How long this phase lasts, depends of course on several factors. Not only the language you’re learning plays a big role, but also the languages that you have learnt in the past and how close they are to your newest accomplishment. Above all, the everyday circumstances have a huge impact on your motivation and progress.

Especially, these everyday circumstances are crucial for your language learning process. Let me give you an example.

At the beginning, let’s say on January 1, you might have set e.g. an hour a day that you dedicate only to your new language. In the Northern hemisphere January is a rather dark month when it comes to weather conditions. Therefore, it is easier to set such goals like an hour a day since you typically spend quite a time at home.

Usually, when spring starts you tend to do more activities outside the house. You hang out with friends and enjoy the sun. This in fact is one reason why you cannot or do not want to stick to your daily language routine anymore. On the one hand you want to progress in your target language, on the other hand how to resist a good beer with friends after work?

Let me tell you that you can do both. The key lies in adapting your language routine.

The easiest would be to reduce the amount of time that you dedicate to your daily language learning process. Instead of an hour a day you spend 30 minutes on activities that bring you forward. By doing so you allow yourself some spare time, but also to focus on your next targets.

Furthermore, you could add some changes to your strict routine. Instead of doing grammar exercises (if that is something that you do) for 20 minutes, you can listen to a podcast in your target language while going to the subway in order to meet with friends . Doing so, you will still have the feeling of progress in your target language even though you have changed the routine.

Now, let’s have a look at what you can do if the lack of motivation is not just a short-, but a long-term problem.

In order to find a solution for this situation, let’s go back to the beginning of your language journey. I want to ask you one simple question:’Why did you chose to learn this or that language?’

The answer to this very simple questions contains so much more than a simple ‘because of’ answer. Every because comes along with an individual reason, which made you start a new language in the first place. Therefore, the advice I can give you is to focus on your personal because. There are plenty of ways to do it. In the end, all of them should bring you back on track. In the following I’d like to give you a small overview of what you can do:

  1. Watch a video of a language learner that inspires you
  2. Listen to music in your target language or watch a movie
  3. If you have people around that speak your target language, meet them
  4. Read something in your target language
  5. etc

It might be that you have already done these things and still cannot motivate yourself to continue. If this is the case, there is perhaps another question that I would like to ask: ‘Could it be that you had a different initial because?’

I mean, sometimes we tell ourselves that we want to learn a new language because of this or that reason. We believe so much in it that we keep telling everyone (including ourselves) that this is the trigger. But what happens if the initial because was a completely different one? Let me give you an example.

Imagine yourself being on vacation in a beautiful old town somewhere in Italy. Your at a restaurant, had a great plate of pasta that was accompanied with a beautiful white wine and now you wait for the desert. It’s a beautiful summer evening. In the background you hear some old Italian songs that you have heard several times but still don’t know the artist. The waiter brings you the desert and the Espresso that you have ordered. You feel overwhelmed, because the moment is nothing less than perfect.

Back home you decide to learn Italian. Let me ask: ‘What is your motivation?’

If you still keep learning Italian you would not be reading this article and thus had a good because from the beginning. But if you find yourself in the story I have described before, your initial motivation to learn Italian was probably built up on the experiences during that journey. So your because was the time in Italy.

But, as the experiences of that journey are not as present with every passing day so becomes your motivation. The result will be exactly what happened to you now.

That is why my advice for you is to find a strong and above all always motivating reason to keep learning a language. This will allow you to always find back your way to the path.

And, if you still want to learn [any language] but have realized that my above described scenario is what happened to you, don’t feel bad about it. The best thing to do now is to find and focus on a new because that will accompany you until the end of your language journey.

Have you ever experienced the problem of a motivational lack? Share your story with me in the comment section below.

Cheers,
Daniel

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