Nowadays, in the digital age of the Internet, anyone can study a foreign language, but not everyone knows where to start. It’s very easy to end up making little progress, losing motivation, or getting bored. Here’s some advice on how to avoid that.
Make it fun
Let’s be honest, all of us probably experienced learning a foreign language at classes at school where the teachers made the students memorize grammar rules and vocabulary, and that’s probably the easiest way to get bored and lose motivation. Torturing yourself with pure memorization is not only painful but also won’t teach you the language. It’s important to immerse yourself in the language, listen to how it’s used by its native speakers, and attempt to speak it yourself. If you keep focusing on grammar rules and nothing else, trying to speak will get you stuck overthinking every sentence each time you struggle to say something.
Diversity is important
You might think that finding one way of learning a foreign language is enough. You sign up for language lessons or find one of the many free mobile applications and websites to learn from, and you simply follow what’s been prepared for you. However, while a good routine is important in learning, doing the same thing every day or every week will eventually get boring. Make sure to actively seek out new ways of experiencing the language and make learning fun. Try watching videos in the language you’re learning, even if you need subtitles to understand. Find native speakers to practice talking to on the Internet. If you like watching movies, try checking if there’s any you’re interested in that have been dubbed into the language you’re learning. If you like playing games, see if you can switch the language. Turn your hobby into a learning experience!
Keep a balance
On the other hand, simply watching media, playing games, and surrounding yourself with the language usually won’t be enough. It’s good to have fun learning by immersion, but you need to make sure it’s backed up by enough knowledge about the language. If you never learn the grammar rules, it might lead to misunderstanding more difficult sentences. If you never look up words in a dictionary, you might think you understand what a word means, while in reality you only know one of the multiple possible meanings. Balance the fun and the serious learning, and you won’t run into these issues!
It’s time to make mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes, even a teacher. We are not perfect speakers even of our native language. Many people who learn a foreign language are afraid to speak in the fear of making mistakes and being criticized. Don’t feel this way, no one will judge whether you chose the right tense, what’s important is expressing yourself, getting along with someone. Avoid groups and forums where people point out your mistakes, it’s demotivating.
I must get a certificate
I’m aware that for many people, certificates are what matters. I believe, however, that they should be an additional benefit from learning a language, not the goal in itself. Language exams are specific and unique, and preparing for them might be monotonous and kill your passion. If you don’t need a certificate right now, you better focus on bettering your practical skills.
Set small goals
Usually, when we start learning a foreign language, we have some goal in mind. Whether it’s being able to watch movies or read books in their original language, making friends in another country, becoming a translator, getting any other job that requires knowing another language, or something else entirely, it usually involves becoming fluent. Once you start learning and realize that it’s a very long way until you’re able to speak the language on the level you wanted to, it can be very demotivating. That’s why it’s important to set smaller goals on the way. If there is a native speaker you want to talk to, don’t make your goal being able to talk to them about any topic daily—rather, set smaller goals of telling them about your day, about the place you live, about things you’re currently learning to talk about. If you’re trying to watch videos or read stories, try matching their difficulty to your current level. Start with children’s stories or cartoons if you need to. You might also start with our learning materials.
Learning a foreign language is not an easy task, especially if you don’t know where to start or how to approach it. Every person has their ways of learning that work for them. But as long as you keep the above advice in mind, try different approaches, and make sure you don’t lose motivation, you’ll be able to become fluent eventually. The most important thing is not to give up!