What to do when the going gets hard
Feeling unmotivated? The way you are learning is not working for you, you are not moving forward but you ARE getting frustrated?
Even if you have a strong why, at times you can find it difficult to get into the swing of things.
This is why it is important to regularly reflect on your learning, evaluating what works for you, what doesn’t, and how could what doesn’t work be changed to what will work. If you want to know more about how to effectively reflect on your learning, read here.
So, when things are not so hot with your learning, here is what you can do to motivate yourself and make things happen…
Make your learning enjoyable. – change the way you study and the materials you are looking at. Make sure there is a good variety of the resources you are using and that they are relevant to you, that you find them useful and interesting.
Make your learning more natural – make it the same like what you are consuming in your language – the types of videos you watch/ podcast you listen to/ things you read in your first language according to your interest. The posts you follow on social media – replace it all with the same content that you enjoy but in English – make your learning a natural part of your day – that way you don’t even have to think about it.
When you feel lazy, take a baby step. The key to language learning is to do something often rather than for a long time. Even if you read a post a day, it is better than if you sit down once a week for an hour.
You need to train your brain to believe that this language is a natural part of your life now. As Tesco puts it: ‘Every little helps!’ So do something very small in English like read a post, listen to a song, google something you don’t know but do it in English.
Start doing little things in English. With time, they will grow into bigger things.
Find a language exchange partner or a community. It is always easier when you stick to your language learning when you are not doing it alone and can look forward to using your skills in real life with someone!
When I lived in Brno, Czech Republic, and needed to practice my Spanish, I found a group of expats on Facebook called ‘Foreigners in Brno’ and put an advertisement there in Spanish that I need a language exchange partner to practice my Spanish with, offering language practice in return. I found a 3 people to sharpen my Spanish skills with: one from Colombia, one from Cuba, and one from Spain. I got to practice with native Spanish speakers over a cup of coffee while living in the Czech Republic, with everyone benefitting from the language exchange.
When I moved to Spain, my Spanish still needed to be worked on. It never ends😅
So I went to web pages such as meetup.com and internations.com to find a language exchange group of foreigners and locals in my city. I did. We meet in a rooftop bar of a hotel where we watch stunning sunsets together as we talk about all kinds of things in Spanish and English.
Both of these ways of practicing the language gave me good friendships as well as an opportunity to improve my target language and I am very thankful for them.
Try this for your town or the nearest biggest town, on Facebook (entering ‘foreigners’ or ‘expats’ in + the name of city) or on the web pages mentioned above. You can also ask around to see what is organized in your city for language exchanges. There must be something!
And then go! … You will make mistakes, you will feel silly the first couple times, and then you will stop caring and you will be thankful you did this for yourself 😉
Don’t take your mistakes so seriously. There is no other way in learning a new language than making mistakes first. Children do it when they learn. They are not bothered by it and we as adults are not bothered by it. But somehow when we grow up, we feel like we need to be perfect all the time.
Unfortunately, if you actually want to speak the language you are learning, that won’t be possible for you. It isn’t for anyone alive! Yes, you have studied the grammar and you know it. That’s nice. But when you speak, your brain cannot process fast enough and apply all this knowledge…
You will make mistakes. And that’s completely fine – that is if you stop taking yourself so seriously, expecting such ridiculous things from yourself such as that you need to be perfect and not make any mistakes if you want to speak.
The truth is, as you start using the language actively, your brain will slowly sort the grammar out (because you studied it and you know what the sentences should look like). But you need to give your brain a chance to make that happen naturally.
As you try speaking more and more often, you will start recalling all those words that you are now feeling so ashamed of not remembering, and you will start to form your sentences correctly. It will all come, especially if you ask for feedback/ correction from the people you are practicing with. Allow yourself not to be perfect. It is not a realistic expectation on yourself anyway, is it now…
Challenge yourself and then reward yourself. When I start with a new student, we always set their SMART learning goals (more info here) and then we put together a weekly learning plan that is not too demanding, is fun to follow, but provides a good variety of activities for them to feel like there is a space to grow. I always say that when the week is done and over, if they managed to complete the work they set for themselves to do along with their busy life schedule, they should reward themselves in some way!
Do something to celebrate your achievement when you set yourself a target and you accomplished it. Whether this is daily, weekly, monthly, or it is a longer term goal, celebrate yourself! You deserve it and it will give you the kick and motivation you need to set and start reaching for your next goal!
I hope this helps! If you were still struggling and felt like you needed a boost, setting SMART goals for yourself and looking at your learning schedule together, message me here. I am here for you.
If you just need some inspiration, download my free ebook ‘How to surround yourself with English‘ with lots of useful ideas on how to make your learning fun.
Happy learning! 🥳