Life gets busy, and your new language-learning app falls to the wayside.
You hit a language-learning plateau, and no matter what you do, you can’t move forward in Russian.
You accomplish your biggest Spanish learning goal and can’t find the motivation to pursue a new one.
Or maybe nothing is wrong—your target language just doesn’t thrill you the way that it used to.
No matter the reason, all language-learners lose motivation now and then. Sometimes it feels like the enthusiasm will never come back. The good news? We can help with that! By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to have fun with your language again.
1. Go on a trip around the world.
The number one way to get inspired? Pack your bags for a country that speaks your target language. You’ll learn to situate the language inside of the culture that created it, you’ll become inspired by local art and you’ll make lifelong, native-speaking friends.
Still feeling a bit insecure speaking with native speakers? Here is some advice on how to become conversational in a language.
Travel tip: Typical destinations are overrated. If you’re studying French, you don’t have to go to Paris—try Francophone West Africa. The beaches in Senegal will leave you breathless. Learning Mandarin? Instead of mainland China, give Taiwan a try. How about Russian? Skip Moscow and spend two weeks in Belarus. Understanding the different local accents of a language will be a new exciting challenge for you to master.
2. Find true love (or best friendship).
Nothing will inspire you faster than a long-distance lover who speaks your target language. You’ll find a new passion for flashcards if your partner’s eyes light up whenever you use a new vocabulary word.
These days, many dating apps let you swipe in cities where you don’t even live—you never have to be confined to your physical surroundings again!
If you’re not ready for love, then make some lasting friendships with online message boards. Have you spent much time checking out the Rocket Languages forums yet? Try our award-winning language learning software for free and connect with other language learners from all around the world.
3. Beat a video game. Then beat it again.
Time flies when you’re trying to destroy your own high score. If you don’t feel like studying flashcards or completing a full Rocket Languages audio lesson—then don’t. Instead, switch your favorite video game into your target language to pick up words without even realizing it.
Story-based games work best for this, so if you’re a fan of sprawling narratives like Elder Scrolls and Final Fantasy, then you’re in luck!
Online role-playing games are also top choices, because you can talk to players who hail from all over the world. Flip on your microphone and challenge yourself to only speak your target language.
If video games aren’t your thing, then use an analog version of the same strategy. Pick up your favorite book (or the next book in your favorite series) and work your way through it in Portuguese, in Korean, in German, in whatever language you want to learn. If you’re stuck, The Little Prince is a great place to start. It’s been translated into hundreds of different languages, including Ancient Egyptian.
4. Sing at the top of your lungs.
Check to see where your favorite target-language musicians are touring, and make it a point to catch a show. If you can’t find any workable tour dates, then scroll your local listings for international events at a nearby cultural center; institutes like Goethe and Alliance francaise always have events, and smaller, local cultural centers host get-togethers as well. Or save up for a larger music festival that stages bands in dozens of languages.
Learn the songs before the concert and challenge yourself to sing along. Even if you don’t hit all of the lyrics perfectly, the important thing is that you’re speaking—and you’re speaking in public. If you’ve ever been nervous to use your target language in front of other people, then a concert is the perfect way to break the ice!
5. Retake an exam to see how far you’ve come.
After you’ve been studying a language for a few months or years, you might feel like you’re treading water. No matter how much you study, it feels like you haven’t come very far and you still have forever to go.
But that’s not true. To prove that you’ve been moving forward, take a test. At first glance, this might seem counterintuitive. Aren’t tests stressful? Don’t they prove what you don’t know?
On the contrary, tests reflect that you know more than you think. Take a test that you’ve already taken before. Once, there was a time that you struggled with this test—you’ll be amazed how easy it is now. Even when you thought your learning was going nowhere, you were advancing and solidifying what you already knew. Things that you once struggled with are now a piece of cake!
6. Get inspired by polyglot videos.
Learning a second language can feel lonely. Sometimes it feels like you’re the only one who ever struggled with irregular German conjugations or Chinese vocabulary.
For inspiration, check out videos made by polyglots. Polyglot is a fancy word for someone who speaks several languages. For example, Lindie Botes speaks 10 languages!
They started out just like you: They only knew one language. Many of them were even poor language learners in school. But over time, through sheer determination, they mastered multiple languages. If they can do it, then you can too.
7. Fire up your stove.
If you can’t travel to a country that speaks your target language, do the next best thing—recreate it in your kitchen. Research popular recipes. Learning Egyptian Arabic? Try your hand at Fatteh (filled flatbread). Or how about mastering the art of Ramen to get back into Japanese?
Go a few steps further by integrating the country into your everyday life. One Friday a month, invite friends over to watch a classic film from that country. Line your shelves with first editions by the country’s most famous authors. Order clothing made in that country to inspire yourself whenever you put it on.
8. Reward yourself generously.
What do you want? What do you really want? Maybe it’s the latest phone, or a trip to Greece, or even just a cinnamon roll from your neighborhood baker. Use this item as an incentive. Complete a goal, get a reward.
Don’t only create long-term goals; if all of your goals will take months to accomplish, you’ll end up losing steam. So, in addition to a big goal, set up several checkpoints with smaller (but still tempting) rewards. Maybe you have to finish your daily flashcard set watching Netflix. Maybe you have to study for five days in a row in order to earn your favorite food.
9. Take a break.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a language is to step back from it.
Bear with me. Take a temporary, carefully monitored break. Set a specific amount of time, such as a week or ten days, and stick to the limit.
Keep studying your language every day, even during your break. But instead of doing it for an hour a day, do it for ten minutes. Or five minutes. Just enough to keep the gears grinding. If you step away completely, not only will you be less likely to return, but you’ll also become more frustrated if you do attempt to return.
Note: These shortened study periods should still be active, such as reviewing 15 flashcards or completing a grammar exercise. Passive studying won’t do much for you here; don’t sit back, watch five minutes of a target-language show, and expect to stay abreast.
You can get motivated again!
If you’re stuck in a rut, take heart—you won’t be there forever! Go to a country that speaks the language, or recreate it in your own apartment. Reward yourself, beat a video game and attend a music festival. Shake things up. Then the language will entice you even more than before!
Post by guest blogger Jamie McGhee: Jamie McGhee is a novelist, playwright and aspiring polyglot currently making her way through East Africa with a backpack.