….is the quote which I posted on our Facebook page earlier this week and which gave me inspiration for this week’s blog post!
I will be the first person to admit that learning a foreign language is a DAUNTING task. As a person who has studied several foreign languages I’ve been there, many times. Apart from having to learn the actual language with all its complex grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation etc., you also have to build the confidence to speak it, which is a long, arduous, frustrating and sometimes embarrassing process.
And in our hectic day-to-day lives with a hundred commitments to a hundred different people, who has the time, energy and motivation to see this process through until the end? Therefore, don’t blame yourself if you sometimes feel like throwing in the towel – we’ve all been there.
However, like with any goal we’ve set ourselves – whether it’s learning a language, going to the gym or eating better -, the secret lies in breaking your goal down into small, manageable chunks. Creating simple but lasting habits is more likely to lead to success than trying to do it all at once. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear states that:
”your life today is essentially the sum of your habits. How successful or unsuccessful you are? A result of your habits!”
But where do we start, right? What are some of these habits that can make you a successful language learner? Of course, different strategies work for different people, but I thought I’d help you get started by sharing some of my own tips and tricks with you:
- Embrace technology
There’s a reason we’re all addicted to this wonderful device called a smartphone – their possibilities are endless! Language learning is no exception: with all the wonderful grammar and vocabulary apps, online dictionaries and games that are out there, learning a new language is literally at your fingertips. Try apps like Memrise, Duolinguo or FluentU to get you started (check out our blog post from two weeks ago for more ideas!).
- Make the most of ‘empty time’
Of course, once you’ve downloaded all those apps, you need to find time to actually USE them. Now, I know everyone is chronically short on time, but be honest…how many times a day do you have 5 minutes of ‘dead time’, where you’re just scrolling through your Facebook feed, staring into space on the train or lying on the couch? Why not use those 5-minute chunks to learn a few new words?? You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done in a few minutes!
- Set ‘micro-goals’
Decide at the start of the week what you want to achieve that week – and be realistic! Breaking your macro goal (”learning English”) down into smaller steps (”I want to learn 10 new words this week”) will make the task at hand seem less daunting and will give you a clear focus for the week as well as a sense of achievement at the end of it! Plan in great detail, i.e. decide what you’re going to do but also on what day, how much time you’ll need etc.
To finish off, let me give you an example of small things you could include in your daily routine:
- 10 minutes of vocabulary practice with DuoLingo/Memrise or other vocab app
- 10 minutes of reading English news (on the BBC News app, for example)
- 10 minutes of watching your favourite English TV show
- 1 grammar exercise from a self-study textbook
- Watching a TED talk / listening to a podcast
- 15 minutes of journaling in English (simply write down what you did that day)
There, that’s six steps already: one for each day of the week minus a ‘rest day’! As you can see, none of these habits will take up much of your day – 10 to 15 minutes is more than enough to make lasting changes!
Does this still seem like too much? Start with just one of the things from the list, then slowly build your way up from there! No matter how little you do, something is always better than nothing!
As always, I’ll sign off by saying that you can always walk into our office for more help, tips, motivation or whatever else you may need to make your English journey a successful and enjoyable one! ?
arduous anstrengend / mühsam
see sth through etw zu Ende bringen
throw in the towel das Handtuch werfen
chunk Brocken / Stück
to have sth at your fingertips etw zur Hand haben
sense of achievement Erfolgserlebnis