Language Questions: Learning on Your Own

Popular Language Questions

How to get started?

I think this step is the hardest. Sometimes if you’ve been thinking about it for too long dreaming of the day when you can finally have a conversation in French/Russian/etc, it’s hard to turn that nimbus-like idea and turn it into action. So my one piece of advice is: just do something… anything!

Choose one little thing to do and do that for 20 days in a row. Then after the 20 days, either change it to something else or just add one more action on top of that. You could make a list of 10 new words everyday, listen to one song in the language while reading the lyrics and look up words from there, watch a short 5 min YouTube video (either an instructional language video or an entertaining one in the language). Find what first drew you to the language and turn it into an action!

The great thing is that you have a lot options and the bad thing is that you have a lot of options. That’s why I really recommend to choose that one small thing and not even thinking about anything else for 20 days. At this stage, the focus isn’t the language itself but rather the habit of studying the language. That’s your first focus and once you have that down, you can now move onto the language.

How to stay motivated?

There are many ways to deal with this and one of the first steps is something we just covered: making it a habit. Every day, I get up, have breakfast, drink coffee, go to the gym, go to work. Am I motivated to do those things all day? Hecks nah. But, at this point, it’s such a part of my daily routine that my mind/body doesn’t even question whether I’m going to do it or not. I just go. Yes, I might take it easy some days.. Just a 30 minute walk or a granola bar for breakfast instead of cooking. But I still do something. I don’t skip my daily routine. Habits are powerful and will get you very far in your learning.

If you’re an organized person then maybe you need a plan. Maybe it’s just too hard to answer the question “What will I learn today?” every single day. I can relate (tho I’m def not organized). I would suggest for you, if you already don’t have a language book at home (no matter what language), to go to a bookstore, find one that catches your fancy, and flip through it to see the themes they include and the order in which they progress. Usually, it will go something like Self (name, origin, personality, etc), Family, School/Work, Hobbies, Vacation, etc. Choose the topics that interest you and skip the ones that bore you. Make a list out of them and any resources you find on the topic (podcast, songs, articles, vocab, infographics, etc). Choose to focus on each topic for 2,3,4 weeks, whatever works for you, and then move on. I’d say to also keep the list of resources so you can have mini review days every 2 months or so or on days where you just feel like doing something else and not sticking to the set agenda.

What to do when there’s no progress?

You’ve hit a plateau when it comes to progress. So, stop thinking about the progress. Put your attention on something else.

Think about the people. Have you found someone to practice the language with? Someone to have a conversation with? Someone to enjoy some time with? Find them. Find the fun. Find the joy in what you’re doing!

If you absolutely can’t find someone then make it silly or share what you’ve learned. Start vlogs of yourself using the language having a conversation with the crazy world of Internet. Or, something I’ve enjoyed, is to use InstaStories or Snapchat. Go on there, talk to your phone, have a silly conversation in the language, and have some fun. You’re not in school. You don’t have to sit at your table for 30 minutes to get your lesson done.

Sometimes hitting a plateau in your progress just means you’ve hit a plateau on your creativity. Get silly, get crazy.

So you think you can’t learn a language?

What is learning? How can you measure it? Questions I’m still waiting to get a good answer on.

If you’re doubting whether or not you can learn a language or not, then you’re still thinking you’re in a traditional school setting with a teacher looking over your shoulder. You’re still thinking that someone is going to hand you a piece of paper with an F on it devaluing everything that you’ve done up to that point.

This is your journey. You get to choose how it turns out. You get to decide when you’re learning or not and how you’re doing that. You get to be good at whatever you’re doing because it’s your choice!

Besides, who says we have to be good at something to do it?

When I was younger, I did both cross country and swimming. Competitively, I should have stuck to cross country. When it came to enjoying what I was doing, no one could take me out of the pool. So I kept swimming and swimming. I went to meets, got last place, and still looked forward to going to practice every single day.

I found the fun and I found the joy. That’s all that matters.

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