6 Motivation tips for language-learners

4th January 2019

If learning a new language is one of your New Year’s Resolutions, keep reading. This article will explain how to stay motivated and why learning a new language can boost your brain power.

We all know the ‘new year new me’ concept. Whether it’s changing a career, getting fit or learning a new skill, we always start highly motivated and with high expectations. But when things get a little bit more difficult we often struggle to find time, our day-to-day lives get in the way and ultimately our motivations drops

Learning a new language is tough. Scientists say that we are very proficient at learning the grammar of a language up to an age of 18. To be as proficient as a native speaker, we should also ideally start learning a new language no later than at the age of 10. 

Psychologist Joshua Hartshorne, who worked on the study at MIT, published by Cognitive said that:

“We don’t see very much difference between people who start at birth and people who start at 10, but we start seeing a decline after that.”

However, this shouldn’t put you off learning a new language as an adult. Yes, it may take longer to learn, but it’s very much achievable. Furthermore, research published in the Journal of Neurolinguistics suggests that seniors who have been bilingual for years use their brain resources more efficiently and economically than their monolingual counterparts.

Professor Ana Inés Ansaldo, whose laboratory investigates the effects of language processing and aging brain plasticity, says:

“After years of daily practice managing interference between two languages, bilinguals become experts at selecting relevant information and ignoring information that can distract from a task.”

“We have observed that bilingualism has a concrete impact on brain function and that this may have a positive impact on cognitive aging. We now need to study how this function translates to daily life, for example, when concentrating on one source of information instead of another, which is something we have to do every day. And we have yet to discover all the benefits of bilingualism.”

Another benefit of bilingualism is referred to as ‘executive function’ which describes skills that allow you to control, direct and manage your attention, as well as your ability to plan. It also helps you ignore irrelevant information and focus on what’s important.

How to stay motivated?

  1. Make it regular

You should study regularly. If you are learning in a classroom, you are dictated by the class schedule, which is better for some than others. If you opted for online learning, you need to block a time in your diary to work on your language skills. You can decide how intense you want this to be. You can study every day, three times a week or just once a week. Just bear in mind that the amount of effort you put into it is directly proportional to the results you get out.

  • Learn on the go

You can use various apps, such as Duolingo, and study on the bus or tube to work. Mobile apps are a great way to memorise skills you’ve learnt by playing useful memory games. Repetition is key to remembering new words and phrases and apps are a good way to enforce that.

  • Set achievable and practical goals

Let’s be honest, learning a new language is going to take some time, so be realistic when you set your goals. Your goals may be anything from learning 20 new phrases a week, spending 3 hours studying or completing 3 lessons. Once achieved, reward yourself. Buy a new book or go out for dinner. This will give you an extra incentive to achieve them.

  • Watch foreign movies

Had enough of looking at books? Another way to immerse yourself in a language, whilst making it relevant and interesting, is by watching foreign films or listening to music in your target language. You will not only learn pronunciation, but also common sayings and answers.

  • Find a learning partner

Having someone to converse with and practise is very important. Websites like conversationexchange.com or https://www.italki.com/partners give you the chance to find someone who wants to learn your language in exchange for teaching you theirs. This way you get free language practice by exchanging time teaching your native language for time learning a foreign language.

  • Keep it varied

If you are bored of your online course, join a class instead. It will not only encourage interactions and verbal practise, but also help you meet new people and make new friends.

Can’t make the classes? Find a private tutor and get one-to-one tuition.

If you feel that your verbal language needs improvement, book a trip away. Talking to the locals can be difficult to start with but it will pay off in the end.

Learning a new language is beneficial, not matter what age. It will not only help you communicate and stimulate your brain but may also help you get a better job.

References:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027718300994
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0911604416300124
https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-linguistics-011718-011820?journalCode=linguistics
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/speaking-two-languages-may-help-the-aging-brain/2018/12/07/f93489c8-f8b0-11e8-8d64-4e79db33382f_story.html?utm_term=.86601b7b01c2

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