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How to Stay Motivated to Learn a Language – Part 2: Dealing With Plateaus

Hitting plateaus is among the most common and demotivating challenges language learners face. Unfortunately, many become discouraged and postpone their dream of learning a foreign language.

Truthfully, learning a language is a compelling project, something you can feel proud of for a lifetime. But after the first excitement fades, you can lose your internal motivation. How can you be sure you are moving in the right direction? How can you learn if you can’t find the time to study the language regularly? What if you have been on the same level for too long?

This post is part 2 of a 2-article series on how to stay motivated to learn a language. Slow learning periods don’t have to stop you from achieving your language learning goals. Look into what might cause you to hit a plateau and the strategies you can apply to overcome it.

How Language Learners Hit Plateaus

Oxford Languages defines the plateau as “a time of little or no change after a period of growth or progress.” As a language learner, your progress won’t ever be linear. There are phases in which you will be more productive and others in which you might need more time or lack a motivation boost.

Plateaus are periods in which you don’t learn as much or as fast

Thus, you should expect this stage of language learning to recur. However, you must fight back. When you do, you will see how motivation follows your positive action to get it.

You will also become more resilient to face the challenges that might come up later in your learning journey. By doing so, besides learning a new language, you will improve your character and emotional health.

Here are some of the most common causes of plateaus and how to deal with them:

Language Learning Motivation Tips

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When You Feel Lost:

Remember Why You Started Learning a New Language

Everyone has a reason why they started learning a language. Some want to do business or get a job in a foreign country. Others have or are planning on moving or studying abroad. For some students, language learning is a hobby that challenges them to grow. For others, it is a necessity.

So, why have you started learning a foreign language? What is your drive? Thinking back to your initial motivation can help you find the strength you need to carry on learning.

It can also serve as guidance. For example, if you are learning a language for professional reasons, you can focus on themes related to your line of work. If you want to travel to a different country, concentrate on learning how to speak and developing your reading over your writing skills.

Visualize your language learning goals
Visualize your language learning goals

Visualize Your Goals Becoming True

When you’re aiming for a significant goal, such as acquiring a foreign language, life can get in the way. Then, it’s easy to lose sight of your goals and stay motivated. One of the best strategies to get back on track is visualizing yourself accomplishing your goals. Imagine having all the possibilities they bring to your reach.

Imagining your future success can help you regain the motivation you lost. Picture a time when you have already achieved fluency. Imagine what you will speak about. Which topics will you discuss? What activities will you do on your trip? Where and how will you extend your business abroad?

When You Feel Like You’re Out of Time:

Reset Your Priorities and Plan Your Time

Many people struggle with managing their time efficiently. The truth is that daily life is often crazy busy. So, planning is one of the best strategies for staying motivated to learn a language.

Evaluate your agenda and see where you could fit your language learning activities. You can adjust your program or develop more achievable goals if your current schedule doesn’t allow you to reach the objectives you have now.

Develop a Language-learning Routine

Develop a language-learning routine
Develop a language-learning routine

Developing a routine is an excellent solution because it allows you to move from one task to the next effortlessly. You don’t have to think or decide if you will study when you have already set a specific amount of time apart for it.

At the same time, don’t be overly rigid with your routine. That can leave you more exhausted since it adds unnecessary pressure on you. So, be flexible, and do your best to be consistent.

You can do a short learning session when you’re busier and include your target language in different moments of your day. For example, you can listen to music or a podcast when doing the dishes or handling the laundry.

When You Feel Alone:

Join a Language Community

Joining a community helps you feel more integrated and boosts your internal motivation. You are not facing the challenges of learning a language alone because you can see others are going through the same process.

A community also provides a sense of belonging, allowing you to build a bond with the culture and the tongue. Additionally, it makes it easier for you to find a language partner.

Many in-person and online communities focus on helping people learn a language. If you live in a country where natives speak your target language, you can find a community of fellow foreigners.

Sometimes, the State will provide resources and set up study groups or language lessons. Social media channels, like YouTube and Instagram, also house many language-learning communities.

Similarly, you have online forums and platforms for different language learning courses. Students of The Journey, for instance, get access to an insider community where they can follow each other’s progress. Additionally, they can interact through the forum and other course features. 

Join a language-learning community to boost your motivation
Join a language-learning community to boost your motivation

Make Talking to Native People Part of Your Language Learning Schedule

Depending on your job and routine, you might have more or less opportunities to practice your target language. Either way, you must make time to engage with native speakers. You can benefit from language exchanges in person or online.

For example, at Portuguese With Carla, we set up weekly Live Practice Sessions with native speakers. This way, our students can prepare ahead, practice their speaking skills, and get live feedback and tips to improve. 

You can also try to find a native speaker near you and start a conversation. Most people will be happy to help you learn their native language. Even if they have little time to do so, a 15-minute conversation is better for you than not practicing.

Furthermore, if they are studying your native language, you can propose a language exchange. This way, you both learn a new language and have the feedback you need to continue progressing.

Make Friends With People Who Are Also Learning Your Target Language

Meeting other learners allows you to practice your skills while feeling less pressure to deliver a perfect discourse. From writing to speaking, you can share your challenges and discover new ways to overcome them.

Besides, you can uplift each other to reach your language learning goals. Having someone with whom you can speak freely about your experience with language learning is a huge motivation booster. And not facing the difficulties alone fosters your commitment to long-term learning.

These friends can be the people you start learning with that follow along as you continue making progress. Or they could be individuals you meet along the way. Regardless of them having more or less experience than you with language learning, you can support and encourage each other.

When You Feel Bored:

Make Language Learning Fun

Boredom is a major motivation killer. The more tiresome aspects of language learning might lead to frustration. Additionally, not using an engaging approach can make you feel like you lost interest in your target language.

Studies show that one of the best ways to avoid boredom is to invest in fun, engaging, and memorable activities. And there are countless ways to make language learning more fun. For example:

  • Find media you enjoy: Watching movies, discovering a new favorite TV show, and playing games are some examples.
  • Explore the culture: Some people defend that languages are a part of culture. Others affirm they are not a part of it but can’t be separated from it. Regardless of your stand on the subject, exploring the culture of the native speakers of your target language can be exciting. And taking the time to explore the culture behind foreign languages has given many students the drive they need to continue learning.
Make learning a new language fun
  • Plan a trip: positive expectations are excellent motivation boosters. So, start planning a trip to a country where the natives speak your target language. Plan when and how you will go, what you will visit, what you want to eat, and which experiences you want to include.
  • Adapt your hobbies: most people have hobbies. Some like to watch movies or play online games, while others work out, cook, paint, or write. Whatever your hobby, you can adjust it to include something in your new language. 
    Switch the language to learn new vocabulary words and practice grammar. Or listen to music or a podcast in your target language while you are at it.
  • Choose a fun course: if you will use programs to learn languages, then choose the most engaging ones. For example, in The Journey, we provide a gamified experience focused on a story we created and filmed. When you are immersed in it, you feel more motivated to continue.

Mix up Your Resources and Materials

Whenever you feel bored with your language learning routine, invest in variety. Use a language app, find an engaging course, and write a vocabulary notebook.

Find recipes you’ve never made before, make a set of flashcards, or explore language learning blogs. Many language learners feel the positive effect of including new methods in their routines.

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At the base of it all is a sound conviction that languages are better learned instinctively, so the process needs to engaging, varied, and enjoyable. Throughout, we used scientifically proven techniques to help you master pronunciation, phrase construction, oral understanding, grammar, and all the necessary bits to get you to fluency. And still, the whole thing is presented as an adventure. It’s a course like no other, trust us!

When You Feel Stuck:

Respect Your Learning Style

Each person has a method for learning a language, a style that works best for their schedule, strengths, and difficulties. Hence, to keep up with your own goals, you must always pay attention to what is working and what is not.

You can use some of the techniques above to see which methods help keep your motivation up and which leave you discouraged. Besides, evaluate your progress in shorter and longer study sessions. Then, adjust your program according to the results.

This way, you won’t feel like language learning is something you must survive a few times a week. Instead, it will become a positive part of the day you expect with excitement.

Fight Negative Thoughts and Build a Positive Mindset

Anyone who tries to learn languages, sooner or later, gets some kind of negative thoughts. They could direct toward the overall process, a specific part of it, to the course, teacher, or themselves.

These negative thoughts can make you feel helpless about something that should make you happy. So start by identifying them and try to reason with your negative thoughts. Find the logic behind them.

Turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts
Approach negative thoughts about language learning and build a positive mindset

For example, if you haven’t studied grammar in a few weeks, you may say to yourself that you hate it. But it could be the outcome of your avoidance or others’ comments and not a reflection of your true feelings about it.

Then, try to include only 5 minutes of grammar in any study session. You will learn it bit by bit and slowly change your feelings about it when you realize how much your language-learning process depends on it.

Listen to Music in Your Target Language

Music is the one resource you can always have with you, and you won’t likely get tired of it. There is a tune for every moment and a sound for every feeling and occasion. So, when you feel stuck in your language-learning journey, reach for your earplugs.

You can listen to music when doing just about anything. Different lyrics will teach you vocabulary words, pronouns, verbs, and how to conjugate them. You will improve your listening skills and accent by imitating native singers. And you will soon feel better about restarting your studies.

When You Feel Demotivated:

Celebrate Every Success

When the final goal is fluency, you might not feel like every little progress is worth celebrating. But that is not true. You wouldn’t reach your final target without each improvement you make, regardless of how small.

Thus, congratulate yourself whenever you reach one of your language goals, even if it seems insignificant. For example, did you understand a written text? Pat yourself on the back and take a tea break. Did you learn a new vocabulary word and use it correctly? Share your feat with a friend or language partner.

This attitude allows you to see difficulties in language learning as opportunities. You will soon notice how every effort you make is worth it and become more resilient whenever challenges arise.

Sometimes, courses and language-learning platforms allow you to celebrate your accomplishments. In The Journey, you receive badges and on-site currency as you pass each level. Besides, your successes appear in an update section for other students to see.

Celebrate your successes and remind yourself of how far you've come
Celebrate your successes and remind yourself of how far you’ve come

Remind Yourself of What You’ve Already Learned

Learning languages is not a linear process. Each student constructs their own learning journey with varying methods and schedules. The challenges, how and when they appear, and the strategies to overcome them are also different. Hence, whenever you feel demotivated, it’s good to stop for a few moments and reflect on your path so far.

Regular checkups are an incredible way to keep up your language learning motivation. They allow you to look back at how far you have come. Additionally, you can use them to maintain yourself accountable for reaching your language goals.

Enjoy The Learning Process

Yes, you have the goal of acquiring your target language. But improving your language skills does not have to be dreadful. You’re not supposed to survive it. Instead, you’re supposed to enjoy it. 

For that to happen, you should try to remove as much friction as possible from your study methods and habits. Try pairing a new language learning practice with a habit you already have. 

For instance, if you usually read before bed, pick up a book in your target language. Moreover, don’t force yourself to study for long periods when you’re exhausted. Be flexible.

Additionally, there are many ways to improve your language-learning experience. You’ve discovered about doing more fun activities and celebrating your successes. But sharing your progress with your friends, regardless of whether they are learning the same language, can also help you.

Summing up on How to Stay Motivated to Learn a Language

Most intermediate and advanced students meet plateaus. These are periods in which they lack language learning motivation to continue their journeys to fluency. But whether you feel lost, out of time, alone, bored, stuck, or demotivated, you now know the strategies you can use to get your drive back.

You should celebrate your successes, meet fellow learners, and find a native speaker to practice with. Vary your language learning routine and make it fun and exciting! Besides, remember how far you have come and update your schedule when needed.

Which of these issues have you encountered? What was your latest difficulty while learning a new language? And how did you handle it? Let us know in the comments below so we can face the challenges of language learning together!

These tips wrap up part 2 of our series on how to stay motivated to learn a language. Read the first article: How to Stay Motivated – Part 1: Common Difficulties in Learning Language Paths.

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