You’ve started learning a new language. How exciting! You downloaded the app and you’ve been taking a test or several every day. Making progress! You’ve used all kinds of extra features like flashcards and translation videos. You’re on a roll!
And then suddenly—screeching halt—you lose all motivation. You open the app, sigh audibly, and exit out of it and go on Instagram instead. You think about how helpful YouTube videos were when you used to watch them regularly and take notes, but you don’t have any desire to watch them at the moment. You remember enjoying studying with flashcards, but you’d rather do anything else right now. Learning Swahili—or whichever language you were learning—feels like something else you’re bound to give up on soon.
Why does this happen? Why do we lose momentum and end up coming to that halt? What causes this loss of motivation?
Setting unrealistic goals
If you read our FAQ, you know that a new language isn’t learned in a day. Or a week. Or a month even. It takes months, and that’s if you study full-time. Let’s say you have a trip to Tanzania planned in two weeks and you just decided to start learning the language yesterday. If you don’t learn the language fluently by the start of your trip, that doesn’t mean you failed miserably or that the language is too hard. It means that you set an unrealistic goal and that you’re disappointed about not reaching something that was impossible to reach in the first place. Give yourself adequate time to familiarize yourself with the language, its alphabet, grammar rules, and pronunciation. Allow yourself the opportunity to learn everything at a comfortable pace and don’t rush the process. Be realistic with what you—or any human, really—can or can’t do. Don’t try to attain the unattainable and beat yourself up about it when it doesn’t work out as planned.
Not defining your purpose
If you set out to do something that requires time, dedication, and hard work—don’t you think you’d need a reason for why you’ve chosen to dedicate your time and effort to something that requires so much work? Imagine pushing a large boulder uphill, then stopping and thinking, “Why am I doing this again?” If you suddenly feel like you have no reason for pushing that boulder uphill, you’ll most likely let go and let it roll back down, feeling foolish for attempting to roll it uphill in the first place for no reason. We don’t want you to feel this way halfway through your language-learning journey—and quit.
Learning a language is hard. You need a really good reason for learning a language if you’re going to attempt it to justify how difficult the journey might get. Define your purpose. What are you hoping to obtain once you master this new language? Your may have one or more of these reasons:
→ Having the sense of accomplishment that you know an additional language that you didn’t know before
→ Making new friends in other countries with whom you can communicate in their native tongue
→ Feeling more like a local rather than a tourist when visiting a country where the language is spoken
→ Growing your business to include potential customers in the country whose language you are learning
In order to be able to commit to something and regularly spend time working toward it, you need to set a goal that becomes your purpose. It will be your reason why you have to finish that test before you go to bed, why you are studying with flashcards, and why you are working so hard. It will remind you why you are pushing yourself to practice the language in public when you’re terrified of sounding foolish. It will be what you focus on when you hit a stumbling block—such as not being able to pronounce something properly—and what will get you over that hump. Make sure you analyze your reason for why you are learning a new language and always remember it—especially when the going gets rough.
Preventing yourself from reaching your full potential
If you have studied diligently for the past three months, and while you know you’re not fluent yet, you feel that you can communicate with someone who speaks that language well enough to be understood—do it! If you know you’re ready but you keep hesitating and postponing it, you’re stunting your own growth. You’re slowing down the learning process when you’re ready to advance further. When you don’t have the opportunity to reach your full potential, you get bored.
Think of any job position where someone is ready to be trusted with more and is waiting on the promotion that they’ve been promised—and it keeps being delayed without a good reason. Eventually that employee would lose interest in such a job. He or she would know they could do better, but they’re not allowed to go beyond where they currently are. Similarly, you know you are ready to purchase the advanced package, but you’re stuck taking the beginner’s tests over and over again. You know that you are able to communicate with that Swahili-speaking tutor, coworker, or acquaintance, but you’re so nervous about it that you choose to keep studying with flashcards in the comfort of your home. Break out of your comfort zone. Go beyond what you’re familiar with. Discover your full potential.
Now that you know what the main reasons for why people lose motivation, you might be wondering...how can you find motivation again? This blog post is full of motivation for tips and tricks on how to jumpstart a faltering sense of motivation so that you can keep making progress in your language-learning journey.