Written by Yuri Karabatov. Drop me a line on Twitter.
Language learning can be fun most of the time, but it’s still a tedious process, requiring months and years of our lives.
It takes burning motivation and unyielding willpower to spend all that time polishing one skill: understanding a foreign language.
Sadly, a lot of people miss on constant motivation, and even more on willpower — including me, and probably you, too.
How to make up for those drawbacks?
1. Track your everyday progress
Make a list where you’ll mark language-related things to do every single day: listen to 1 chapter of an audiobook, work through 2 Thomas’s tracks and so on.
Make it a part of your routine to check this list every day and scrupulously mark what you have done and what you haven’t. By the way, it’s a great reminder: sometimes you just totally forget about that Thomas course!
I’ve reflected on this system in detail in the post “Take action!”, see it for more on that.
2. Never skip two days in a row
Our memory plays tricks on us all the time; twice the amount if we do something every day. That’s why you don’t remember switching the iron off before going out: you do it every day, so you just don’t take notice.
If you don’t even remember doing (or not doing) something 20 minutes ago, how can you possibly say if you did it the day before, or the day before that? Impossible!
When you skip a day of foreign language studies, it’s OK: nobody can be 100% committed, we have a life to live.
Skipping a second day should be punishable by [insert something dreadful of your choice here]. Because of memory playing tricks on us we can’t be sure if we’ve studied the day before or not; and the day before that as well.
Each skipped day adds reasons why you’re doing fine: it’s just one more day; I’ll have time on weekend; it’s half a year before the exam — the list is endless.
The more days you skip, the more guilty you feel, and the less likely you’re to start again. J from 52 Languages, 52 Weeks has written a great post on restarting language learning: “Reboot! How to Restart Your Language Learning after Slacking Off” (I’ve linked to it in last week’s Weekend Links). Be sure to read this extremely detailed post if you’re in such situation!
What I say is: attack is the best defense. Don’t skip two days in a row in the first place! That’s why we need a tracking system to check in with it every day: it won’t let us slip.
By doing something every day, no matter how small, you build a foundation to a great success. By learning, say, a mere 3 words a day, you’ll know a solid 1000 of words a year later, which is more than adequate for having conversations in your target language.
One more aspect of this is that you’re building up momentum. Habits, they say, are made in 28 days, so approximately after a month of doing something every day, you won’t need a reminder anymore, it will become a habit instead.
Remember: today is the only day you have, do everything you can do to reach your goals today, not tomorrow.
I know it’s hard to work persistently every day, so I’ve presented you with a system to facilitate this work (Step 1).
Step 2 is the single rule of this system: be sure to put an X every day beside competed tasks, and you can’t help but succeed.
Besides, who doesn’t like a neatly completed chart?
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