Motivation vs Habit In Language Learning

‘If you wanted to run a marathon. Would you train 3-4 hours once or twice a week or would you run 30-60 minutes every day?”

Motivation is a great power that drives you to do great things. It pushes you through difficulties and barriers and gives you just enough energy to achieve your goals. It’s motivation that made you think that you might need to learn a foreign language, whether you need it for your work, travelling, personal relationship or for your own interest. It doesn’t really matter what reasons are lying underneath your motivated spirit.

I often feel that I can get motivated very easily and have enough energy to work on a new project for a day or two, maybe for a week. And then it starts evaporating… I get lazy, or tired or I have a great deal of other urgent stuff going on and I tend to leave my dreams and targets aside.

My newest passion is French. I really love this poetic language and I’ve been trying to learn it for more than two years. I believe everybody knows how it starts: I attended a beginner French course at French Institute, I couldn’t complete it because of many business trips I had in that period. Then I decided to somehow continue my studies with my classmate form the course. And so we used to go to the park and speak French until we didn’t know the pronunciation of one of the words. Then we would switch to our language and usual chit chat about this and that. And then I had a lot of work and lots of different priorities. And as these two years have passed I still don’t speak French. Of course I know much more than 2 years ago. But still, it’s been 24 months!!!

But now I’m serious. And I have a plan. And my plan is called: “Transform your motivation into your habit”. So, ladies and gentlemen, even if being motivated is crucial in language learning (as in any other important activity), forming a habit of learning is much more important even if ir can be painful. Forming a habit means doing the same thing everyday as long as it takes to feel that you don’t have to push yourself to do it anymore. It has to become a part of you and your daily routine.

When you study a language every single day, even if it’s a 15 minute self-study time, in a long run (2-3 months) you will eventually form a habit of doing something about that language everyday without even realizing that you are doing it and learning something new. You can read a story or a piece of news online, you can listen to a song or a radio programme, watch a film, write an email, read a book, do a grammar exercize or learn 5 words and you’ll progress. You’ll become a more confident language user.

Now I’m intensily forming my French learning habit. Everyday I listen to 3 or 4 recordings for as many times as it takes in order to understand at least 80% of what they say. Then I read the transcripts and try to learn new words and expressions. No grammar at this point, I’ll come to that when the habit is formed and I feel a bit stonger to fight all those exceptions 🙂

If you wanted to run a marathon. Would you train 3-4 hours once or twice a week or would you run 30-60 minutes every day? What strategy would you choose? Imagine what level of motivation you would have after exhausting 3 hour training… Would you run the next week as well? And the next next week?

Life is all about moderation and consistency. If you want to achieve great results in whatever activity (language learning as well) all you need is a good action plan, a bit of motivation for a good start and a continuous routine to form and to follow. You have to invest your time and energy every single day in your  new project  – only then you can achieve your goal!


Good luck in forming a habit of learning English!



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