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Unwrapping Key Ways I Stay Focused on Learning a Language

Updated on March 15, 2015

Learning a language ain't easy but it is completely worth the work!

Motivation to continue studying a language is just as essential as knowing the rules of grammar. Stop feeling motivated and your language study will plummet until you find it a distant memory. If you are truly going to learn a language then it is time to learn key ways to keep up your motivation and enthusiasm on a daily basis.

1. Most Importantly...WHY?

For you, for others, just for the hell of it?

The answer to why plays a key part in your language success. People who have a clear reason why they do something are more likely to succeed. I have seen this when it comes to students and college majors. If you really want to be a doctor then you will sludge through the tough stuff even if it means taking a course more than once and spending 60+ hours on lab projects. You rarely find someone who did pre-med just 'for the hell of it.' The same with learning a language. I learn it because I love the sound, the writing, the culture, and have a dream to visit the country. My Opa, on the other hand, decided to learn Russian because he enjoys learning languages and always wanted to study it.

So why do you want to learn a language? There is no right or wrong answer just be honest and think about it. If you say...'well. I saw this Chinese movie and think the language sounds cool so I'm going to learn it.' Alright there is your reason, however, take a good look at it before going out and buy hundreds of dollars worth of software to learn Chinese. Find out more about the language via the internet, the library, or people who speak it themselves. Don't get discouraged by the work but do understand what you are expecting of yourself. Be realistic. Fluency takes years and can be a very very long journey. The end of the journey may take a while but the final reward is completely worth all the work.

Which language would you love to learn?

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What about me?

Language learning should be fun not painful

German has surrounded me my whole life but instead I took Spanish in high school. I thought I might go in to the health field and Spanish would be far more useful. My first year was great. I loved Spanish, loved the teacher, and had fun learning. The following year(s) grew more miserable. I had a horrible teacher, a new teacher who taught us nothing but grammar (he admitted at the end of the year he should have mixed in some vocab), and lived with a daily dread over yet another language class. Finally after three and a half years I called it quits and took up drawing & sketching, a decision I still believe to be one of my high school bests.

The German language was a completely different story as I come from a family of Germans marrying Germans marrying Germans. My mom is actually from Germany and I have picked up knowledge from our many trips overseas. When I am there I can easily pick up the language but when it came to studying I found myself once again in the same dilemma. Studying was downright painful and I could never last more than a few weeks at a time before giving up. Despite my mother's strong belief in my language abilities I could never make any true headway.

Truthfully I thought I was just doomed to never find a language to love. Then I got sick and lived in my bed for months. I had trouble reading and typing so I began watching Netflix. Unfortunately I prefer a very select type of genre (no romance, horror, etc) and Netflix finally just started giving me anime selections. I was so bored one night I gave it a try to discovered the incredible beauty of the Japanese language, pretty amazing considering it was animated people speaking. In those moments I had to know more. I started watching all of the Japanese foreign films, admired their language, learned more and more about the culture and place known as Japan. Finally I knew what I really wanted and it was to learn Japanese. I fell in love with studying the language and a part of me suddenly realized why my attempts at learning German and Spanish ended before they truly began.

With Japanese I have a purpose. I want to visit Japan, to watch Japanese shows without subs, to learn about their culture, to have conversations with native speakers, and be able to not only read those kanji but write them as well. Yes, I still suck at language grammar but I am motivated to keep struggling through because I love what I am doing.

By the way, the painting in this picture is a watercolor done by me of Yuuko Ichihara from XXXholic. I even owe my style of painting to the work of manga.

2. Meet Fellow Language Lovers

Support is Always Nice

Learning Japanese makes me the odd one in our family and completely alone in my studies (other than the other odd cousin learning it). This typically does not bother me but there are times when it is extremely nice to know other people have questions on the language as well. You would be surprised to realize how often your 'stupid' questions are actually what other people are confused about as well.

Finding people also learning the language really depends on what language you happen to be learning. In college there was an ESL program which met twice a week with Spanish-speakers learning English as a second language. This was a chance for those studying Spanish to interact with native Spanish-speakers and help them learn English. Now if you are studying a language like Japanese in an area where native speakers are few and far between then your best bet is online. I have found some great sites for Japanese and know if you will find the right language site for you as well.

If you have a gmail account then join the language group. They have a wide array of languages and often hold 'chats' where you can practice your skills. If you would like to check it out then click on the link which leads to my blog and you can find your way to the group through there.

3. A Little Practice Every Day

Goes a Very Long Way

Many people give up on learning a language because they simply cannot meet their unrealistic learning expectations. They expect to see fast progress and fluency in a few short months when realistically it takes time. Sometimes it feels like forever and the temptation to give up is extremely tempting. This is when you need to push through the language doldrums by getting in a little study every day and keeping track of your progress.

I do this by keeping my 'Kanji Calender.' For each day I learn five new Kanji, their hiragana or katakana, romaji, and definition. I keep the calender on my fridge so I see it on a daily basis. Seeing my work reminds me I am making progress and keeps me focused on studying. Some days I only get in my five Kanji time on other days I might study grammar for an hour or two and vocabulary.

Learn a Language: One Word a Day - Building vocabulary one day at a time

The word a day program means you get a new word each day in the language chosen. The experts make it easy by giving you not only a definition but also an example sentence of its use.

4. Take Your Language With You via Learn in Your Car - Language Learning for Your Lifestyle

Learning a language from sit-down, academic, textbook-style is simply not logical if you are not learning in a school setting. Most people have barely five minutes of time to sit down and vegetate before needing to get up and get going on some other task. Someone must have understood this very important fact because there are now hundreds of ways you can fit learning a language into a busy day.

One of the greatest is by turning your driving time into language study time. Learn in Your Car is designed to be an audio course which can fully teach you without using the guide book. This means you will not be trying to read a book and drive at the same time. I have used the Japanese course and found it to be wonderful for helping with mastering pronunciation and vocabulary.

5. Keep Language in Sight

and in Mind

My year in Spanish where I learned nothing but grammar left me with little love for the subject. I love learning new vocabulary or practicing pronunciation but I know to complete my study I must focus on grammar as well. When my Genki book seemed to fall flat on grammar clarity I went to the library. Being former e-reader only I had to reacquaint myself with the place but quickly found what I wanted: a book focusing entirely on Japanese grammar. I loved it so much I ordered a copy on for my own use.

One of the best parts is a verb chart which lays out example verbs, stems, and the seven bases. I made a chart for my refrigerator and for my bathroom. The picture is of the one in my bathroom and I look at while doing my make-up and hair. So I learn my grammar during my typical morning routine. Once I am completely satisfied with my knowledge I will switch out the chart for more grammar essentials.

A Practical Guide to the Mastery of Japanese - Japanese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

This book is perfect for all levels of Japanese learners. Use it for accompanying your other language books or as a strong review of Japanese grammar.

Japanese Verbs and Essentials of Grammar
Japanese Verbs and Essentials of Grammar

This books is amazing and the source of the verb chart hanging on the mirror in the picture. I love how easily the book lays out the information and the way it guides instead of simply teaches.


6. Enjoy the Language - Do more than simply learn it

I want to see the July Tanabata festival, be surrounded by blooming sakura blossoms at the height of their season, and take a night walk through the amazing Shinjuku district of Tokyo. Learning Japanese is all a part of what I want and my dream for visiting. So if you are learning a language then enjoy it. Learn about what makes the country special, what sights to see, and what learning to be fluent actually means to you. To help you get in the mood you can take a look at some of my top picks here in favorite foreign films.

Language Story of your own? Comments? Questions? Flames? - I read them all so feel free to share

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    • SimonJay profile image


      4 years ago

      Interesting tips here on learning a language i completely agree its not a easy task whatsoever. Personally id like to learn Italian i agree with your tips for staying focused and when not in the class room environment. Good luck learning Japanese.


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