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Block 2: Lack of Motivation


Do you set goals for yourself that you don’t achieve, and then just give up because you think learning English is too difficult? I've heard this sentence said in so many ways, let's see if you can identify with any of the following:



I'm just not good at languages.
I didn't study English in school, so I'll never learn.
I don't have enough time to learn it.
I always forget everything, it's pointless to keep trying.

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? If so, you're not weird, you're just a normal human finding normal difficulties on your language learning journey. You and your brain are perfectly capable of learning English, but these types of negative thoughts often keep us blocked and stuck, and we can't move forward with our learning and we lose all motivation to keep trying. Don't worry, today I'm going to give you some tips to try and replace those negative thoughts with positive ones!

 

Block 2: lack of motivation


When you feel blocked or stuck, like you can't move forward, everything feels impossible. This happens to us in all aspects of our lives, but it's especially frustrating when it happens when we're trying to learn something new. When it comes to learning a language, in this case English, how you handle this particular block is very important. Here are some steps to take to start overcoming this block, whenever it shows up for you.

  1. Take a step back and look at the big picture. Identify why you started learning English in the first place. For professional reasons? For personal reasons? When did you start learning (actively taking your learning into your own hands, not just studying at school)? How have you improved since you began? What new words and expressions have you learned? What subjects can you have an imperfect conversation about? What steps have you taken towards achieving your objective?

  2. Now that you've reflected a bit on where you started and where you are now, ask yourself, "What am I doing right now to move towards my objective?". Are you taking lessons? Are you doing a few hours of self study per week? Are you watching or listening to anything in English? If you answered "yes", organize a weekly plan for these activities so that you have specific times set aside to spend on each of them. If you answered, "no", that's totally fine! All you have to do now is ask yourself what is the one thing that you can commit to starting today. Can you spend 5 minutes a day doing some work on a language learning app like DuoLingo? Can you set aside 1-2 hours per week to do some self study work? Can you afford some private lessons to help you get back on track?

  3. Now that you have a tentative plan, you can set some micro goals for yourself that you will be able to achieve over the next weeks and months. They don't have to be huge goals, rather they should be small goals that you can commit to. Write them down, and every time you achieve one of them, put a little star next to it on your list to show yourself that you CAN do it. Some examples could be:

    1. Listen to 1 song a day in English.

    2. Watch one episode of a series in English per week.

    3. Learn 5 new vocabulary words per week.

    4. Take one English lesson per month.

You see? You don't need to take giant leaps to achieve huge, perhaps unachievable goals. To get your motivation back, all you need to do is commit to some very small micro goals, just to prove to yourself that you are capable of learning, however fast or slow that you want/can.

 

My language learning story, chapter 3


Last week, I shared some of my fears and doubts about my capabilities to learn Spanish after arriving in Spain for university and finding myself "incapable" of speaking Spanish. I stayed in my comfort zone and was terrified to speak because I thought I couldn't communicate. Then I talked about how I started speaking, essentially by having very basic conversations with children in Spanish. At the end of my first year in Spain, I went back to the USA for the summer. I figured that when I got back to Spain in August to start my second year at university, I would have forgotten even the few things that I thought I had learned. But do you know what? When I got back to Spain, after a 2 month break, I felt better about my capabilities than when I had left. I started speaking, imperfectly, in more situations. I started putting myself in situations that were outside of my comfort zone. Inside of my comfort zone, I was listening to Spanish music, reading and watching things in Spanish, and studying hard for my Spanish lessons at school. I was motivated, because I was reaching small goals that I had set for myself, like being able to understand and sing along to a full song in Spanish. Or being able to give a presentation in Spanish at school without just reading my PowerPoint slides. After reaching those small goals, I started setting bigger goals for myself, like being able to carry out a phone call in Spanish, or going to the doctor without someone to help me translate, or even going into a public administration office (they're terrifying in whatever country you live in) and get things done on my own, without someone there to do it for me. When my mom, dad or friends came to visit, I really shined. I realized that I actually did, in fact, speak Spanish. Not perfectly, but enough to give them the tour of Madrid, take them to my favorite bars and restaurants, order everything and have a friendly conversation with the staff, answer their questions about the food, translate menus and signs, you name it, I tried. I started being able to talk to cute boys at parties, and often times, when they asked me where I was from and I respond the USA, they complimented me on my Spanish, saying that I didn't have a strong American accent and that I spoke very well. That was the final push for me. I told myself that I wanted to speak Spanish well enough to be able to "hide my identity". Perhaps the motivation wasn't the right one, but I was a rebellious college student who didn't want to be associated with some of the crazy stereotypes of the Americans. So I did everything I could to immerse myself in the language and culture, and eventually, I managed. I became Clarita, the American "from Cadiz" (my favorite Spanish beach town), and that's where I'll leave you for today.

 

Takeaway


My goals were very different from my classmates and friends, and will be extremely different from yours. What I want you to take away from this piece of my language learning journey is this: you are the only person who can set goals for yourself, and you are the only person who can achieve those goals for yourself. Whatever you set your mind to, be it just learning 1 song in English, or passing the CAE Advanced level Cambridge exam, you can achieve it. All you have to do is start. You start with micro goals, and slowly but surely move on to achieving your macro goals. You will have setbacks, you will have days when you feel like nothing clicks, and you will have days that you feel like throwing in the towel. But if you really want to, you can achieve anything you put your mind to. I know this because I've done it in my language learning process, and in other areas of my life as well. Little by little, baby steps. If you feel like you need some gentle encouragement, or just have some questions on where to start, sign up for a free 15 minute session with me, and I'll help you get your ideas straight. Have a good week, and stay tuned for next week's post!

 

Glossary

  • weird: strange, odd, different

  • to handle [something]: to manage or control something

  • to take a step back: to mentally "move away" from a situation in order to think about it objectively

  • to get back on track: an idiom to say - to restart, to return to the correct "path"

  • to carry out: phrasal verb - to do

  • to shine: in this context - to be good at something

  • you name it: an informal way to say -"whatever you can think of"

  • to take away: in this context - to understand

  • setbacks: a problem that makes progress slow or difficult

  • to throw in the towel: an idiom to say - to give up, to quit



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