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How to stay motivated with language learning

How to stay motivated with language learning

Learning a new language feels like embarking on a daunting journey. While there are many reasons people attempt to learn new languages — work, relationships, education, relocation, and hobbies— staying motivated is a common challenge.

Like a real journey, language learners can take numerous paths to reach their final goal. Some paths are more direct, effective, and strategic, while others are long, clumsy, and difficult.

Any route will get you where you want to go, but they require commitment and consistency.

Here’s the thing, though — people give up on languages even when the path is easy and all the best training tools are at their disposal. Meanwhile, others reach their goal on the hard path without any of the same luxuries.

The key to success in language learning lies largely in staying motivated rather than IQ, learning methods, or resources.

In this article, you will learn:

  • How to uncover and harness your personal ‘why’ for learning a language.
  • Effective strategies to spark and sustain interest in your language.
  • Tips for setting realistic expectations to aid progress and motivation.
  • Approaches to confronting and managing stress during your learning journey.
  • The importance and methods of celebrating each small victory in language learning.

As we delve into these strategies, prepare to transform your language learning experience into a more fulfilling and successful endeavor.

1. Find Your “Why”

According to language-learning professionals, personal aspiration is one of the most effective ways for learners to get and stay motivated.

Of course, learners need to set goals and keep them in mind, but they also need to personalize them.

For example, instead of simply aiming to “get the promotion,” we should be breaking down what the promotion will do and the value it will add to our lives.

Everybody wants a promotion, but why do you want it? This will be what drives you.

Your “why” may look something like this:

  • Improved lifestyle
  • Financial liberty and freedom
  • Career advancement
  • Higher access to work with professionals
  • More influence and impact

Before you progress, try concisely finishing the following sentence. Write down your answer and keep it close.

“I am learning (the target language) because_______.”

2. Spark Interest in Your Language

Emotion is a critical component of effective learning.

Being disinterested in a subject often means you’ve not connected the subject with something of personal meaning or significance.

You won’t learn what you don’t want to learn.

Try connecting the new language to something you find interesting:

  • Find music, books, and movies: Consuming media and art in your target language will expose you to the culture and passions behind the language you’re learning. Entertainment is a plus, too!
  • Create a friendship. Find a fluent speaker or someone learning the same language and begin writing and talking to each other.
  • Invest time and money: Pay for a course or tutor above and beyond self-study. When we have skin in the game, we subconsciously care more and commit.

Often, interest in a subject may not happen immediately. But if you have discipline enough to persevere through the beginning language skill milestones, you may naturally find a source of interest.

As they say in French: “l’appétit vient en mangeant!” (The appetite comes with eating).

3. Manage Expectations

As learners, we want to be confident. However, over-zealous and fanatic expectations for ourselves can lead to feeling deflated and disappointed.

This is why we need to set realistic expectations and gauge our goal-setting strategies around them.

Let’s be honest about learning a language. For example:

  • This will take time
  • It will get hard
  • Things will get confusing

When we can embrace these realities, we will realize the importance of discipline, practice, and consistency.

Think of a language like a large Cathedral. Every lesson, skill, vocabulary word, and grammar principle represents a single brick or block in the massive structure. With every concept you learn, you’re laying down another brick.

It’s our responsibility to lay down one brick after the other — whether it’s twice a week, five times a week, or every day — each new concept is building on the last.

The only way we fail is if we stop laying bricks.

4. Confront Stress, Don’t Ignore It

Feeling stressed about learning a new language is natural, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. Letting stress fester under the surface may get us by for a while, but it can be a motivation-killer in the long term.

According to Mari Sild, Ph.D., a Montreal-based psychiatry researcher and consultant, stress and mental anguish put people in the worst possible scenario for learning.

As learners, we need to be more familiar with the concept of shifting. This means adjusting our approach to studying based on our needs and emotions.

Different types of study shifting include:

  • Downshifting
  • Shifting mediums
  • And up-shifting


Intentionally reduce the intensity or pace of learning.

This motivation strategy is about valuing progress over outcomes.

When we can take the time to downshift, we can aim for deeper understanding and skill mastery rather than rapid progression or completion of numerous topics.

When feeling overwhelmed or discouraged with language learning, it can benefit our sense of esteem and personal motivation to revisit skills we’re more comfortable with.

For example, downshifting can look like:

  • Revisiting an earlier module or skill exercise,
  • Picking up a children’s book for quick, easy reading,
  • Or having a simple, successful conversation with someone.

Getting that much-needed sense of victory or accomplishment can help restore morale when we’ve been depleted.

Shifting Mediums

Vary your activities to keep your interest level up.

If studying from a course or a book feels like hitting a wall, there is an opportunity to find a fresh perspective by changing how we interact with our target language.

Mix things up by listening to a podcast, music, audiobooks, or the news in the language you are studying. Instead of simply consuming information, put skills into practice by writing a letter or note using your language skills.


Intentionally increase the intensity, complexity, or pace of learning activities.

Having to study material that is under your current skill level can be frustrating.

Learners who feel bogged down in under-engaging and time-consuming lessons are just as much at risk of motivation loss as those who feel overwhelmed.

If this is the case, consider taking things up a pace to challenge yourself.

  • Double up on required training to advance to your current level quickly,
  • Explore more advanced material,
  • Try applying more complex language skills in a conversation or real-world scenario.

If you have a tutor, bring this feeling to their attention. They may be able to evaluate your progress and capabilities and put you on a different path.

5. Celebrate Small Victories

This motivation strategy involves recognizing and appreciating incremental successes along your language learning journey, not just the final achievement.

Having the diligence to recognize progress reinforces self-belief and confidence. Having a community or social support around you to acknowledge these small victories also helps.

If you’ve set short-term goals in language learning, identifying these small victories is much easier.

Try celebrating when you can understand a full conversation in a new language or when you correctly use a complex grammatical structure in conversation.

For example:

  • Reward yourself with a brain break or special treat,
  • Share your victory on social media or tell a family member,
  • Verbally acknowledge the victory when you earn it,
  • Check off the goal in a notebook or billboard.

Celebrating progress also just makes learning more fun. And when we’re having fun, we are in the best mental state to learn more.

LRDG Learners Stay Motivated and Achieve Real Results

As discussed above, consistently motivated learners will achieve results regardless of what resources are at their disposal. However, choosing the right learning platform can significantly influence your journey’s success.

For Canadian public service workers aiming for proficiency in their second language, especially for the Second Language Evaluation (SLE), LRDG offers a unique approach to language learning that blends its learner-friendly online portal with live tutoring and success management.

Here’s how LRDG learners have strategic advantages:

Personal Relationship with Tutors: LRDG’s tutors act as cheerleaders, offering personalized feedback and tailoring the learning experience to individual interests. This personal connection motivates learners and ensures someone is invested in their success alongside them.

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Practical and Gradual Learning: Learners benefit significantly from LRDG’s focus on practical goals and learning applications. Information is presented gradually, building on existing knowledge, making the learning process more relatable and effective.

Responsive Communication Partners: The platform emphasizes language acquisition through responsive communication, modelling, and varied communication opportunities. This approach ensures learners are well-equipped for real-world language use.

Comprehensive Support System: Beyond individual tutoring, LRDG provides team support, including pedagogical advisors and account managers, along with community support through online forums. This holistic support structure ensures learners have all the resources they need for success.

Proven Success Record: LRDG boasts a remarkable track record with over 50,000 learners in the past 20 years and a 90% success rate in tests.

Incorporating LRDG into your language learning journey, especially if you’re preparing for the SLE, can greatly enhance your chances of success. With its personalized approach, proven methods, and supportive community, LRDG stands out as a powerful tool for achieving language proficiency.

Book a call today to become a learner.