New Year, new me... new language? It seems like this time of year is always about focusing on self-improvement and setting new goals. Choosing to learn a new language– or practice one that's gotten rusty– is a pretty popular New Year's resolution. But how do you actually stick to it past the end of January? Here are some of our expert tips for making language learning a lifelong goal!
Make it a daily habit
The best way to form a new habit is to take some time to do it every day. If practicing a language becomes part of your daily routine, it'll start to feel unconscious, a bit like brushing your teeth. (That is, we hope you brush your teeth every day.) This is also why language learning apps are so popular. Unfortunately, though, while language learning apps are great helping people form habits , they're not as great at allowing people to fully acquire a language.
We think using language learning apps can be a great way to supplement or practice a language– just don't expect that to be your only avenue for language learning. There are so many other great ways to practice, too. We'll get into a few of them soon!
Set specific goals
The most effective way to get motivated to learn a new language? Remind yourself why you're doing it and exactly what you want to achieve. Saying, "I want to learn to speak Portuguese " is super vague. How much Portuguese? Just a few lessons? If that's your only goal, it's hard to stay focused beyond a few weeks. And on the flip side, if you expect to become as fluent as a native speaker within a few weeks, you might even become discouraged and give up early.
More motivating: "I'm going to Brazil for my anniversary this September. I want to learn how to order in restaurants, ask for directions, and understand signs in Portuguese in time for the trip!" Now that's something you can work toward!
It also helps to be specific in planning how you want to aim to achieve those goals: "I want to take two Portuguese lessons per month, practice at least twice a week, and do a special activity like go to a Portuguese language concert or dance class at least twice before our trip!" But just don't beat yourself up too much if you can't always achieve those goals. Every step counts, and nobody is perfect!
Show up for language meet-ups
Like we said, there's one missing component with most language learning apps: real people! The best way to learn a language is to practice actually talking with other people. It will help you improve your speaking skills so much faster than practicing on your own. If you know somebody who speaks your target language– like a family member, friend, colleague, even an in-law– you can set up a standing date to go get coffee together and practice the language, or just make a phone call every month.
But if you don't know anyone who speaks your target language, you don't need to miss out on the fun. Many language learning programs offer virtual or in-person language meet-ups. For example, we're offering an online Spanish language meet-up this January 26 where anyone learning Spanish can join in and practice!
Get clever with your viewing and listening material
A great way to keep your target language stay fresh in your mind is changing up what you watch and listen to in your spare time. Your favorite streaming services likely offer shows and movies in your target languages. For example, someone learning German might watch the show Dark, or someone learning Japanese might watch Spirited Away.
But you can also get creative with settings while still watching your favorite shows. For example, we just pulled up Stranger Things on Netflix and saw that there are five different language options for audio (English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian) and five options for subtitles (English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Spanish, and French). If you're learning one of these languages, you can easily change the audio or captions and absorb your target language while watching your favorite show.
What if you're always on the go? Explore the world of podcasts and audiobooks to listen to on your commute in your target language. There's something for every interest. Only have a few minutes a day? Subscribe to YouTube and TikTok content creators who speak your target language! Anything from beauty bloggers to cooking channels to travel vlogs– it's a great way to sneak a little of your target language into daily life!
Bring others on your journey
Nothing motivates most of us like support from our nearest and dearest. After all, if you're running a race, you want friends running alongside you or cheering you on from the sidelines, right? Invite a friend or partner to take group language classes with you. If they're virtual lessons, you can even use it as an opportunity to reconnect with a loved one who's moved away.
But even if you don't know anyone else who's willing to take the plunge, they can still root for you. Post about your language learning journey on social media! Show off your streak of days of practice in a row! Record short videos of yourself in your target language! Share each new milestone you hit! Your friends and family will provide some much-needed encouragement to keep you going– or may even embarrass you into continuing. After all, if they ask you, "How are the French lessons going?" and you haven't practiced in two months, you might get back into it! It's great to have people supporting you in your endeavors. And who knows? You might even inspire them to pick up a language, too!
What's worked for you in your language learning journey? We'd love to hear about it!