The Learning process usually looks like:
- reading books (I don’t care about) in order to improve my reading skills
- Watch TV shows (even if I hate watching TV) in order to improve my listening skills
- write a diary (What happened today? Ah yes, I am writing my diary in order to improve my writing skills) in order to improve my writing skills
- talk to people (I have just met on a language exchange program and to whom I have really nothing to say) in order to improve my speaking skills.
Well, it is not always like that, of course. I do enjoy books and some TV programs, and did meet some nice people on language exchange programs. But the point is, all of this is just the warm-up phase of your adventure with the language (I know… a very long warm-up phase but what are some years of struggle to a lifetime of using the language?).
The best way to lose one’s motivation is to think that you are still not done with the warm-up exercises and that the real game cannot yet starts. But in fact, it should start as soon as possible, it should not stay at the edge of the horizon but be what you walk upon right now.
More concretely, doing this and that to improve your language skill is great but you should also want to improve your language skill to be able to do what you really enjoy in the target language. For example, while reading boring reading comprehension exercises to improve your reading skills you should get a book you really want to read and work through it, even slowly.
In other words, during the learning process the acquisition of the language becomes a goal and everything you can do in that language is a way to achieve it. But the true adventure, the one you should start as soon as possible, is the other way around. What you want in the language is the goal and the language just a way to achieve it.
Each time I have felt discouraged when learning a foreign language is when I had forgotten to see the language for what it was: a tool to be used.
Therefore, if you feel like you have lost your motivation, look for Something you like or want to do in the language you are Learning. It can be this TV show you want to understand, this book you want to read, or even this blog you would like to write. If there is nothing that really interests you in the language (no particular author, singer, drama) why not start a blog on your hobby or passion in that language? For example, you are learning Japanese and you love to travel, why not start a blog in japanese to talk about your travels in japanese? I know it is a real challenge but looking up for vocabulary because you need it to write your post will be much more fun than learning a word because it is in today’s lesson. And you can be sure that you will remember these words way more easily.
Let me illustrate all this with a personal example:
I am not an english lover and there were time when I really disliked learning english.
For years I have satisfied myself with my english level which is simplistic when it comes to writing, embarrassing when it comes to speaking, uncertain when it comes to listening but which allows me to read everything I need in English. So I was making no effort to improve it.
Until I decided to start this site and to do it in English. Obviously, I want to be able to write correctly with no mistakes and (but I know this will take time) I would like to write in good English, make beautiful sentences with rich expressions and complex vocabulary.
To reach this goal, I have started to take notes every time I read and find expressions I don’t know. I search for unknown words and write them down. I make a notebook in which I can go later to search for inspiration. I don’t just focus on the meaning of a text like I did before, I also look at how the author write.
If you have told me, some months ago, to do that in order to improve my writing skills in English, I would have answered: “why on earth should I spend my time on such a boring thing?” and I would never have done it.
The reason why I am doing it today is because I have a real goal, not a language-studying goal. It’s not “do something in order to improve this language skill”, it is “improve this language skill in order to do something”. So today, after years and years of usurpation where English had thought itself to be the ultimate goal (school is the first place where it begins) and I disliked it very much, it finally forfeited its status to be the mere tool it should have always been and I am loving English now and want to be better at it.
Now to go back to this warm-up metaphore. As you can see by yourself, my English is far from being good enough to write a high-quality post. What if I had told myself : “I want to write in English but my English is not perfect. I should first improve my writing skill and when it’s good enough, I will start my blog. Now let’s see… to improve my writing skill, I am going to study those books upon colloquial expressions, phrasal verbs and the lot.” Well, to be honest, I would have started studying like that and given up after 2 weeks. Because it would have served a vague and far away purpose instead of being applicable right at the moment.
Well, to conclude, if you’re lost in the learning process and don’t even know why you force yourself doing all those boring things, remember that language is a tool you should use to have fun and try to find where you can use it, and obviously : use it!