Have you ever tried to learn a new language only to give up after a few weeks?
You know how it feels, right? The disappointment in yourself. The feeling that you failed; that you don’t have the talent or discipline to learn a new language.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You too, can learn a new language.
You do have the talent; you do have the discipline.
It’s just that you haven’t yet shaped your circumstances so that they are favorable to your success. And it starts with actually choosing the right language to learn.
Yes, one of the main reasons you failed is that you picked the wrong language!
Maybe you chose to study Portuguese because it always sounded so beautiful to you. It wasn’t actually necessary for you to learn this language, but you fell in love with its sound.
You started out hopeful and on a high. But slowly the study became harder and harder until you gave up altogether. You couldn’t see the need to study anymore. You asked yourself:
Do I even really need to speak this language?
And that was the end of it.
A Common Place
Almost anyone who’s ever studied a language has been there. I know I have. Multiple times, actually. Always thinking that I simply didn’t have the self-control to succeed.
If I knew then what I know now, it would have been a completely different story. I would have finished my study on the first attempt. And it would have given me the confidence to learn more languages straight away.
The choice of which language to study is actually one of the most crucial factors of language study.
If you keep choosing wrong, you’re likely to experience the above scenario again and again. On the other hand, choose the right one and you’ll dramatically increase your chances to keep studying until you’re able to speak the language well.
And with that, a new world will open up for you.
Studying a language is hard work — for a long time. Then, if you’re not living in a place where you’re automatically exposed to the language, you’ll need to make an effort to maintain it as well.
The trick to choosing the right language is to choose one that you have a motive to learn for.
‘Liking’ a language is not enough. In fact, it doesn’t have much importance at all. You can like it all you want, but that alone won’t keep you studying.
Self-motivation isn’t the way to go either. The motivation has to be real. Stirring up excitement in yourself or making yourself feel-like-studying doesn’t work long-time. It actually has a boomerang effect.
You may fool yourself for a while. But you will come down from that artificial high — and you will come down hard. Don’t fall for it. It’s short-term thinking.
You need to have a true motive for learning the language, or you’ll likely give up. A motive that comes from an event.
It is true that if you want to become a polyglot you’ll need to have more motivation coming from inside you, but that type of motivation is difficult to acquire.
Especially if you’re just starting out, or you have failed before, you need a motive that simply makes you have to learn the language. A motive that gives you no choice but to study hard.
A somewhat negative motive seems to work best. We want something, or need to do something, because it could help us to get rid of an anxiety we have. If the anxiety isn’t great enough, we’re unlikely to achieve a difficult goal.
Let me give you some examples of great event-driven motives.
Surviving a Foreign Country
Some of the best event-driven motives are the ones that make you feel terrified. One of the most spectacular ways to accomplish this is by planning a trip to a country where your new language is spoken.
But there are a few essentials to make this trip a success:
- You should go alone
- You should avoid hanging out with other foreigners
- You must start your study way before leaving date — you can’t start studying soon enough
- You should take classes while you are there
Fail to do any of these four requirements, and language-wise the trip won’t be worthwhile.
The best way is to arrange yourself a homestay — living with a local family that doesn’t speak your native tongue. This will give you the need to study hard beforehand, or you simply won’t be able to communicate with them when you’re there.
You simply have to study to survive!
Dictionary of Flesh and Bones
Another good way to motivate yourself to study, is to score yourself a boy or girlfriend who — at the most — only speaks a few words of your native language. If you want to make the relationship work, you’ll have to study your socks off.
You’ll just have to forbid your partner to study your native language. Let him or her in peace.
You’re the one who’s going to do all the work!
The Chinese Dream
You and your spouse dream of emigrating to China. And what’s more, the two of you will visit there next year for the first time. To have at least something of a social life, you need to start studying — now!
The company where you work is going places. They’ve just recently entered new markets in Latin America. They need you to be the one who’ll be receiving the Spanish-speaking clients.
Problem is, you don’t speak Spanish. Not a single word apart from… er… amigo.
It’s a simple proposition. Learn Spanish, or lose your job!
Your grandfather recently passed away. He was originally from India. Self-reflection has made you decide to be true to your roots. You’re finally going to study Hindi. You owe it to yourself and your grandpa.
This motive is a bit different but the advantage is that you can easily create it. You simply tell everyone you know that you’re going to learn a new language. You promise them that you will be able to hold basic conversations in three months.
Yeah, I know. You’ve just put a lot of pressure on yourself. But this is what you want — this is a commitment. If in three months time you can’t do what you promised, you’ll lose a whole lot of respect — from a whole lot of people.
As you can see, all the above examples have an anxiety to them — a certain outside pressure that motivates us to study. These are the types of motives we’re looking for.
In Other Words
Even the most lazy and least-talented person can learn a new language if the motive is right. And negative motives work best. They put us in a position where we have no choice but to study. This is what gets results.
If you’ve tried to learn a language before and failed, it’s imperative that you find or create such an event-driven motive.