If you have any experience with learning another language, you know that…
…language learning can get boring.
And that’s a big reason why most people never learn a new language.
Boredom equals pain, so people shy away from it.
But you shouldn’t let boredom be an obstacle in your path to fluency.
You can learn how to deal with it.
Try some of the stuff listed below.
First Things First: Is It Boring or Frustrating?
Let’s make a distinction right out of the gate.
Boredom is not the same as frustration.
Boredom occurs when the learning material is too dry or too easy. While frustration usually nags us when something is too difficult.
Your learning resource could be both…
Frustration is easy to deal with.
Just dial down the difficulty level of your learning materials. Or…focus on just getting your time in and not on your results.
That’ll teach frustration a lesson.
And boredom, ooh boredom, well that’s just some people talking. People like me, because…
…that’s what the rest of the post is about.
Let’s get cracking:
1. Face the Pain
If you can manage this, you can have the world at your feet.
And that includes being fluent in another language, or two, or seven…
Sadly, most people can’t face their pain.
Learning a language is a fascinating journey…at times. However, most of the time, especially when you’re a beginner, it’s a dull place to be in.
And that’s perfectly fine. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
If you want to get anywhere in life, you have to pass through these dull places.
Your willingness to do so determines your success.
When we look at successful people, we tend to see the glory and their amazing lives.
But we don’t see the thousands of hours of effort, practice, and soul-crushing boredom they had to get through to be where they are today.
They’ve been paying the price, facing the pain, and turning dirt into gold.
Unfortunately, most of us can’t do this.
We want to avoid pain, get rid of it yesterday.
Ironically, the “reward” for avoiding pain…
…is more pain, regret.
And not only that…
…but you also waste precious energy trying to avoid it. Energy you could spend on language learning instead.
The trick is to face the pain head on.
Yeah, it will intensify for a moment, but then it will dramatically loosen its power on you.
Sometimes, it will subside completely.
Moral of the story?
Get to know it.
How does it feel? Is it really that bad?
It’s not. It’s just a physical sensation you’ve been running from.
A physical sensation that stands between you and achieving anything of worth.
But enough is enough.
It’s time to let go now.
Time to start doing what it takes to realize your dreams.
Keep facing your pain and watch what happens.
2. Use Dashes
Anyone can do something they hate…
…as long as it’s for a short amount of time.
It doesn’t matter how boring it is. If it’s just for a few minutes, it’s doable.
This is what dashes are all about.
Set a timer for eight, or even five minutes and get going.
Let the amount of resistance you feel determine the length of the dash.
Almost puking at the thought of getting your head around some grammar rule? Limit your dash to 5 minutes max.. You’ll be fine.
When time’s up, either take a break, or just keep going if you feel like it.
If it’s a break, make sure it’s a REAL BREAK.
No electronic devices.
3. Imagine Yourself Using the Language
Why do you learn a new language?
To use it!
Using the language proficiently in the real world is the big reward for all your efforts.
Now, some people want the reward before they deserve it.
They start to converse with native speakers long before doing so is not a waste of time anymore.
It’s a bad long-term strategy. And one, if your goal is true fluency and not Tarzan-like tourist speech, you will regret.
While initially you may feel you’re progressing quickly, reality will soon expose your ignorance.
You’ll be left with many FOSSILIZED ERRORS in your speaking and listening skills.
Can’t you correct fossilized errors? Sure you can, but it’s hard because you made a habit out of making them.
In other words: you built a house on a terrible foundation.
…your main motivation…
…the fire in your belly…
…comes from the prospect of using your target language in the real world.
So you’d be a fool not to tap into this motivation.
And the way to do it is NOT by conversing with native speakers when you and your skill set aren’t ready for it.
So how do you access this motivation?
The best way I know of is by using your IMAGINATION.
During every language learning activity, imagine yourself using the language in real life. See yourself in situations in which you speak or listen to the language.
Don’t try too hard.
Don’t force it.
Let it be a faint image or video running in the back of your mind.
That way, the reason why you’re learning a new language is always there. Sometimes vivid, other times nothing more than a thought.
Either way, it’s the fuel that helps you turn your vision (the images you see in your mind’s eye) into reality.
I’ll let you in on a little secret.
I’m not a fan of the gamification offered by most language apps today.
Because it can add to your workload.
It can distract you from what really matters.
And it can trick you into believing you’re getting results when you really are NOT.
However, I DO believe that one day language learning gamification will be amazing. The signs are there.
Virtual reality. Augmented reality. Once they figure out how to best combine it with language learning, it will be something else.
But until then, I won’t care for buying a stupid new hat for a childish avatar. What’s that got to do with learning languages, anyway?!
Still, for some people this childish type of gamification can work.
You see, some folks absolutely hate studying. They got traumatized by their school years and think they can’t do any task that resembles it.
They need their owl and their coins, so they don’t have to face reality.
For them, the current gamification offered by language apps is the way to go. Something is better than nothing.
By the way, gamification doesn’t have to be so childish.
There are other types of gamification, particularly OFFLINE gamification.
For example, you can make a numbered list of six language learning tasks, roll a die, and do the task that comes up.
Or do the same, but with rewards. Make a numbered list of six rewards. Then, after carrying out your language learning activities for the day, roll the die and enjoy the reward that comes up.
Using dashes (see item #2) is a light form of gamification as well.
Really, your imagination is the limit here.
This type of gamification rocks…
…doesn’t add to your workload…
…makes it all a bit more bearable…
…and keeps you going towards fluency.
5. Take Breaks
If you take enough breaks, you will never get tired.
You can keep going all day long.
In my own language learning, I never have sessions that last longer than 30 minutes.
In fact, I now prefer the Pomodoro method.
The Pomodoro method is simple: 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off. After every 4 Pomodoros (25-minute sessions) take a longer break to fully recharge.
Works like a charm.
You can accomplish a lot more without getting bored or burned out.
6. Find Enjoyment in What You Are Doing
When it comes to motivation there are two main types:
- Extrinsic motivation
- Intrinsic motivation
EXTRINSIC motivation refers to external rewards or punishment, like a job’s salary (reward) or doing something to avoid embarrassment (punishment).
And INTRINSIC motivation means you find enjoyment in the very tasks you’re trying to accomplish. The reward is DOING the task because you simply enjoy doing it.
Both types of motivation can work, but intrinsic motivation is thought to be superior.
Because it lasts longer and improves performance.
So the big question is: how can you find enjoyment in language learning?
One way is to find content that interests you.
If you like sports, find sports content in your new language. Prefer politics? I bet there’s plenty of content on that.
If you are at least an intermediate language learner it should be easy to find interesting content online. The Internet is huge.
But even if your learning resource is extremely boring but effective…
…you can still find enjoyment there.
You can bask in the contentment of knowing you are doing stuff that gets results.
You can enjoy being with the pain.
You can enjoy the experience and learn from it.
You can enjoy doing something you don’t like, and get stronger through it.
Lots of “fun” to be found. Just not always in the usual places.
We’re not made to sit still for long periods at a time.
But wait…there’s more:
Negative emotions like boredom and frustration also pent up easier when you’re not moving.
Moving your body will help to process these negative emotions.
Even strolling through your house’s hallway while doing your audio exercises can help.
In fact, it’s one of my favorite strategies for when I’m low on motivation.
I did this a lot when going through the FSI Basic Spanish course.
This course prepares you to use Spanish in the real world like no other.
The only problem?
It can get excruciatingly boring…
So I needed some strategies to cope with the boredom.
One of those was walking around while doing the exercises.
I’d just move a little to take the edge off the boredom. Things get a tad more tolerable when you’re on the move.
So, when you’re bored out of your head…
…and your learning resource is audio based…
…try walking around a little while doing the exercises.
It could make all the difference.
8. Change Your Location
Another strategy to brighten things up is to change your study place every so often.
Here, it’s not about walking around but rather changing the place you study in.
Always studying in the same location is a ticket to boredom town.
And not just that…
Changing your location also improves memory retention.
So, less boredom and better memory.
Easy decision, right?
Never stay put for too long…
9. Conserve Your Dopamine
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps you achieve things.
If you’re low on dopamine, it becomes hard to get anything done.
And yet, we’re wasting our dopamine on things of little importance.
Facebook, twitter, and a million other apps are developed to trigger shots of dopamine in your brain. Same goes for video games…
Each dopamine shot feels like a reward and this makes you come back to those apps, again and again.
You think you’re having a good time but in reality you’re sabotaging your ability to achieve.
If you spend the first hour of your day with your phone, you will find it harder to get stuff done.
You’ll get bored more easily.
Your motivation will be down the drain.
But it’s not just the apps
Cellphone radiation may play a role as well.
Research suggests (1) electromagnetic radiation emitted from mobile phones causes changes in brain levels of:
All important feel-good chemicals.
So, your phone is a big threat to your dreams.
Whatever you want to achieve in life, be it…
…a body like Mario or Jennifer Lopez…
…a million-dollar business…
…or learning another language…
…you need to dominate your phone and not let it dominate you.
You need time away from your phone.
See if you can do your language learning early in the day before you’ve mindlessly wasted away your dopamine.
If your day-to-day life doesn’t allow for that, try the following:
Leave ALL electronic devices alone for an hour before doing your language learning activities.
Get the **** away from them.
This helps to refresh your mind, to focus it.
You’ll come back sharper to your language learning and with more enthusiasm.
Sitting too much changes your life.
For the worse…
When your body doesn’t move, your brain doesn’t either.
Slowly but surely you get lazier. Your spirit gets extinguished.
Why do humans often feel faded when we get older? We don’t move nearly as much as when we were children.
The less you move your body, the more depressed you become.
You also get dumber and remember less.
Language learning gets harder and more boring. Your mood goes down and so does your frustration tolerance.
You cannot expect to happily learn a new language when you don’t move your body.
A good workout brings oxygen and improves blood flow to all parts of your body including your brain.
It rejuvenates your spirit.
It gives you a more positive perspective.
Suddenly, the boring stuff of your new language seems a lot more digestible. You don’t know why you made such a fuss of it.
You even feel you’re sitting more comfortably in your chair.
Exercise wakes you up. It puts your body and brain in the state it’s supposed to be in.
In order to feel good…
…and ready for challenges…
…you must exercise.
As a bonus, you’ll also look better.
So, get exercising and reap the benefits.*
*Ask your doctor if it’s okay for you to start an exercise program.
Boredom is part of learning a new language.
It’s nothing to worry about.
If you never get bored, you’re probably not making any progress.
Still, it’s something you have to learn to deal with if you want to get fluent.
The strategies in this post could help you do just that.