From time to time on your language learning journey, it makes sense to check how much ground you’ve covered so far and whether you’re still on track. Are you making the progress you hoped for? Are you still motivated or beginning to flag?
This article provides six questions to help you take stock. And it also offers some ideas for adjusting your plans to make them more motivating and effective.
1 Are you still absolutely clear about what you want to achieve and why?
Ask yourself this fundamental question first, because if you’re going to invest valuable time and energy on a goal, it’s essential that you know exactly what it is and why you want to achieve it. I’m sure this was all completely clear when you started off on your project, but it may no longer be. So now’s the time to refresh your memory and also make sure your goals are still attractive!
Ideally, you listed your goals and the reasons behind them before starting. If you didn’t, do it now. Then look at them really carefully. Try to visualize the difference there will be when you achieve your aims. For example, if you want to widen your vocabulary so that you can play a fuller role in meetings, imagine yourself actually sitting in the room where these meetings normally take place. What would it feel like to be able to make your voice heard and find the words you need quickly and effortlessly?
Knowing exactly why you’re putting in all this work, should act as a powerful motivator to keep going.
2 Is working on your English still a priority?
Sometimes life gets in the way or circumstances simply change. If you can’t or don’t want to devote the time needed to see a real improvement, it may be best to put your plans on hold and come back to them later when you can focus. If you carry on half-heartedly or can only invest very little time, you’re likely to feel either frustrated that you’re not making any real progress or guilty about not doing enough.
Before learning English becomes associated with negative feelings, it’s better to make a clean break and start afresh later.
3 Have you bitten off more than you can chew?
What could be more frustrating than repeatedly failing to reach the targets you’ve set yourself? If you’re putting in as many hours as you realistically can and still not achieving your goals, chances are you’ve set the bar too high. Based on the experiences you’ve gathered, review your targets and adjust them. Even if this means halving the number of new items of vocabulary you want to learn, for example.
Obviously, it’ll take longer to see the improvements your aiming for, but you’ll get there eventually and it’s much much better than giving up completely.
4 Are you fed up of doing it all on your own?
Any project is tough without support. Being responsible for every aspect of your language learning project – for the organization, for staying on track and motivated, for praising and rewarding yourself – is really hard. And it’s a lonely business if there’s no one to turn to who can answer your questions, dispel your doubts. It’s only naturally to feel fed up with that.
So get support. You could look for an accountability partner who you speak to at regular intervals to report on your progress and discuss your frustrations. Or schedule a monthly lesson with a trainer who can clarify any questions that have cropped up, identify which areas need more work, give you feedback and tips for the next steps.
This way you have something to work towards and a clearer structure for your learning efforts.
5 Do you just never get round to it?
Been there, done that 😉 Sometimes the days and weeks just fly by. Everything with a deadline or fixed appointment gets done. But sadly the other things – the things that are important to me, but not urgent – they’re pushed to one side. And slowly but surely they’re forgotten. Does that sound familiar?
Make appointments for working towards your goal. Reserve time in your diary, set a reminder on your phone. And take these appointments seriously. If you want to spend 30 minutes working on your English, set a time and be strict with yourself. No distractions, no breaking off early.
By the way, if you find starting the most difficult part, try this 2-minute ritual. It works for me.
6 Are you beginning to get bored?
Your language learning activities may well have lost some of their shine over the weeks. What started off as new and exciting, may now have become a bit routine and boring. It’s not really surprising that going through your vocabulary cards for the umpteenth time can become a chore. So find ways of increasing the fun factor. Try out apps such as Quizlet where you can enter the words you want learn and then do different activities to practise them. Or, if you’re aiming to improve your listening skills, look for new podcasts on subjects you’re really interested in.
As they say, a change is as good as a rest, so this is time well spent.
Language learning is a long-term project, asking yourself these questions from time to time should help you to stay motivated and on track.