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Motivation for Language Learning

Motivation is one of the keys to successful language learning.   Maintaining a high level of motivation during a period of language learning is one of the best ways to make the whole process more successful.  As each individual is motivated in different ways, we have to find the right balance of incentives to succeed (or "carrots")  and disincentives to fail (or "sticks"), encouragement, and the right environment in which to learn.

Here are some tips to help you:

  • find a teacher or tutor who is enthusiastic and who can help to motivate you
  • tell your friends and family that your language learning is important to you - if you're lucky they'll give you valuable encouragement 
  • set yourself short, medium and long-term goals to focus your activities, e.g. register for an exam, test yourself regularly
  • remind yourself frequently that you are going to succeed
  • tell your boss/parents that you are learning a language and request some type of reward for increasing your skills (some companies give financial incentives for successful language learning)
  • take responsibility for your own learning
  • study your own language learning and try to understand what tends to motivate and demotivate you
  • select learning materials that are attractive and interesting
  • don't choose materials that are too difficult for you; you need just the right level of challenge
  • make sure that your learning process is enjoyable and stimulating 
  • praise yourself for mastering a piece of work
  • reward yourself for reaching goals and deadlines
  • find a group of students that takes language learning seriously
  • aspire to mastery of the language and culture, to speak the language like a native 
  • keep your expectations high
  • develop positive attitudes to learning, the target language and target community
  • build up your confidence levels by reminding yourself about your successes
  • use the target language at every opportunity.

In addition to these positive actions, you'll need to manage the learning process so that you minimise the effects of demotivating factors and other obstacles.  Some of these (e.g. noisy building work, strikes, power cuts, illness, redundancy, accommodation problems, etc.) will be largely outside your control, but it might help to have some contingency plans. 

In-company language courses sometimes fail due to a combination of factors: decline in initial enthusiasm after the first few months, illness, excessive pressure of work, travel overseas, clashes of lessons with other appointments, lack of support from senior management, irregular attendance from colleagues and/or tutor ...  With careful management these problems can be minimised, and high levels of motivation maintained. There are a host of benefits for those who maintain their motivation, some obvious, some less so.

Dr M I Freeman

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