One thing the beginning language learners don’t account for when starting a new language is that it’s a lifelong pursuit. That’s not to say that you’re going to forever be tied down trying to constantly learning language however it will take regular, consistent effort to gain any type of traction. So with this post I’m basically just going to give you a quick rundown of what you need to be prepare for when beginning to learn a language to fluency.
1. IT TAKES TIME
Make no mistake about it, languages are not learned by studying one hour every other month. If you want to learn the language you need to put in the time. I’m not saying you have to devote your entire life and cut out anything else you want to do. But if you are serious about learning to a decent level you will have to make time.
Could you cut back on those Netflix binges? Could you cut back on the droning of the news? Wake up a little earlier, or go to sleep a little bit later? If you want it, you can make the time.
2. YOU NEED CONSISTENCY
Learning a language takes regular, consistent action. One of the hardest and most frustrating things about learning a language for beginners is how long it takes to remember something. The second most irritating thing is how quickly you can forget.
What you need to understand is when you are just learning, your mind has no real reason to remember the information you’re trying to feed it.
This is where consistency comes in. The more you are exposed to the same things over and over, the longer it’ll take to forget. When you finally stop forgetting those things, then those things become a base. Over time you add more and more to that base from the new things you learn and it becomes more difficult to forget. That base makes it easier to learn more concepts.
3. SPEED = REGULARITY
The more regular you study, the quicker you learn. Studying every day will get you to your goals of learning a language faster than if you only work on it every week. Seems obvious right?
But sadly in most new learners they don’t have a concept of how long this endeavor will actually take and get discouraged when they study every week and it takes a long time.
I’m not here to say that if you study only weekly you can’t ever become good at a language. But what I am suggesting is for learners to be more realistic. If you are studying that infrequently, just understand it will take you longer to get to where you want.
Just understand that going in. If you understand that it’ll be less likely you get discouraged.
4. HABIT > METHOD/COURSE
The habit is more important than how you go about trying to learn. The most important part of language learning is developing a habit of studying. Once you do that everything you do become a lot more automatic.
For that reason, what method or course you happen to use is a lot less important than getting to that point where you don’t think about studying.
You could have a method or course that promises if you do this method exactly right practicing one hour every week that fluency would be guaranteed in a year. But if you never develop a habit, it’s unlikely you will ever get there.
You’ll start out strong, then one week you’ll forget and you’ll try to make it up. You end up constantly going through a cycle of forgetting a week or two then trying to play catch up.You get frustrated then you lose the consistency you need to retain your information. By the end of that year, you’re barely at a better level than you started.
5. WHAT YOU DO BECOMES WHO YOU ARE
After developing the habit it becomes part of you and you won’t have to think much about it. This starts the best period when learning a language. When it doesn’t have to be a thing you have to schedule anymore.
Language learning, at least for me went something like this:
Random Fun Learning -> Task -> Chore -> Habit -> Nothing
At the outset I was filled of all the thoughts of, “it’ll be cool to know another language”, “I’ll be able to watch TV and listen to music in other languages, cool!”. After the newness wore off it became a task I had to knock out each day to reach my goals. It later became a chore that some days I just didn’t want to do. To hell with my goals.
After that was the stage of it becoming a habit. I did it automatically, there wasn’t much complaining but I was still aware that I was working on this language. But the last level I reached when I became a upper intermediate was a level of “…”. Japanese was just something I did during the day. I’d read an article, I’d look up words I didn’t understand, I’d listen to music, I’d watch TV because they’d become things I did anyway.
This is when language learning becomes the most fun and the most difficult.
On one hand you are at a level where you’re not quite fluent, but you can do a lot of stuff in the language. It becomes very easy to just coast or be happy with where you’re at.
But you know what? If that’s what you decide to do, then that’s fine. Because if it reaches that level, it’s doubtful that it’s going anywhere and if you decide to devote more effort to it, then it’ll be there waiting for you.