Stories and Science for Better Foreign Language Learning

Habitual Learning: The Key to Foreign Language Acquisition

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It’s impossible to learn a foreign language unless you are able to maintain some level of motivation to learn over a certain period. Unfortunately we lose motivation from time to time.

Even better than using the up’s and down’s of motivation to drive your language learning, the end goal should be to build a habit or routine. Create a habit where your studies are just something you do daily like brushing your teeth, having lunch or getting dressed in the morning.

While we are big fans of using short language learning sprints to attack foreign language acquisition, these “language hacks” won’t work unless you stick to it. You gotta hit the “gym” everyday. You gotta do your rep’s to strengthen your memories. You gotta consume the best materials to expose yourself to the most important stuff you want to learn. You gotta get good sleep too.

Ideally you should aim to study everyday or at least every few days. On Day 1, you start building a chain and you should aim to keep building that learning chain with each additional day. Eventually that chain of days spent studying your new foreign language will get so long that you’ll have a pang of regret if you miss or nearly miss a day of study.

Frankly, once you get going, you won’t want to break that chain so you’ll keep studying.

Even if you do miss a day (or a few!) of study, which inevitably does happen, just get back at it and keep studying each and every day. Language learning is a massive endeavor (imagine climbing a mountain). Language learning is about persistence. The only way to get to the top is to take a few more steps and then persist through life’s fatigue and setbacks and persist to take just a few more steps.

Obvious the more time you study the better but even a few minutes every single day will help you to achieve your learning goals. A well-maintained routine is your best bet towards successful language learning.

I’m a fan of tracking if I do my daily routines. You can use a simple paper calendar (aka the “Seinfeld Method”) or use one of the various apps like Lift. Personally, I use a site called “AskMeEveryDay” to send me a daily email or SMS where I respond with Y if I did my studies. Each week it’s great to see my streak lengthen.

Get up each and everyday and do your language studies. Not only will you be closer to your goal, your future self will appreciate it.

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