Take it easy! (or why it is important to be organized in language learning)

No one said learning would be an easy thing. More than one time, you will try to give up your learning because you forgot the word for “glass”, “learn” or even the simplest correction or feedback from a language partner will hurt you like if you were insulted by him or her.

Bad days do happen when you learn a language. It isn’t a sugarcoated process. Even more when you have responsibilities beyond language learning: work, studies, home, family, loved ones, friends, et al. However, since those days happen, there are several tips to help fight them and gain your motivation quickly.

  1. Focus on quality rather than quantity of knowledge. I know many friends who love learning using flashcards and counting the words they learn per day.  They are quite helpful to memorize if you have a visual memory, but the problem is having to look it up again and again until you internalize them somehow on your mind, thus forgetting them easily. So, why not take the long way? Reinforce your knowledge of vocabulary and grammar with music and videos… even with the help of YouTube or other media content sites :). Don’t try to count your knowledge every day by its quantity as in “oh, I have to learn 100 words every day!”, but allow yourself for “I will do 30-45 minutes of informal language learning every day”. It doesn’t matter if you learn one word or 50, but you would probably learn the many uses of one word or a verb.
  2. Play with your schedule. You have a life which is just as important as your language learning. Several days you will come home tired, exhausted or even feel sick. So, take a cheat day and focus on completely different things or get yourself back together. Cheat days are important to let yourself rest properly and do not feel bad about it. Maybe every 7-14 days would be a good rate for a cheat day, but that depends mainly on your daily obligations.
  3. Combine methods! Language learning must never be a rut. Look for information that might interest you or related to your deep interests that might be more motivating. You don’t have to read and listen to very basic information or boring dialogues from your textbook or the ones you found online. Probably a good music article or news radio piece might help. Do not worry about understanding 100% at first, but have fun and repeat, reread or look the word on your friendly dictionary. You will probably remember that word better by being exposed it in a more regular setting. Change your learning routines constantly and spice them up.
  4.  Do not cram tons of languages in your learning! Sure, I love learning and being acquainted with people who learn multiple languages, but they probably don’t have your exact same schedule and obligations. Know your schedule wisely and do not burn yourself out looking for recognition or just brag about your knowledge. The attention is great, but your health must come first and knowing your limits is important. You can also disappoint yourself easier if you cram a lot of learning in one sitting and of course, with not much instance of practicing and without priorizing your knowledge. Make a mental priority order and organize yourself.

Remember that there is a nice saying in the Spanish speaking world:

Quien mucho abarca poco aprieta

Do not bite off more that you can chew

Do not ever feel pressured by your language learning and habits, and always take it easy! The best thing is knowing yourself how responsible are you and that language learning should be a nice experience overall.

Do you have other pieces of advice when you have a tough moment in language learning? Share them in the comments!

  • Nice post Cristobal! I absolutely agree that quality is everything and also think the Spanish saying is very true. When learning vocabulary the real test: is how much of it can you actually use in speech and in writing, and how much do you understand when other people use it in speech. However, I also think it’s good to have some nice and solid numerical targets 🙂