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Ways to Stay Motivated Learning a Language

When learning a language, staying motivated is more important than any other factor. Loss of motivation causes most learners to quit, even if they love the culture and native media of the language they’re learning.

There are many reasons people lose motivation, and it’s impossible for me to sum them all up. However, there are several ways to stay motivated or to even tackle this problem before starting to learn a foreign language.

In this video I talk about two quick “hacks” to make succeeding in your language learning endeavor a little bit more likely. Now, I know there are many more ways to stay motivated and I’m sure I’ll make a video about it in the future, but I wanted to get these two quick tips out as soon as possible.

Have fun if you want to stay motivated!

Not being motivated enough often comes down to approaching the language the wrong way. Many learners think it’s impossible to dive directly into the native media pool. Oh how mistaken they are!

You don’t need to study a bunch of grammar or go through textbooks first. You can, but it’ll make life a lot more boring. Personally, I get so frustrated by textbooks that I ignore them all together. My advice for you is to use textbooks as a supplement to getting massive input from native media.

Also, be sure to use media you actually enjoy. Not all shows and moves are fun, right? Just because a movie is in Spanish doesn’t make it automatically a good time for you as a Spanish learner. Watch dubbed cartoons like The Simpsons or South Park if you enjoy them in English and already know much of the dialog.

Pick the culture, not the language

Believe it or not, even in this globalized society every country has its own culture and customs. In fact, in some countries and cultures people are trying even harder to preserve their own culture because of globalization.

Matt’s article about why you should pick the culture and not the language has done wonders for me. It’s because I love the German culture that I took up learning German, not because I think the sound of it is pure awesome sauce (which it is).

When you love the culture of a language, you’ll find it easier to use native media that hasn’t been dubbed. It’ll also make it so much more enjoyable when you decide to go to the country where the language is spoken. Many more things will WOW you, and this simple fact will encourage and enable you to do even more language learning.

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A Spanish teacher by trade, Ramses is a true language learning addict. He started Spanish-Only.com and The Language Dojo, and isn't even thinking about quitting language learning; it's in his blood!

18 Comments…

The Linguaphile October 16, 2012 at 9:10 am

I definitely agree. Culture is one of the strongest reasons for me to learn a language. Yes, I’m a linguist, so I have an interest in languages themselves. So if I see interesting things, like crazy morphology or different scripts (I’m a sucker for this one) I get childish excitement.

But, for long-term motivation, culture is the one that will keep making you come back to the language.

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Ramses October 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Linguists are a minority, although from time to time I notice I like grammar as well. And even though I love the German culture, I’m currently using dubbed television (Hollywood productions) to break into the language.

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The Linguaphile October 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Yeah, I agree linguists are the minority and definitely not a prerequisite to love languages or find grammar interesting.

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honeybee October 16, 2012 at 9:44 am

Being able to choose the culture and language is great if you have that latitude — it’s a luxury, really.

But what about those of us who are learning a language because we are in a place that we didn’t necessarily choose. I am not learning Dutch because I have an innate interest in the language or culture — I’m doing it because I happen to be presently living in a Dutch speaking country. It’s not that I hate learning Dutch, but truthfully, if I didn’t have to do it, I would spend my time and energy doing something else.

I hope you will have some strategies and encouragement for people like me — in some ways, we need the motivation hacks more than anyone!

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Ramses October 17, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Wow, good one. I never really thought of that one before. I have an idea though, but need to think more about it before I make a video.

Thanks for the suggestion!

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Andrew October 16, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Agreed, I’ve been harping on the “make it fun” aspect as the most important factor in determining your success in learning a language for a while now, and I also agree that using popular media that you personally will enjoy (movies, books, etc.) is the way to do it.

The second one about culture is interesting, and I never really thought about it that way, though I suspect my method of choosing languages is very similar: I choose them based on where I would like to travel and visit the most. Consequently French, German, and Japanese are very high up on my list. I think this is pretty similar to what you’re doing, because what I’m doing is…well, basically choosing a culture that I’m interested in visiting and interacting in, so it’s pretty similar to your method.

Good video, will tweet.

Cheers,
Andrew

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Brennan October 17, 2012 at 6:03 am

I just wanted to say I think it’s great that you are supplementing your blog with these videos. The thought crossed my mind the other day to ask why you hadn’t yet done so. Lo and behold I saw that you posted a video that very day! I think the videos add a more tangible, human element to The Language Dojo. Looking forward to future blog/vlog entries.

– Brennan

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Ramses October 17, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Thanks πŸ™‚ The reason I didn’t use video before is because 1) I wasn’t really trying hard to improve my blogging skills 2) I didn’t have the equipment 3) Felt uncomfortable in front of a camera. But hey, you have to move out of your comfort zone if you want to become better at something!

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Steven October 18, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Where do you find shows to watch in Spanish?Any recommendations? I’ve been watching some MundoFox but I would like to find some English shows that have been dubbed in Spanish. I know ABC dubs a lot of their shows but I can’t find them anywhere? Any ideas?

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Ramses October 18, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Did you ever search online for “ver series online”? Then you would know sites like Series Yonkis πŸ˜‰

Spaniards and Mexicans dub EVERYTHING.

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Steven October 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Wow that was simple lol. I don’t know why I never though of that. Thanks for the help

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Person October 20, 2012 at 5:26 pm

When are we gonna see a video of Matt and his no-doubt shredded delts?

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Matt October 21, 2012 at 10:28 am

Just pretend this video is in French: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txuWGoZF3ew

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Daniel W October 21, 2012 at 2:22 am

Hey Ramses, I’m curious as to what Spanish series you watch (or watched in the past). I’ve watched a good number of them, but I’d love some more recommendations!

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Amit Schandillia (Always Spanish) October 22, 2012 at 11:48 am

Personally, I find cartoons and comics the most entertaining and light-weight immersion tools as they have probably the most contemporary lingo and they do not stress the non-linguistic areas of your brain as much as heavy reading or serious movies do. At least in the initial phase, I would vote for an overdose of comics and cartoons. Even better if they are originals.

To each one his own. While to some it might be a great idea to watch dubbed versions of shows that they already know and enjoy in their native tongue, personally I have benefitted way more with shows that were originally in Spanish and also from the country whose Spanish I wish to eventually absorb. Why? Because they, being originally from the belly of the beast, are some of the most authentic portrayals of Spanish lifestyle, culture, and colloquialisms. Attempting to acquire a language in isolation from its culture is not your cup of tea if your goal is to become native-like fluent and original in your rendition of Spanish. Most linguistic nuances can only be acquired through a thorough and subtle immersion in the culture that language comes from. I am no authority on learning Spanish so please don’t take my two cents as any professional mandate. Just discussing my standpoint on this subject πŸ™‚

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Ramses October 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm

That first part of your comment really hit home. It’s something I experienced this weekend and about which I’ll make a video later this week.

As for original stuff: Personally I hate telenovelas with all my guts. I can’t help it, it’s just something I don’t want to watch. Ever. Dubbed stuff was great to get into the language for me. I do like Spanish (from Spain) culture, which is exactly the reason I love to watch shows like “Callejeros”, “Buenafuente”, “El Intermedio”, etc.

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Amit Schandillia (Always Spanish) October 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Hahaha…I can understand your dislike for telenovelas πŸ˜€

Honestly, I am myself not a huge fan of those shows because of their predictability and redundancy. However, I thought it might be worth mentioning that there are an unbelievable number of people who like those shows exactly for those very reasons! For them, telenovelas might be an entertaining immersion. Besides, I had to subject myself to those boring shows only because I was more inclined towards Mexican Spanish. Again, like I said, this is a very subjective choice. I chose Latin American Spanish only because I wanted to sound like the majority of native speakers (since more than 50% of native speakers are from that side of the Atlantic!) but I agree that the Spanish from Spain has it’s own charm which can get irresistible for some…like you πŸ™‚

Nevertheless, my idea is to stress more on immersion…utter complete immersion. Regardless of whether it is done through dubbed programs or originals, telenovelas or movies, what matters is that there should be an incessant influx of Spanish every waking moment of your life and there’s no reason why you can’t get fluent like the natives. Telenovelas and original shows worked for me but that doesn’t mean dubbed flicks can’t work for others or the other way around. It’s all a matter of personal interest, accessibility, and taste. Both resources have their merits.

By the way, I wanted to one day talk about a very interesting book in my blog. It’s called ASSIMIL. It’s a series of language-learning book for all languages and the one for Spanish is what helped me a ton with my own Spanish. It’s essentially a practice-intensive approach to subtle Spanish acquisition through hundreds and hundreds of translation exercises with very little, almost non-intrusive dose of grammer just for reference. Just wanted to ask if you or anyone has ever had any experience with this course. Or, has anyone at least heard of this name in their part of the world?

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Goji Pro Supplement February 7, 2016 at 10:09 am

You are so interesting! I don’t suppose I’ve truly read through something like this before.
So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this topic.
Really.. thanks for starting this up. This site is something
that is needed on the internet, someone with a little originality!

Reply

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