No matter how much you love language learning, there are times when life just gets in the way.
Maybe you're overloaded at work. Maybe you're on vacation, far away from your language books. Maybe you're between jobs, and you need every extra moment to get yourself back on your feet again.
Whatever the reason, you need to stop learning your target language. Not for good, but for long enough that your habits will likely break down, and the Duolingo owl will be knocking down your door.
You need a break from language learning.
If you've never taken a break from language learning before, it sounds easy enough. If you have taken one before, though, you probably know that it's much easier said than done.
Once you stop, it's extremely difficult to get started again.
Good thing for you and I that "extremely difficult" does not mean "impossible".
It is indeed very possible to take a language learning break without giving up a language altogether, so long as you know how to make it happen.
Today, I'd like to teach you how to do that, through sharing five tips that will help you take a break from language learning.
1. Set a "Restart Date"
First things first: if you really intend to restart your language learning efforts after your break has concluded, you need to know exactly when your break will end.
And when I say "exactly when", I mean an exact date—you know, so you can pull out your calendar, find the day in question, and write "Back to French!" all over it in big red marker. Maybe even emblazon it with a sticker or two.
Figuring out the exact date to start again should be easy, at least in theory. If you're going on vacation, simply pick your first day back home. If you're busy with work or school, choose the beginning of next quarter, or next semester.
If your situation is a little more uncertain, then try to figure out a restart condition, rather than an exact restart date.
Conditions like these aren't as compelling as exact dates, but they at least give you a clear indication of when break time will officially be over, and when your language learning will begin anew.
Just follow the formula “I will restart [language] on [date]”, or "I will restart [language] when [condition]", and you'll be well on your way to getting things started once more.
2. Hold Yourself Accountable
Setting a new start date is only the first step to ending your language learning hiatus: the next step is actually getting started again.
If you've ever set a New Year's Resolution, you know that putting a date on a new habit often isn't enough. We all know what should happen once January 1st rolls around, but we lack the discipline to actually do it.
The solution, then, is to not rely on discipline at all. What we'll rely on instead is an accountability system—something external that will compel you to stick to your restart date, no matter what.
Accountability systems come in many forms, including:
Implement one or more of the above systems, and you'll be heavily motivated—or even financially obligated—to resume your language learning on your chosen restart date.
3. Plan Your New Language Learning Routine
Now that you know when you're going to start learning again, you need to start building a clear idea of what your renewed language studies will look like on a day-to-day (or even week-to-week) basis.
You want to avoid a scenario where you get yourself all ramped up to start again, only to fall flat because, quite honestly, you don't know what your learning routine will be.
Even if you're planning on resuming the exact same routine as you had before your break, it's important to take some time to write it down and think it over.
A good way to get a bird's eye view of your routine is to answer the "five W's" — who, what, when, where, and why.
4. Find Something to Look Forward To
Though an accountability system and a set routine can help give you external motivation to start back up, developing internal motivation to go along with it can be beneficial as well. That way, you don't feel like you're forcing yourself to restart a habit that you're not interested in in the first place.
For our purposes, we'll make things simple: reward yourself!
Find a way to equate restarting your language learning with something new, interesting, and/or exciting.
Here are a few different ways you can make that happen:
The above are just a few examples. Your new, interesting, and exciting things can take any form, so long as they fit that description for you, personally.
View any of the above things as a "gift" to yourself; a reward for taking initiative and getting back to your language learning again. Implementing such a reward will make you even more motivated to get back to your studies than you already were!
5. Keep Enjoying the Language and the Culture
The nice thing about taking a break from actual language learning is that you do not need to cut yourself off from the language altogether.
Even if you're too busy to study, you can still find time for things that are related to your target language and culture, but don't actually require any learning in and of themselves.
I'm talking about:
Assuming you already find enjoyment in doing these kinds of activities, then doing them during your break will help maintain your motivation to get back to actually learning the language after your break.
It's not always easy to find the time and space to learn a language every day, even if you've done it before.
There are countless obstacles that can arise suddenly, and make it so your current language routine becomes difficult—or impossible—to maintain.
It's normal in these situations to want to put your studies aside—to take a break until your current circumstances calm down a bit, and you have more time for language learning again.
What's not normal, unfortunately, is actually following through with that plan, and getting back to your learning. More often than not, once you stop, you stop for good.
However, with the five steps I have outlined above, you'll have more than a fighting chance to restart your studies once your break is over, and restart them with style.
Written by Kevin Morehouse
Kevin Morehouse is a language coach and teacher who is on a journey to make the world a more multilingual place. A member of the LucaLampariello.com team since its inception, Kevin's principal role is that of writer, editor, and content developer. He is currently learning Korean, his primary language focus since mid-2017.