“Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible” - Francis of Assisi
What is the secret to language learning?
LEARN EVERY DAY
If you want to know how to learn any language then do it every single day, no matter for how long, and it will add up to significant numbers over time.
It's called the law of accumulation at work.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. With work, family, and other responsibilities, life can often get in the way of language learning.
In this article, I will share a few short tips to help you learn any language, and do it every single day.
1. Plan Beforehand
I love running. I love how it makes me feel, and I love that it makes me healthier the more I do it.
What I don't love, however, is waking up early to go running.
To be honest, I had such an aversion to waking up early that I ran very inconsistently for years.
One day, however, a friend gave me a key piece of advice that solved this problem once and for all:
He said that I should streamline my process, so that running was the result of a few simple choices, instead of many difficult ones.
According to this friend, I never went running because running meant expending effort. I'd have to wake up, avoid hitting the snooze button, find my running shoes and clothes, get dressed, and then just maybe actually get out the door.
Here's what he recommended:
- 1Go to sleep with my running clothes on
- 2Keep my running shoes at the foot of my bed.
With these two changes, the likelihood of going for a run every morning increased dramatically. When I woke up, I had all of my running necessities close at hand, so it was extremely easy to just get up, put my shoes on, and go for a run.
What does this have to do with language learning?
Simply put, you won't learn a language every day if it takes a lot of willpower to do it. If you need to carve time out of your schedule, dig up your books, find all of your notes, and go somewhere out of the way to learn, you probably won't do it every often.
So make things simple.
Plan your learning schedule the week or the night beforehand. Keep all of your resources in a central location, so that they are easily within reach whenever you have learning time.
Organize your life so that you can't avoid making contact with your target language every single day.
2. Learn When You Are Fresh and Willing
Has anyone ever asked you if you are a morning person?
What about a night owl?
Whatever the case, those common questions reveal something important about us as human beings—that we're not all fresh and energetic at the same times.
Hopefully, by this time in your life, you have a clear idea of when you have the most energy. If you don't, it's worth spending a little time figuring it out.
Because learning takes energy, just like exercising does.
In the last section, I discussed how I scheduled jogging for the early mornings. I did this because I know that I have the most energy at that time.
To get the most out of your language learning, you need to do something similar. You need to schedule your learning sessions around your high-energy periods.
If you know you're typically dead tired right after work, that's not a time to learn. If, by contrast, you catch a second-wind later in the evening, perhaps that's a more appropriate learning time.
Personally, I always feel focused and energized right after my morning run, so that's often when I'll sit down and study some Greek, or Hungarian. I also know that my energy levels rebound in the early evening, so if I can't get learning done in the morning, I've always got a second occasion then.
3. Start with a Countdown
Of course, if you don't have any desire to learn, no amount of planning and energy-management is going to make it happen.
Managing this desire—this motivation—is the last key to learning a language every day.
The modern conception of motivation seems to follow the law of cause and effect; motivation comes first, and then action comes second.
In all my years of learning, however, I've found this to be backwards. Normally, I've found that taking action creates the motivation to learn, and not the other way around.
When I act first, I see that I'm moving towards my goals. This inspires me, and gives me the motivation to take more action. Action creates motivation, which creates action. And so on and so forth, ad infinitum.
To learn a language every day, you need to train yourself to see motivation in this way—as something that is a consequence of action, and not the cause of it.
The simplest way to do this is through a five-second countdown.
Whenever you find yourself lacking the motivation to start a language learning session (or anything important, really), count down from five to one.
And then just start!
It might seem too simple, but I've found it to be a very effective method for taking action. And of course, once I take action, I have plenty of motivation to keep going.
Your Best Way to Learn a Language
There you have it!
With these three simple tips, you now know how to learn any language on a daily basis.
Reluctant to get started?
Then try tip three right away!
Count down from five to one, and get started planning your language learning for the week. Figure out when you usually have the most energy, and decide what kinds of learning activities you will be doing over the next seven days.