I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation. Motivation is one of the best indicators of whether a person will learn a language successfully. So as both a language learner and someone interested in helping others learn languages (specifically on Lingomi, my website for practicing Chinese.), it’s important to understand what motivates people.
Measured success motivates people, and in languages, there are two real ways to measure success, through your achievements (e.g. awards and other recognition) and through your progress (e.g. improving your score the second time you take a test). Of the two, progress is the real key to motivation.
When I first started learning Chinese, progress came easy. Since I didn’t know anything, every word, phrase or character was a great leap in my knowledge. As I reached an intermediate level, that feeling of progress slowed. As an advanced learner progress feels like it’s stopped completely. I still learn new words and phrases, but day to day, I don’t feel like my Chinese has improved.
Perception and Reality
There’s a disconnect between the progress we feel and the actual progress we make. Introductory Chinese students learn actually learn very little, but it feels like a lot. Whereas intermediate students learn much more, but it progress feels slower. When you feel like you’re making progress, it’s easy to get motivated. Unfortunately, when that feeling doesn’t continue, it’s just as easy to get demotivated.
Progress is the Key
The key to motivation is progress. If you want more motivation, try some of the following:
- Break up large tasks into smaller pieces
- Look at the small picture. Learning 30 new words( or 50, or 10) in a day is progress. Pat yourself on the back.
- Use your goals as signposts, not as a measuring stick.
What do you do to keep motivated?