In today’s blog post, we will focus on ways to stay motivated when starting or resuming your English learning journey. Motivation is very closely linked to both confidence and our sense of achievement, and when we are deficient in one of the three, it usually has a negative effect on the others.
When we start or re-start studying English, we want to speak and interact with people really quickly. We download all the apps, buy a recommended textbook and perhaps watch some English movies. However, although we study a lot of vocabulary and learn basic grammar, we just can't seem to speak with confidence! When this happens, we sometimes we lose our enthusiasm for our studies, and motivation suffers as a result.
I will look at four ways to help you speak and communicate in English within a short period of time. You won’t speak perfectly, you will make mistakes, and you will still lack a lot of vocabulary, but you should be able to hold a basic conversation on a topic of your choice within a few months! This will give your confidence and motivation levels a boost and inspire you to spend more time on your studies.
This system worked for me when I was learning Spanish and helped me to go from absolute beginner to basic conversational level within a few months. It has also worked for many of my students. Give it a try and see if your confidence and motivation levels improve as a result!
1. Get organized: Stay Motivated
Based on your schedule and responsibilities, decide how much time you can realistically devote to English. Schedule your English study time into your routine and STICK TO IT!
Stick visual reminders of your goals on the wall. Put reminder notifications into your phone. Remind yourself every day of why you need to improve your English and the benefits that this improvement will bring to your life. If you fall off the horse and miss a session or two don’t beat yourself up. Try your best to get back to your routine asap.
2. Run before you can walk: Make your learning relevant
Do you ever get frustrated with your inability to have an interesting, stimulating conversation in English? Perhaps you have learned a lot of basic vocabulary from your textbooks, but it doesn’t help you to speak more fluently on topics like sports, politics, your work etc
If you only study from English textbooks, much of the initial vocabulary that you learn is not vocabulary that you use very often. Most books start with a section on occupations; but realistically, how often do you use the words farmer or accountant? It is a great idea to supplement this general vocabulary building with more SPECIFIC, PERSONALIZED vocabulary expansion.
It is important to go through the step by step process of learning a language but don't wait until you are an intermediate student to start learning the advanced vocabulary that allows you to discuss interesting topics and express your personality. By that stage, you may have already lost the motivation and enthusiasm to continue learning English.
· Make a list of topics that interest you: Choose themes you are interested in, the things you like to talk about with friends, such as your family, sports, TV, music, your favorite hobby etc.
· Write a short paragraph on this topic. Write exactly as you would if speaking in your native language. Every time you don’t know a word in English to express what you want to say, look it up in a dictionary. If you are unsure of the grammar, use a translation device. Don’t worry if it is not completely accurate as there is a plan in place to deal with this problem, as we will read in point 3.
3. Make your learning meaningful: Speak English with real people
Once you have completed a number of scripts that will help you to talk about yourself and speak on a number of interesting topics, it’s time to start practicing your English with real people. I use the term ‘real people’ because many of us spend a lot of our speaking practice talking to apps! Ideally, you should try to find someone with an advanced level of English who can correct the errors in your script and give you useful feedback.
There are a number of ways in which you can find someone to help you with your English.
· Download a language exchange app. Language exchange apps, such as Tandem, allow you to connect with language learners from all over the world. The Tandem interface works just like Whatsapp; you can chat, send voice notes and make calls. It is the perfect place to find a study buddy who can help to improve your English.
· Find an English tutor: An experienced English tutor will give you valuable feedback, error correction and language learning tips to really take your English to the next level. There are a large selection of qualified tutors available on Verbling and other platforms.
· Language exchange events: In many cities all over the world, regular language exchange meetups are held. These are a great way to get to know more people and to practice your English. Check Facebook for any language exchange events that may be in your locality.
It is very easy to lose motivation with your English studies if you don’t use what you have learned to interact and converse with other people. Regular conversations with a language partner or private tutor provide great motivation to improve your spoken English. Sometimes, we spend so much time with our heads in books that we forget sometimes the primary purpose of learning a language is to communicate with other people.
4. Build relevant vocabulary: Use flashcard applications
Everyone knows how important it is to build vocabulary but retaining and remembering vocabulary is a big problem for many students. Many students get frustrated at their inability to remember vocabulary during conversations, which leads to a lack of confidence and eventually, to a lack of motivation.
Flashcard applications such as Flashcards Deluxe and Anki allow you to build vocabulary lists of verbs, nouns, adjectives, useful phrases, phrases related to time, sports, kitchen vocabulary etc.
You can download pre-made lists of vocabulary words, but I recommend also making your own lists with the vocabulary that you actually use when speaking. Essentially, whenever you learn new words you should take the time to input them into the app. Make a database of vocabulary that is relevant to your personality and the things you enjoy talking about.
Spend at least ten minutes each morning or night reviewing your vocabulary and you will notice a huge difference in your ability to recollect vocabulary when you need it during conversations.
TIP: Most apps have a ´spaced repetition´ setting which is a method of vocabulary retention that is more successful than regular memorization.
That brings us to the end of my post. I hope this advice helps you to develop conversational fluency quickly and that it has a positive effect on your motivation and confidence levels.
Please leave any questions or comments you may have in the discussion box below!