One of the most common resolutions at this time of year is changing job or getting a promotion within the company you’re already working for. People often want this in order to earn more money or to have greater job satisfaction. Learning a language is a key skill for achieving this, as the top jobs often involve travel to the head office in the USA, team working with colleagues in Brazil or participating in audio conferences with suppliers in India. Today, the ability to sell your ideas, negotiate or even socialize effectively in a foreign language is now as basic as knowing how to use EXCEL or being able to read and write. Furthermore, employers (and customers!) expect a high level of language competency (often B2+ on the Common European Framework of Reference http://www.cambridgeesol.org/about/standards/can-do.html). The intermediate level that most university graduates come to the workplace with isn’t enough to get the top jobs. You just can’t do what needs to be done with that level of language.
Unfortunately, even though many of us start language classes with enthusiasm, our resolve wears off with the passage of time and it is increasingly difficult to keep going. This sometimes has to do with a teacher who is working in their comfort zone and not prepared to go the extra mile in interesting their students. However, more often than not, the student simply loses their motivation for learning the language. It is an uncomfortable fact that it takes time and work to learn a language. Many language schools promise bilingualism in 6 months or less but we all know from bitter experience that this can’t be true. In fact, there are official recommendations for exactly how long it takes to learn a language: https://support.cambridgeenglish.org/hc/en-gb/articles/202838506-Guided-learning-hours
Just like getting that flat tummy, or being able to run a marathon or learning to ride a horse, acquiring a language is not something you can go out and get instantaneously as if it were a pizza or the latest flat screen TV (though it would be great if you could, wouldn’t it?). It requires work and things that require work need a kind of gritty determination that has to come from deep inside.
What is intrinsic motivation?
Intrinsic motivation comes from deep within.
It is the opposite of extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation comes from without and is the kind of motivation traditionally used to motivate sales teams: “Reach your sales target and you’ll get that bonus!” But those of us who have worked in sales know that you cannot just hold out a carrot and expect sales reps to perform. They need to know why they are selling something. They need to passionately believe in the product and genuinely want to find out what their customers need. Interestingly, extrinsic motivation is also associated with the stick. Giving the message “Reach your sales target or you’ll lose your job!” is not a good way to build your dream sales team either.
Many students don’t have intrinsic motivation to learn the language they are studying. This really is key. Nobody can obligate you to learn something. You need to want to learn it yourself. You will almost always run out of steam if you learn a language for somebody else.
So, where can you find your intrinsic motivation for learning a language?
Here are some tips to finding your language learning mojo…
- Be honest and ask yourself if you are learning the right language. Some languages are easier for us than others or sometimes we like them more. I started studying French in elementary school and carried it through to university, eventually getting a degree and translation qualifications in it. However, I have never managed to reach the level of proficiency I have in Spanish and that’s a language that I’ve been learning for less time and with fewer classroom hours. I just found it easier than French. You might be better off learning Portuguese than English. Being fluent in Portuguese instead of mediocre at English will look much better on your CV.
- Once again, be honest with yourself; are you learning the language because other people want you to or because YOU want to? If you are learning it for other people, it will be very difficult for you to achieve success. Try to personalize your learning, getting it very clear for yourself your reasons for doing it. What will YOU do with the language once you acquire it? How will learning the language help YOU to get where you want to go? Every time you feel like not going to class, think about these reasons and remind yourself of the personal benefits for learning it.
- Visualize yourself using the language in real contexts and then go and do it. Sometimes we learn a language in a very theoretical way and we don’t put into practice what we have learnt. So, imagine you’ve been studying English for six months. Isn’t it about time to actually present something in the language rather than just sitting passively in that meeting? Don’t leave your language resource as something to rely on in an emergency or when you need it on the off chance. Proactively ask your boss for the opportunity to lead on a topic in your audio conferences using the foreign language. Actually putting into practice what you’re learning is incredibly motivating and will leave you wanting to learn more.
- Identify things you like about the language and focus on those. There are always things we don’t like about language learning. It might be memorizing vocabulary or understanding grammar. However, conversely, there are also things about language learning that are fun. For example, watching movies or travelling or getting one up on someone in a meeting. Once again, this is deeply personal. I love grammar, for example! Try to find what you like about the language and how you use it and do more of those things. You’ll be more motivated and have more fun along the way.
If you’d like to find out more about how you can learn a language more effectively, contact us at Dara Idiomas (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get one of our FREE personalized learning plans. We can help you get where you want to go!