It was bound to happen: I was doing such a great job studying and then a few things happened. I went on vacation (zero studying), needed to prepare for several hearings (no studying), and realized I needed to prepare for a short language test (okay, so I guess it’s studying, but not in the way I intended). Once I get into a routine, I don’t like to break it. So when I said my German goal for 2013 would be listening, I don’t necessarily “like” having to shift focus onto reading–as exciting as the possibility may be. The other problem is that I was just starting to get to the point where my language learning was becoming a daily activity; and then it stopped.
It’s pretty normal to have these setbacks. Sometimes real work takes away from other activities, and we can’t devote as much time as we would like. But the important thing to do is to focus on quality rather than quantity. So even if I only study Polish 20 minutes per day instead of my goal of 1 hour, the least I can do is make them productive; whether that be through reviewing vocabulary, practicing writing, or getting a quick overview of the next lesson. I don’t know how the polyglots with 10+ languages manage to study so much at a time, but I imagine they too struggle with this problem.
So here’s what I’m doing to get back into the routine:
1. Loss of Motivation, or Change in Routine?
I suppose I’m lucky in that the motivation and the desire is still there. This may be the most important thing: determining whether I’ve really lost my desire or whether I just fell out of the habit for a little. Luckily, it’s the latter for now.
2. Slow Down!
Considering when the break came, I know I won’t be able to go back to multiple hours a day of studying and keep at it. What I’m doing for Polish is starting with the last lesson I completed, and go through it again. This will help me make sure I actually understood it, as well as keep me from learning new material when I’m just not ready. I also set myself a goal of 20 minutes per day instead of one hour. This is much more manageable, and will make it easier to add on time when I’m ready.
3. Know When to Take a Break:
I don’t like to not finish what I begin. So it’s difficult for me to admit that there will come a point when I just need a break. Language learning is hard work, and it’s not “fun” for a long time. Sometimes, it’s okay to just stop studying for a bit. If you keep working even though you have no desire to do so, it doesn’t have a real benefit. You get frustrated with yourself and with your language, and I doubt any lasting “learning” takes place. I actually am considering just having a 4 day “off” period per month just to give myself a rest.
A lot of us who are learning languages probably aren’t in positions where we can dedicate seemingly unlimited amounts of time to learning. Sometimes things come up and we need a break. I think sometimes we might be a little too hard on ourselves. After all, no great skill ever comes overnight, and it’s okay to admit that we need to slow down.
Now lets see if I can put my plan into action!