Have you been meaning to learn a language, but so far your efforts haven’t gotten you very far?
Perhaps what you need is to develop some habits that make learning a language a part of your daily routine.
This won’t be you deciding you are going to learn a language and buying some new book, audio program, website membership, or seminar and working furiously for a week to try to cram in as much as your brain can hold, then getting frustrated, busy with other things in life, or bored and giving up the Herculean effort. No. This won’t cost you anything and it won’t be difficult and time consuming.
You didn’t learn your first language in 30 days, you aren’t going to pick up a new language in 30 days either. What you want is to create a routine you will be able to stick with for years. Just start with baby steps.
So what are the rules for taking baby steps?
Establish small routines first, and then work up to more items.
Don’t try to do everything at once. Pick just one or two habits you want to do to learn. For example, sign up for a word-a-day email, spend 10 minutes listening to an audio tape before you get up in the morning, review your flashcards for 5 minutes at lunch every day. Don’t try to take on too much, or you will crash and burn. You’ll need at least 40 days for this to become habit.
Consistency is the key.
You have to take time with routines. They are not established overnight. To make this life changing, your habits will become automatic.
Take your time and enjoy the process.
Don’t feel pressured to do it all at once. This is worth going slow. If you miss a day, pick yourself up and start again. No bad mouthing yourself for making a mistake! Make it fun, and it will get done.
Baby steps add up. Baby steps will change your life subtly, until it just becomes what you do.
When I started learning, I heard about these dedicated people who spend hours a day studying language. I couldn’t even get myself to stick to listening to Pimsleur audio 20 minutes for 5 days in a row. I berated myself. I started and stopped this book, that deck of flashcards, this audio tape. I thought if I could just find the right thing, then magically it would solve all my problems.
What finally worked?
- I started a habit.
- I found people to talk to.
It was that simple. I started really small. My first baby step I signed up for FreshKorean’s word-a-day in Facebook. Then I screwed up my courage and found myself a Korean pen pal.
How did a word-a-day magically change me into someone passionate about learning a language? It was a small habit I could stick to. It was something that let me redefine myself as a language learner. The change was slow, I hardly realized it was happening, and I was completely reluctant at first to make a big commitment. But a word-a-day was a habit I could see myself doing. It seemed laughably easy. A word a day, in a year, gives you 365 new words. It is the power of time and habit.
I can’t take credit for the idea of baby steps. The woman who gave me routines for cleaning my house is the FLYLady. It stands for Finally Loving Yourself. Some of the FLYLady’s commandments include
- Do your morning routine right when you get up
- Pick up after yourself
- Don’t try to do 2 projects at once
- Don’t pull out more than you can put back in an hour
- Do something for yourself every day
- Work as fast as you can to get the job done (set a timer)
- Laugh every day