The common cause of motivational loss is a decline in interest in the topic. Thankfully, there is a simple solution to this problem. I am sharing 3 tips to regain motivation.
1. Immerse yourself with French everyday
Learning French is so much more than just learning a language. You are learning about the culture, history and the way of life for the people in French speaking countries.
This widespread culture and diversity can, and should, impact your own life in many ways. You can Incorporate the French language into every hour of your day, from breakfast at home to your commute to work. Immersing yourself in the French language on a daily basis is a simple matter of finding ways to slot French into your daily schedule.
Engage your hobbies and interests
From literature lovers to sports enthusiasts, there are many ways to work your learning habit around your existing passions?
- Go French with your night-time reading. Instead of picking up a book in English or your first language, read something in French instead.
- Switch your morning brain to French. During your daily commute to work or while eating breakfast, listen to a French podcast to learn the authentic conversational language.
- If sports are your favourite language, turn them to French. If you’re keen on watching football or other sports, stream or download the commentary in French and listen as the words relate to a sport you enjoy. Here is a list of Sports vocabulary (general terms) and a huge list of football vocabulary.
- Discover French cinema. Everyone has their favourite film genre, so why not consider watching a romance, comedy, horror or thriller in French. Check out awesome lists of French movies here.
- Eat and read French at the same time. During your work lunch, read a blog in French on a topic that interests you and improve your word recognition.
- Cook in French and enjoy the cuisine you produce. Whether you’re cooking a French dinner or dessert, read the recipe in French in order to learn some new verbs and instructions. Here are 10 simple French recipes you can try.
All of this immersion will subconsciously saturating your brain with new French words, sentences and dialogue. You may surprise yourself a week later when you effortlessly deliver a sentence you didn’t even know you knew!
Conversation is invaluable
Talking to other people is another invaluable resource for immersing yourself with the French language. Meeting other Francophiles through formal classes, travels or at a café is not only a way to make new friends, but also a great source of motivation.
The perfect thing about meeting someone else who is also learning French is that you have someone to undertake the journey with. You can practice together, laugh at your mistakes, support each other, and celebrate one another’s achievements. This builds conversational fluency, and, most importantly, confidence in developing your French.
Meeting native French speakers is also a fantastic opportunity for connections. Generally speaking, French people love it when others are interested in learning their language and will be pleased to speak French with you.
As intimidating as it can be, this is an unbeatable chance to practice your French in a real life situation. The key is not to panic, and remember the phrase « désolé, je ne comprends pas! » when necessary!
Share your passion for French
Be confident in your love for the French language and allow others around you to see this.
- When you go a French café or bakery, try your luck and see if the sales clerk speaks French. This is a perfect opportunity to practice ordering food in a real life situation.
- At a French restaurant or cafe, see if there is a French menu available and make sure that’s the one you read. Be proud of your interest in French around the home. Hang a photo of your favourite part of France to inspire yourself every day.
- Stick French pictures and words on your fridge so that you see them on a daily basis.
- Greet your friends and family in French; even if they don’t understand you and give you a funny look, at least you’re practicing!
Be as enthusiastic as you can about learning French and allow your passion and love for the language to encourage you to keep learning.
2. Love the process of learning French
It is often said that the journey is the destination, and this is certainly true when learning French. The overall objective may be to speak French fluently, but the process that takes you there is still easily the most enjoyable part. It is during the process of learning French that you discover what you love about the language, the culture and the history.
It is natural to set goals when learning French. For example, by the end of the week you may want to be able to conjugate a certain amount of verbs; by the end of the month you may want to write a page-long letter in French.
These goals are important, certainly, but what is more so is the journey you’re undertaking, and what happens after you reach your destination. When it comes to goal-setting when learning French, there a few things you should be careful with.
This is a potential danger in single-mindedly focusing on a goal. You think, “I need to reach that goal, I need to achieve it.” Then, as your self-imposed deadline draws closer and you feel you haven’t achieved the goal, you start to think, “I failed.
I didn’t achieve the goal. I’ve just wasted my time!” Or if you have achieved the goal by the time you wanted, you are at risk of thinking, “ok, I’ve done that now. I never need to look at it again.”
Goal setting and the inevitable goal obsession that goes with it are counterproductive when learning a language. By creating a deadline or schedule by which a certain goal needs to be achieved, you consequently place too much pressure on yourself.
Aside from this, you tend to overlook the things that you achieve along the way. By enjoying the process of learning French, you have more freedom in your mind to appreciate the things you do learn each day on the way to achieving a goal.
This is similar to a diet, whereby you convince yourself that you need to be a certain point at a certain time. This desire for immediate effects and short-term achievement can hinder your long-term development in French.
Focusing on a goal, but not enjoying the process of reaching it, can lead to distraction and boredom. This is the yo-yo goal. One day you feel super-interested in the goal, the next day you’re bored of it.
Perhaps your goal is being able to listen to a conversation in French fluently. In order to achieve this, you listen to educational recordings from your classes. This is good, but if it doesn’t fully engage you, you will begin to yo-yo.
If, in contrast, you engage yourself in the process of reaching this goal, you will find that you don’t lose interest. Listening to conversations on podcasts of topics that interest you or watching movies you enjoy is the process to reaching the goal and is the part you will love the most.
Learning French is like creating an origami model out of paper. You start with a flat surface, but eventually with care and precision you fold the edges and build it up to a three-dimensional object.
When you focus on only a singular goal in learning French, it stays one-dimensional and flat. However, when you pay attention and embrace the process of building up to this goal, you add details and fine tune the development along the way. The goal needs to have a process, both before and after, for it to be achieved and remain relevant.
For example, learning how to conjugate the verb “être” is the goal. Once you’ve learned the conjugations for the prepositions in different tenses, the goal is complete. But it is one-dimensional.
For the goal to become three-dimensional, you need to continue using the skill you’ve learnt. Learning the conjugation isn’t enough. It needs to be used in real-life situations.
Each time you use the conjugation in a verbal or written sentence, it is like adding a new fold to your model. You are building on the goal and giving it shape, individuality, and a new dimension.
This is part of the process of learning French. A goal is never really achieved, because it is continually developed and improved upon with the progress you make.
3. Celebrate your progress and achievements with French
Learning a language isn’t an easy thing to do. When you learn a second language, you are basically rewriting the rules of speech, vocabulary, and sentence structure that you are so familiar with.
What makes it even more challenging is that you end up with two sets of grammar rules, verb conjugations, word orders, vocabulary, and everything else that make up a language. That’s a lot for the brain to handle! So when you make any progress at all in learning French, you deserve a pat on the back.
Reflection is important
It is always worthwhile reflecting on your progress as it happens. The most obvious way to do this is formally, through grades and assessment in your classes.
When you submit an assignment or take a test in your formal classes, keep the paper so you can look back on it later. Even if you don’t get a great mark, keep it anyway. Through the mistakes you make early on in French, you can learn a lot.
It is very rewarding to look back and see where you were at the beginning and how far you have come. Avoiding the mistakes you make when you start learning French will soon become second nature as you progress.
Tracking your progress and achievements can also be done informally with personal reflection, by thinking about questions like these:
- What new words have I learnt lately?
- What sentence did I speak confidently this week?
- What words can I now recognise on sight without needing a dictionary?
- Can I maintain a five minute conversation without hesitation?
- Can I easily translate sentences or phrases into French?
- How much of a conversation or recording can I understand fluently?
Celebrate as you achieve
Celebrating your achievements during the process of learning French will also help keep your motivation up. Acknowledging your progress in French can take place in many different ways, for example:
- Reward yourself. Extrinsic motivation is often the most effective. Give yourself a reward once you find yourself achieving new things. Even better, reward yourself with something French like your favourite French movie or dessert.
- Tick the boxes. Create a list or chart of general things you want to achieve, without a specific time frame or order. As your achieve these, tick it off and have a visual representation of your progress.
- Remove visual cues. A good learning method is to have pictures, dictionaries or translations for French words when studying. As you find yourself improving, you’ll become less and less reliant on these. You can congratulate yourself when you no longer need any visual cues.
- Verbal progress. At the beginning of your French study, record yourself saying some basic sentences. You might feel embarrassed or nervous, but don’t be! You’re just starting out. Now, two months later, listen back on these. You’ll notice an enormous difference in your confidence and accent. This is a perfect way to track your progress.
- Get a certificate. Taking an exam such as TCF and Delf can be an ideal form of motivation. Not only does this allow to you to see your strengths and areas for improvement, you are also rewarded with a certificate. This is great to put on your CV or cover letter to demonstrate your French skills.
- Be inspired. It is good to remember that you’re not the only one who has low points with motivation. Many other people go through the same thing when learning a language. Reading other people’s blogs or stories on how they learn French, what motivates them, and what achievements they’ve made can give you inspiration as well.
The most important thing to remember is to keep going forward! It might be tempting after all these mini-celebrations to slow things down. But don’t become complacent with your learning; rather keep striving to become more fluent and more confident with your French.
Learning a language is a fluid thing and there will always be something new to learn. This is exciting and the best encouragement in order to keep pushing yourself and discovering new things about this language you love.
When it comes to learning French, you should be prepared for a rollercoaster of motivation. There are so many different ways to stay motivated when learning French, but no method is wholly right or wrong.
The important thing is to find a system and a process that works for you personally.
Everyone is unique and has their individual interests, strengths and passions that can be used to stay motivated throughout your journey. So, what is your top tip to keep the motivation levels high when learning French?