New Year’s resolutions are at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the start of January. Learning a language is a popular New Year’s resolution but those of us already learning can also benefit from a January boost. Setting some realistic New Year’s resolutions for language learning can give you a sense of renewed vigour and can help you redefine your long-term and short-term goals.
When learning a new language it’s easy to lose motivation, so New Year is a perfect time to remind yourself why you started learning English in the first place and rekindle your passion for the language. This time of year is also relevant for any English speaker learning another language. Read on for the first part in our series of blog posts about New Year’s resolutions for language learning.
Take a Break!
Towards the end of the year, we can all feel a little jaded with our learning goals and it is easy to let your studies slide over the Christmas and New Year break. Well, the great news is that is absolutely fine – taking a rest from your studies is vital for learning.
A rest means we can come back after a holiday refreshed and ready to tackle new challenges. This is how we should look at the winter holidays and the New Year – as a chance to renew our spirits, take stock of our goals, remember our motivations and set a fresh direction for our study habits.
New Year’s Resolutions for Language Learning
Here are three New Year’s resolutions for language learning that can help you approach your studies with renewed gusto in 2018:
Join a Language Group
Although learning solo is important for progress in a language, making an effort to get social with your new language can make all the difference. This year, make an effort to push yourself out of your comfort zone and join a language group.
Although speaking in your target language in a group might seem daunting at first, everyone else is in the same boat and it is a great way of meeting people with similar interests and getting over the hurdle of speaking.
It can also be great fun as you can enjoy sharing stories of your experiences learning the same language. Others in the group might even have decided on joining a language group as their own New Year’s resolution for language learning!
In our experience, groups that include some native speakers are usually best, because it means you do not pick up other non-natives’ mistakes. However, even if there are no native speakers in the group, speaking the target language with other non-natives will still increase your motivation to improve – and it is also great fun!
Take every chance you can to speak your target language and it will start to feel more natural to you.
Practise Your Language Every Day
The fact that strong improvements can be made with regular, small sessions is a great reason to make this change to your study habits right away.
Make the resolution to practise your target language every day, even if it is only for ten minutes at a time – perhaps ten minutes in the morning and then ten minutes again before bed. This regular, repeated return to the language helps to keeps it fresh in your memory.
The important thing is to make sure your study time is spent effectively and productively. Don’t just read a page without being mindful – you will not take the words in. Be sure to focus entirely on each short study session without distraction.
Your study session might consist of reading a newspaper article, writing a letter or listening to a podcast; it might include reading some pages from a book aloud or chatting with a native speaker on Skype.
In fact, the best way to study your language is to ensure you use all four language skills each week: reading, writing, listening and speaking (even if you are only speaking aloud to yourself). Which brings us to the next one of our New Year’s resolutions for language learning:
Use all 4 Language Skills Each Week
Most of us have a favourite element of language learning and find one area the easiest. Reading might often be seen as the easiest skill to learn because it is a passive skill which you can take your time doing. The words are clearly written on the page and you can analyse the grammar structure of the written sentence slowly until you understand it.
In contrast, speaking is often found to be one of the hardest part of language learning because it is so immediate and does not give you much time to prepare. Listening can be very difficult too because of different people’s accents and the fast speed of native speech.
Speaking and listening on the telephone is perhaps one of the hardest skills of all because you have the added complication of not being able to see the person you are talking to.
This means you cannot read their body language or see their expressions to judge the mood of the speech. You also cannot see the lips of the speaker to help guess the words.
When learning anything new, whether a language, a sport, an academic subject, a musical instrument or a craft, it is always most comfortable and pleasant to avoid the parts you find hardest and focus on the bits you find easiest.
However, in order to ever truly master a language you need to be able to read, write, speak and listen effectively. So, make 2018 the year you try to improve in all aspects of your target language – not only your favourites!
Look out for our second blog post about New Year’s Resolutions for language learning and get some more ideas for improving your language skills in 2017.
Update: New Years Resolutions for EFL Learners part 2 is now live!
What areas of language learning do you find the easiest? And the hardest?
What are your New Year’s resolutions for language learning?
Will you be setting any other New Year’s Resolutions? Let us know in the comments!