Staying Motivated: Learning a Language on a Budget, Week Six

Creative Commons License photo credit: woodleywonderworks

So you’ve been at this language learning thing for a while now and you find yourself losing interest – or getting too busy – or whatever the case may be!   Now a few days or even weeks have gone by and you need to get yourself back into studying again.  One of the most important things in learning a language is to keep working at it and using it.  If you don’t, you will start to lose what you’ve learned already.  So how do you keep yourself motivated?   How do you keep things interesting?   This week, I’ll take a look at a few things I’ve learned to do along the way to help keep things interesting and keep the learning flowing!

First and foremost – don’t be afraid to change things up!  If you’ve mostly been doing vocabulary study, then switch to listening to dialogs. Or if you’ve been memorizing grammar rules, why don’t you spend some time with a picture-based vocabulary program?    The point is, if you were in a rut and lost a little interest, it’s ok to try something different for a while.  

So you can change your focus of study a little, but what if you just don’t feel like studying at the moment.   You don’t want to completely lose what you’ve worked so hard to learn, so what else can you do?  Lots of things…

For example –  try a game.   Yup – you heard me – a game.   I was getting a little lax when I was studying Spanish, so I went to the Apple AppStore and got a Spanish word search game.  That got me back in the mood to study again so that I would know more words!   The point?  Sometimes you can fall back on entertainment.   Entertainment can be almost as effective as direct study because it stimulates your interest in the subject again.  That’s why many programs, like the Eurotalk programs mix up straight studying with learning games.

Continuing to consider entertainment venues for inspiration – another thing you can do is watch a television program in another language (most cable networks in the U.S. also carry a subset of Spanish-language programing).  Of course this only works if you are studying Spanish (or one of the other languages that may be in programming offered by your cable or satellite provider).   Did you know that in the Internet Age radio is making a different kind of comeback?   These days, you can get an Internet Radio program (or use the Internet radio streaming built into iTunes, for example).   Many radio stations around the world, as well as amateurs, stream their shows to the internet as well as broadcasting locally.  This means it’s pretty easy to use one of these programs to find a radio station in the language you are studying and just listen for a while.  See what words you can pick up!   I use a nifty little program on my iPhone called WunderRadio (reviewed here on Gear Diary back in September) which is also available for Windows Mobile and through a website.   This program offers up more than 35,000 radio streams from all over the world!   You can pick and choose just about anything you might want to hear!   So again, you can use the kinds of things you do for entertainments – games, tv, radio, to help rekindle your interest or keep you from losing interest.

Now, beyond entertainment, you can bring the language you are learning into some of the types of tasks you might do daily.   If you are in the U.S. and learning Spanish, take note of all the signs in Spanish at the store.   I’ll bet there are a lot more than you thought!  Another thing I do daily is use my GPS navigation software.   I like to keep it running in case I have to detour in an area I’m not as familiar with.  So with our language learning in mind, one thing I did was to change the language my navigation program was using.   Since I was using it around my home and office, I was telling it to go to places I was familiar with, but instead of telling me what to do in English, it was telling me what to do in Spanish.   So I managed to combine something I was comfortable with – directions to places I regularly go – with the foreign language instructions.   Since I already knew what to do, I found myself starting to immediately recognize the words for “turn”, “right”, “left”, etc.   It may seem a little unusual, but it got me to start looking up the words I didn’t know – my interest was renewed.   In my case, I primarily run navigation on my iPhone and some of the Navigation programs, like Sygic Mobile Maps, CoPilot, and Navigon, offer MANY language choices, so you may be able to find the language you are studying among them.

Now if you are like me and happen to be the owner of an iPhone, you may be surprised to learn that the iPhone has support for many language are already and fully built into the phone – the written commands, the specialized keyboards (if necessary), and even the voice recognition options!   It’s really pretty cool!   If you’re adventurous, you may with to try changing the language you phone operates in.   Be warned however – make know of where the internationalization commands are, though – you don’t want to get stuck if you need to switch it back into English and can’t find the commands to do so!   And just like with the navigation software, you might find yourself wanting to look up the words you don’t know.  I have numerous friends who speak different languages and I’ve tried the iPhone language-changing trick for them and they are always amazed how cool that is and again – it keeps me entertained and interested as well!

So the overriding theme here is that language is a thing that is deeply ingrained and embedded into many parts of your life.  You use it in a wide variety of ways and situations. It’s part of your work, your entertainment, and your daily tasks.  To keep your language studies interesting and relevant to you, it makes sense that it should also expand to include and reflect these many different aspects of your life.   Your language study should reach out to include things in daily life tasks, game playing and entertainment.   And now, hopefully, I’ve given you some new ideas of things you can do to accomplish just that.  So feel free to play, enjoy, AND keep studying!

Categories: How to Do It Yourself!, Reviews


2 replies


  1. Allistair Lee
  2. Ultralingua