How to stay motivated with your French language learning

Hitting a motivation wall is part of the process. Language teacher Sophie Parsons gives some tips for when this happens

Language learning can sometimes be frustrating
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When you are trying to learn a new language, it can sometimes feel like a bit of a chore.

Even when your level is good, it can still require a huge amount of concentration which is tiring.

It is inevitable that at some point in your language-learning journey, you will hit a point where you lose motivation or feel like you cannot be bothered.

Whether this manifests as accidentally giving up your Duolingo streak or deciding ‘c’est pas grave’ to miss your weekly French class, do not worry about it.

The important thing to do when this happens is to change your approach.

Although of course language learning requires effort, the secret to learning as an adult is to try and make it feel as effortless as possible.

A rigid learning approach may work for a while, but once you slip off that bandwagon for the first time, it makes it much harder to jump back on.

As a language teacher working with students aged 18-24, I know only too well that when the learning process is not fun, people simply will not engage.

Setting goals

A key way to keep yourself motivated is to set yourself goals so you feel as though you have achieved something.

Keep them small and achievable initially - something you can slot into your day without too much difficulty.

Positive reinforcement is one of the most important ways to boost confidence in language learning, and if you make the goals too big, you will set yourself up to feel a sense of failure.

It is also a good idea to link the goals with tasks that need to be completed so that it will feel like a two-birds-with-one-stone situation.

The best sense of achievement usually comes from when you successfully communicate with someone in the language you are learning, so setting yourself the task of chatting in French is a good place to start.

This does not have to be complicated, it can be as simple as making small talk with the person serving you in the shop, but you are likely to come away with some confidence and a desire to understand more the next time you chat.

By setting goals you get a chance to regularly measure how much you have improved, which will in turn continue to motivate you in your learning.

This can work with listening, reading and writing skills too - but again, it is important to keep the goals manageable. Start by setting yourself with a five-minute podcast per day, and one short news article.

As you improve, you can increase these without even noticing and eventually listening and reading in French will become a natural part of your everyday life.

Read also: How to keep up with French news and improve your language skills

Half-hearted is better than nothing

Everyone knows that watching TV and films in French with French subtitles is a great way to learn.

However, at the same time, after a long day sometimes the last thing you want to do is sit down and give your full attention to figuring out what is happening on the screen in front of you.

When you feel like this, remember that a half-hearted effort is better than nothing.

If you cannot be bothered switching the audio of your film to French, that is okay, but make sure you do have French subtitles.

Even if you are not focusing fully on the words, some of it will sink in and you are likely to come away with more than you would have if you had kept the subtitles in English.

At times even the fun parts of language learning like watching films and movies can feel like a drag, but keeping the subtitles there in French is effortless and allows you to dip in and out as you feel.

Read also: How to stay in touch with French culture when living in UK or US

Cut yourself some slack


This is the most important piece of advice that I could give to any language learner.

So many language learners began at school, where it was all about perfect grammar and avoiding mistakes at all costs to pass exams.

However, in real life, people rarely care if you make a couple of grammatical mistakes here and there - instead, they would much rather have a conversation with you.

Try not to panic if you do not know how to say something, or if you realise you have made a mistake when speaking to someone.

People will not remember the mistakes you made, but they will remember the conversation they had with you.

The more relaxed you are with language learning, the more confidence you will have to try new things and then the more likely you are to improve quickly.

Do not take offence or feel embarrassed if people correct your mistakes - they are trying to help and you are more likely to remember in the future because you have context for the error you made.

If it bothers you, take it into your own hands and actively ask people to correct you so that it feels like a choice you have made to work on your language.

By taking the process less seriously, it will help to make it more enjoyable and allow you to keep motivated. Pressure is only surmountable for so long before it wears you down - keep your approach to learning French light and you will soon see changes in your ability.

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