Consistency and Patience in language learning

Today the world of language courses is dominated by courses that promise you can learn a foreign language fast, in a month, in three months, with ease and so on. Let’s face it, if the course was called “The patient approach to language learning,” or “Learn a language in two years”, maybe no one would buy it … But they would be more honest titles, and there is nothing bad or wrong in being slow when you learn a language.

Learning a language is not a race, it’s not you against time, and you don’t win a medal if you learn it in a few months … Of course, you can use this short amount of time as a goal to try to learn as much and as soon as possible, to have an extra motivation, or to learn very intensively at the beginning. But I think that learning a foreign language, rather than a race, should be a pleasant walk

The ability to learn quickly is something you can acquire with time, when you already know what your favorite method and resources are, and you can also adapt to the different languages: it’s what expert polyglots do. But until then, for you, the keys are consistency and patience.

Consistency

Learning a foreign language has to be a constant process. It shouldn’t have too many ups and downs, where you study one day, and you don’t for two days, or you study one day a week… but it must be an everyday commitment, or at least 5 days a week. Learning a language should become a daily habit, a part of your routine. A part of your day that you do not want to miss. Taking breaks or days off is okay, because maybe you are busy, because you go on holiday, because you just need time off… But these off days should be the exception, not the norm, and they should not become “the habit of not studying”…

Patience

You shouldn’t force yourself  to learn a language in a week, in a month and so on, and instead you should have patience. If you learn a language in three months and then you don’t not maintain it, you don’t put it into practice, or you don’t review it for the next three months, after a total of six months you will remember nothing at all of the language you had learned. To get results in language learning you must have patience: patience over time, but also patience with yourself. Do not worry if after one or two months you don’t understand everything when you read or when they talk to you, or if you make mistakes when you speak: it’s all part of the process. Don’t rush it, and instead, have patience. What is important is to make a little progress every day to get results in the long term! If you get a little better everyday, after one year you will be a lot better…

My advice is to put consistency and patience together, and to make an effort that’s short, but consistent over time, in months or even years.

After all, why should you rush language learning in a few months? If you are consistent and patient, it’s okay to be slow: you know the fable of the tortoise and the hare, right?

Let me give you an example: If I ask you to learn 5 new words in your target language, everyday, I’m sure you’ll tell me that’s a totally doable goal. Learning 5 words a day takes just 5 to 10 minutes. Now, five words are not a lot, you can do very little with 5 words. But if you learn 5 words a day for a year, at the end of the year you will have learned almost 2000 words and with 2000 words you can have most conversations in any language. And if you learn the most important words for you first, you can start speaking after just a short time…

Of course vocabulary is not the only aspect of language learning: there is grammar, pronunciation, conversation, reading and so on… But this example I need to tell you that

“It’s not what you do once in a while, it’s what you do day in and day out that makes the difference.”

Using patience and consistency to do even a little bit but everyday, will take you far, and far in this case means to become fluent in a foreign language.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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About Raffaele Terracciano

Serial Language Learner, Blogger, Language Coach and Tour Leader. Travelling the world through books, languages, food and, you know, actual trips. Currently on a quest to gather the pieces of the Tower of Babel.