Learning a new language, especially English as a Second Language (ESL), can be both exciting and intimidating. The journey to mastering English is often filled with challenges such as irregular verbs, complex grammar rules, and abundant idioms. It is no surprise that maintaining motivation throughout this process can be difficult. In this blog post, we will explore why motivation levels can fluctuate during the language learning journey and, more importantly, how ESL students can inspire themselves to stay consistently driven towards their English proficiency goals.
The Challenge of Learning English
English is a difficult language for non-native speakers to master. Its irregular verbs, complex grammar rules, and abundant idioms present numerous obstacles. According to a study by the British Council, around 1.7 billion people are learning English worldwide, and many of them struggle to stay motivated throughout the process. The sheer difficulty of the language can be overwhelming and lead to a decrease in motivation.
Reasons Behind Depleting Motivation
Often, the initial excitement of starting the language learning journey gradually diminishes due to various factors. One major reason is the difficulty of the language itself. ESL students may find it challenging to grasp the complexities of English grammar and structure. This can sometimes lead to slow progress, which can be discouraging.
Another factor that can deplete motivation is a lack of confidence. Some students may feel self-conscious about speaking in English, fearing errors or judgement from others. This fear can hinder their progress and make them question their abilities.
External pressures can also play a role in decreasing motivation. Balancing work, family responsibilities, and other obligations can be challenging. Finding time and energy to dedicate to language learning can become a struggle, leading to a decline in motivation.
The Power of Motivation
The role of motivation in language learning is vital to the success in mastering the language. Motivation is the driving force behind consistent effort and dedication. According to research, motivation is an important contributor to mastering a foreign language. Participants who were highly motivated spent more time engaging with the language, persisting even when faced with challenges. This persistence ultimately led to higher proficiency over time.
Strategies to Boost Motivation
So, how can ESL students keep their motivation levels high? Let’s explore some effective strategies:
- Setting Realistic Goals: Setting attainable short-term and long-term goals can help maintain motivation. For example, a short-term goal could be to learn 20 new vocabulary words each week, while a long-term goal could be to have a conversation in English without any assistance. If you see progress towards these goals, you can reignite your motivation and keep on learning the language.
- Engaging in Fun Learning Activities: Incorporating English movies, music, and books into the learning process can make it enjoyable and sustain students’ interest. Watching movies with subtitles, listening to English songs, and reading books in English can help learners become familiar with the language’s rhythm, intonation, and vocabulary.
- Practicing Regularly: Consistency is key when it comes to language learning. The more one practices, the better they become. The better they become, the more motivated they become. Students can practice talking in English with friends, classmates, teachers, or through language exchange platforms. Engaging in regular practice sessions will not only improve their language skills but also strengthen their belief in their abilities.
- Nurturing a Positive Mindset: Learning a language is a gradual process. It is important to maintain a positive mindset, along with patience and determination. Accept that mistakes are a part of the learning process. Viewing them as opportunities for growth. Celebrate small achievements along the way.
- Keep Your Expectation in Check: Some students start learning English, or any foreign language for that matter, expecting that they can become conversational or fluent right away. That is not true. While rapid progress can be made if you work hard, often, it takes time to achieve mastery. Know that you will make progress if you put in the work. At the same time, be patient and expect the journey of learning to last a while.
Using Technology to Stay Motivated
Modern technology has provided numerous resources for language learning. The number of mobile apps for language learning has significantly increased over the past decade, making language proficiency more accessible than ever before. These apps employ gamification techniques to make learning fun, interactive, and consequently, more motivating.
For example, Duolingo, a popular language learning app, uses a system of points, streaks, and levels to track progress and provide immediate feedback. Users can earn rewards for completing lessons and reach milestones, motivating them to continue their language learning journey.
Ai English learning apps like ALULA offer interactive lessons with AI English tutors, allowing students to practice conversational skills as well as grammar and vocabulary in a comfortable and supportive environment. Because students can practice conversation with an AI, even the shiest students can feel comfortable in speaking and making mistakes along the way. This ensures that learners stay motivated and engaged.
Don’t Do it Alone
Learning in a group, whether in a physical classroom or a virtual study group, provides support and creates a competitive environment that keeps learners engaged and motivated. Participating in discussions and group activities provides a practical framework for practicing the language, reinforcing what has already been learned. It also allows for collaboration and peer feedback, which can boost confidence and motivation.
Joining language exchange programs or finding a conversation partner can also be beneficial. Engaging in conversations with native speakers or other language learners can provide real-life language practice and foster cultural understanding.
Learning English as a second language can be challenging, but with the right strategies and mindset, ESL students can not only maintain motivation but also enjoy the rewarding journey towards English proficiency. Setting realistic goals, engaging in fun learning activities, practicing regularly, nurturing a positive mindset, and utilizing technology can all contribute to sustained motivation and progress. Remember, language learning is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s better to learn the language every day for several months than spending many hours learning it for a week. Celebrate small victories, stay dedicated, and enjoy the process!
Richard Zhang, M.Ed., is an educator and a software developer with a Masters degree in education from University of Toronto and an immense passion for education and learning. Until the pandemic, Richard owned an award-winning learning centre in Toronto. For 15 years, he has taught and mentored hundreds of elementary, middle school, and high school students succeed in academics. He is also an app developer specializing in web and mobile application in educational and business sectors.