Do you have a language learning goal?
If you said, “yes”, that’s awesome. Keep reading.
If you said “no”, feel free to move on. This is for people who are serious about learning a new language.
Ok, next question, for the happy few that are still with me:
Do you have a language learning system?
If you’ve got a goal, you need a system for achieving it. Your system needs to be the daily habits and simple actions you take that move you towards that goal automatically.
Systems are habitual. Learning a language happens in the day to day. Having a goal to speak Spanish fluently won’t make that happen without finding a way to listen to and speak Spanish regularly. You need habits that get you speaking and listening to Spanish. Those habits can include regular conversations with a friend or coach, daily work in a language learning app, regular travel to places where you have to use the language, etc.
Systems make forward progress natural. This is why the best system for learning a new language will always be full immersion. This makes learning the language happen naturally, as you just try to get stuff done – go shopping, get gas, do business, make friends, etc. All of your life becomes a system for learning the language.
But there are smaller lifestyle changes you can make to build a good language learning system as well. Regular conversations with a friend in their native language, rather than yours, is a great way to make learning the language a natural byproduct of doing something you love.
Some people see systems as just a way to break down a goal into smaller steps. But it’s really about finding a way to make your goal happen naturally while doing things you truly enjoy. In a related arena, Scott Adams pointed out that a great system for getting in shape is to be “active every day at a level that feels good, while learning about the best methods of exercise.” I can attest that using a system like this gradually increases your ability to be more active, and learning new methods inspires you to try those over time. Doing this took me from no daily exercise to daily walking, to trying out some weight lifting at a gym, and so on, until now I lift every day at a level I never would have thought possible years ago.
The same can be done with language learning. Get a bit of daily immersion by listening to French Youtube videos or doing a few sentence exercises in the Parley Blue app. Keep it enjoyable, and read a couple blog posts here about how people are learning languages. The daily progress, plus some inspiration, will keep you moving forward.
Systems allow for serendipity. While a goal to learn a language by a certain date is fine, the system for getting there will open you up to more interesting possibilities. If your system includes striking up conversations with people that you overhear speaking Spanish, you’ll eventually meet a friend that you click with on a deeper level. And that could speed you to your goal. Or open you up to other goals.
Systems focus on joy in the journey. Systems work because rather than waiting months or years to enjoy the accomplishment of your goal, you get to enjoy what you do each day. It’s about building a life that you love. Rather than working hard to one day be able to speak Spanish, you get to actually speak Spanish each day. It may not be totally fluent when you start, but you’re doing it. A system will make that a rewarding part of your life now, rather than something you hope to achieve in the future.
Does your language learning system work?
Two questions can help you know if your language learning system is working.
First, are you excited to engage with the language each day?
Second, are you making progress over time?
If you can answer yes to these, then you’ll achieve your language learning goals. And happily set new ones.
Because the journey is a joy.