If I wanted to cross the threshold into fluency I needed to hack the habit-forming process.
Maintaining consistency with the habits and routines that I know are good for me is one of my biggest frustrations. I love self-improvement and have mountains of projects that I’d like to implement. But creating a new habit can feel monumental. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same bursts of motivation and contrasting indifference that I have. It’s no surprise that this struggle has carried over into my language learning journey.
Just as I value healthy eating, exercise, and meditation—I value foreign language learning. But it’s taken nearly my entire adult life to finally turn weight-lifting and yoga into consistent daily habits. I didn’t want to see that kind of time pass again before I became fluent. I knew that it was possible to achieve fluency in the language I am learning, Portuguese, in as little as 600 hours with deliberate practice. But the problem was this unflattering trait in myself of inconsistency. I needed to figure out how to turn speaking and practicing my target language into a habit.
I turned language acquisition into a habit to become conversationally fluent.
New York Times bestselling author, BJ Fogg, wrote the book Tiny Habits. “It’s easier to create habits and change than most people think, and it’s faster than most people think,” Fogg says. “It can even be fun, if you do it in the right way.” I implemented Fogg’s behavior formula in my foreign language practice: make it easy, make it fit your life, and make it rewarding.
- Make it Easy. Scale back the habit. My goal used to be to learn Portuguese. Sheesh, no wonder I got overwhelmed. Having the goal to learn an entire foreign language sounds daunting and paralyzing. But scaling back the goal makes it feel more achievable. Now my goal is to open my Parley Blue lesson and record myself speaking one sentence in Portuguese. That’s it. Easy! Since I’ve adjusted my goal to this scaled-back version, I’ve not only opened my lesson more frequently, but I’ve finished more lessons.
- Make it fit your life. Work language practice into your existing schedule. Tacking my language learning goal onto an existing habit has made me exponentially more consistent. Achieving your goals is all about having a plan. My plan is to always practice Portuguese (or for you, it may be Spanish, or French, etc.) right after I brush my teeth before bed. Before I settle in to watch Netflix, I first listen to native audio sentences in my Parely Blue lesson. Bam! Habit changed.
- Make it rewarding. Celebrate! Creating a positive emotion after you practice your target language will help reinforce that this was a good choice. Upon completing your language practice, simply smile and say I did it, throw your arms in the air, or do a little dance. Whatever it is that helps you feel successful will help you return to the habit.
I’ve become much more consistent with my language practice since implementing these tiny habits. More importantly, I’ve noticed an increase in my confidence while speaking, my vocabulary has improved, and my accent is sounding more and more like a native every day. Whether you’re learning Spanish or French, Portuguese or Italian, implementing these Tiny Habits will propel your language acquisition forward and give you the boost you need to achieve fluency.
Boa sorte, bonne chance, buena suerte, and good luck!