Motivation 101: How to stay motivated while learning French
When I created my free email course, I asked the new students what was the biggest challenge that they faced while learning French. Many of the answers I received gravitated around the topic of motivation. So I thought I should write a French learning motivation 101:
Remember why you started.
The most important piece of advice I can ever give to you, is to remember why you started. Having motivating reasons to learn French will give you a really good head start when it comes to staying motivated and consistent.
However, it might only take you so far.
At some point your study may become frustrating. You might start to feel that you are not making as much progress as you’d like to. Your lessons or exercises might get boring. Life might get in the way and you’ll find yourself suddenly having less time. I can understand how you can be tempted to just quit. Speaking French would be nice, but after all, you’ve been surviving without speaking French until now, so you might as well go on like that.
Hmm. Not the best possible outcome.
Negative motivation anyone?
If you have ever seen a conference by Brian Kwong, you probably heard him give one of his best motivation tip, which got him to successfully learn German. If he wouldn’t reach his German learning goals, he would have to scrub his German friend’s toilet for two weeks (!). Now apparently, the perspective of scrubbing a toilet is so scary that now, Brian Kwong speaks German. Congrats to him.
Now, if you happen to own a toilet and have to scrub it no matter what, I can see how this may not work well for you. You can still up it a notch. A student of mine recently told me that he downloaded an app named Stikks who will take care of transferring $100 from his bank account to his most hated charity for each week when he doesn’t meet his French goals. He does show up for classes more often than he used to 😉.
However, maybe you have enough stress in your life already and you really don’t need your French study to be just one more stressful thing you “have to do or else…”.
The truth is: there is no reason for your French study to be stressful. You can even make it a form of self care. French study should be a moment where you take the time to do something for yourself and enjoy it. You will get so much better results if you can study French regularly in a relaxed manner and enjoy every bit of the process.
The key to it is to find adequate and motivating resources.
Find adequate and motivating resources.
Now, what does that mean?
A resource is anything you use to learn French. It can be a course, a book, a movie, a podcast, anything really - or even a person. I’m a resource.
“Motivating” is quite easy to understand: A motivating resource is a resource which makes you come back for more. You love it and you keep using it. At worst the resource is kind of ok and you somewhat like it. If you have a resource which you don’t like, I strongly recommend you ditch it. The internet is full of resources, many of which are completely free. It’s definitely not worth sticking with something you don’t enjoy.
“Adequate” is a little bit more difficult to grasp.
I would define “adequate” as meeting two criteria:
- It is adapted for your level. You actually understand at least part of it.
- It works. You actually learn something when you use it.
So now, we understand which criteria a resource must meet.
When you have a resource, it’s relatively easy to know if
- You like it
- You understand it (at least partially)
- It teaches you something.
But where do you find them in the first place?
Where do you find those resources?
Truth be told, it’s a jungle out there. You can’t google it. Unless you are looking for something specific and you know exactly which keywords to type to return the resource you need, you will get flooded by an avalanche of results, most of which irrelevant.
Not everything is labelled with a level (not to mention that the different level scales make these labels, when they exist at all, especially hard to read, even for an experienced professional like me). And, what’s worse, you yourself are not “labelled with your level” either.
In fact, I conducted a research which shows that 90-95% of people strongly underestimate their level. And the remaining 5-10% which I tested were either language teachers or experienced polyglots. So if you’re not one of those people, odds are that your level is higher than you think it is.
Find out your level and receive personal advice for free.
This test will determine your level based on the European level scale (CEFR) and give you some advice and a list of resources to take your French to the next level.
3 key stages of learning
How motivation fluctuates depending on progress and available resources:
Roughty, as a French student, you are in one of those three key stages, when it comes to motivation and progress:
Typically, beginners are highly motivated. Most resources are created with beginners in mind, so it’s quite easy to find some that you like. It is also quite easy to learn something when you are starting from 0. The novelty of the study, the abundance of resources and typical fast progress makes beginners feel good about their study and their skills.
This is the tough stage. The more you learn, and the more you realize how much you still have to learn. There are less resources available to you and you start questioning how relevant they are. Finding resources to help you make further progress becomes tricky. Your skills tend to plateau and your motivation decreases as you often have little hint of how to make it past this stage. That’s where most students are when they come to me, often with little motivation left and unsure about whether they can ever become fluent. If you find yourself stuck in this stage, it is definitely a good idea to get a coach. An important part of my job is helping you make it past the plateau and onto stage 3.
You made it. Ok maybe you’re not completely fluent yet, but you have made it past the dark time of the “intermediate” stage and you are now confident that fluency is right at the corner. You are making a lot of progress and having a blast. You get to enjoy the nuggets of French Youtube, French cinema, French media in general and to impress your Friends and family with your amazing skills.Your motivation is high again: the French speaking world is yours.
Now the best thing of all: those three stages do not really correspond to an actual language level which could be evaluated. I can’t say something like “beginner is up to A2, advanced is starting C1”, because it would be different for every person. I have met people with an actual level close to A2 (not very far from the beginning) whose mindset was similar to the advanced stage described above. I have also met people with an actual level close to B2 (almost fluent) who were convinced that they were stuck in stage 2 and highly doubting their ability to progress.
My point is: your mindset is really important as well. In good news: you can change your mindset if you want to.
The keys to the advanced student’s mindset:
So, an “easy” solution is to trick yourself into believing that you are an advanced student. As previously explained, most people underestimate their level so taking the test and finding your level will help a lot already.
- •After you receive your personal list of resources, choose the ones you like and study with them regularly.
- •Start enjoying advanced resources for the sake of it. Here is a long list of French YouTube channels for every taste.
- •Relax. It’s perfectly normal and ok to not understand everything, and even to not understand much for now. When you were a baby, you also didn’t understand everything grownups said and it didn’t stop you from learning your native language.
- •When everything fails, watching French movies with English subtitles (or subtitles in a language you are fluent in) is always a good option. You can just enjoy the movie and learn some French along the way without stress. Here is a list of movies by my friend Annick.
- •You would like more help? Book a personal session with me and I’ll give you custom tailored advice to take your French to the next level.
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