10 proven ways to turn language learning from a chore to a habit

November 7, 2023

1. Set small, achievable goals

“I want to speak French” is a huge goal. Most languages take hundreds of hours to learn to conversational fluency, and that’s if you’re studying full time. The way to get past this is to set yourself small, manageable goals. “I want to complete three units on busuu by this time next week” is achievable and motivating. Try setting a small goal at the end of each week and see how you get on. Tip: make sure your goals are SMART.

2. Tell yourself you can do it

Learners who repeatedly tell themselves “I can learn a language” are more likely to actually learn a language. Sounds bizarre? In the world of education academia this concept is called ‘self-efficacy’. Broadly, people who believe that they can learn something successfully are more likely to achieve their goals. The good thing is, you can train yourself into this positive state of mind, simply by reminding yourself “yes, I can do this!” and focusing on your small achievements, rather than scolding yourself for not doing well enough.

3. Adapt strategies that have worked for you in the past

When we surveyed successful learners on busuu, they told us that they used multiple different strategies to stick to their language learning goals. What works for one person may not work for everyone. Think about subjects or skills you have learned successfully in the past. Did you timetable regular study sessions, or find a buddy to learn with? Chances are, what worked for you in the past could work again.

4. Little and often works better than occasional bingeing

We’ve crunched the data on our millions of learners, and the results are in. Language learners who study for short, frequent sessions complete 2.5 times more content than those who ‘binge’ for longer, more infrequent sessions. Try putting this into action by setting up a calendar reminder for your study sessions, on as many days of the week as you can.

5. Look for gradual improvement, not giant leaps

Language learning is a marathon, not a sprint. Get comfortable with that fact at the start, and you’re already on the road to success. Especially if you already have a full-time job, or lots of commitments, getting to an advanced level in a language can take a year or even more. Of course, the more time you put in, the more you’ll get out. But even with just 1 hour per week, you’ll make steady improvements and be able to have short conversations within a month.

6. Use little rituals to cement your practice

Maybe you tend to study best at around 11am in the morning. If so, make a little ritual around that time. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and close your emails, then really focus on your studies for 10-20 minutes. Making short, enjoyable little rituals for studying can help to trigger you to practise, even on days when you feel distracted.

7. Visualise yourself speaking the language

Daydreaming about speaking fluent Spanish on that next trip to Madrid isn’t a waste of your time. It’s these fantasies of success that motivate us to carry on when the journey becomes a challenge. So make sure to schedule some daydreaming time into your language learning routine!

8. Find role models

Search for people who are also learning the same language as you, and follow their progress. Let them inspire you. You can find language partners when you submit Conversation exercises on busuu, and also find people who share their language learning journeys on platforms like Instagram and Medium.

9. Do more of what you enjoy

Maybe you love studying grammar but hate writing. Just like when your parents hid your least favourite vegetables in with your favourite foods, make sure you balance out your language learning so you spend most of your time doing the parts you really enjoy, along with regular, small doses of those you don’t. In time, you may well find yourself enjoying all of it!

10. Take regular breaks

This may sound counterintuitive, but just like your body needs ‘rest days’ to repair after tough sessions at the gym, your brain needs time to rest from language learning. Many language learners report that short breaks from study are beneficial in the long run, and academics who study productivity agree.

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