Language is a Marathon not a Sprint: 5 Tips to be a Language Athlete

November 10, 2023

Are you learning a new language and looking for optimal end results (of course you are!)?  Believe it or not, mirroring techniques athletes use will help you excel while learning a new language. With the summer Olympics around the corner, what better source of inspiration could you ask for?

You could say learning a new language and sports training go together like peanut butter and jelly, rain and rainbows, or like David Beckham and Posh Spice. The techniques used to be the best in both fields are the same!

Here are some top notch techniques athletes use that you too can use to help you unlock the key to achieving your language learning goals, big or small!

#1 Have an end goal

Have a clear end goal. Athletes who train for the Olympics know what they want. They have a clear picture of themselves standing on that podium with a gold medal around their neck.

What’s your end goal? What do you mean by, ‘I want to learn French’? Full fluency or being able to ask for directions and make small talk? Create a specific vision of what you want your end goal to look like. Keep that vision close.

#2 Motivation

First and foremost you have to be motivated. Remind yourself of your own unique motivation(s) on days you are feeling less inspired.

How often do you think Olympic athletes feel tired or defeated but don’t give up? Pushing through and staying dedicated to their sport can be credited to their high levels of motivation and desire. If you need an extra incentive create your own. For instance, tell yourself, ‘I can watch the next episode of Game of Thrones ONLY once I have completed an end of level test on busuu’.

#3 In it for the long haul

Remember, this is your race. Learning a new language (or anything for that matter) is a marathon not a sprint. Pace yourself by learning in small bursts or you’ll run of steam. With busuu’s offline mode you can do 10 minutes of learning on the bus home everyday.

You are in it for the long haul just like an Olympian. One language lesson, just like one sport practice for an athlete, is not going to cut it (to put it bluntly). Again this is where knowing what motivates you will help… a lot!

#4 Push beyond your comfort zone

Staying in your comfort zone is self-limiting. Once you’ve placed yourself in a box there is not much room for you to move forward.

The legendary Michael Phelps, 22 times Olympic medallist, said it himself, “You can’t put a limit on anything.” Take any and all limits and you will push past any doubts you have. Just do it! (Nike was spot on with that catch phrase).

#5 Don’t be afraid to fall. Falling is your friend

If you are afraid to fail or fall down along the way you won’t get very far. Mistakes are the foundation on which lifelong lessons are built — not to mention language learning and athletic lessons! If you’re comfortable memorising vocabulary but still shy about composing and practicing with friends or members of the busuu community, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone. For instance, kids learning to play football need to learn to keep their heads up while playing rather than staring at their feet. These leaps ahead are key milestones in your journey.

As Miss Frizzle in the Magic Schoolbus, once said: ‘It’s time to take chances, make mistakes and get messy!’

Learn a language