If you have stumbled across this blog, you may be one of the brave souls trying to learn a foreign language. Nice to meet you! All of us here at Launch India are working hard to maximize our growth in learning Hindi, learning Urdu, or learning Punjabi languages. We are familiar with the reality that while language learning is an exciting adventure at times, it is also a difficult and long journey.
How do we know we are on the right track in this journey? Are we doing the best activities or are we just wasting our time? Should we keep going or just give up?
Studies show that the number one indicator of success in learning a foreign language is simply how much time you spend learning the language. So just like anything in life, the more time we commit to this endeavor, the more growth we will see. Nothing beats just carving out time and sticking with it! But as we all know, it can be easy and exciting to set the goal. It is much more difficult to follow through and complete it.
So from one language learner to another, here are some tips that will help you get and stay on the right track for maximized growth in language learning.
5 Tips for Maximizing Growth in Language Learning
1. Ask those around you who have been successful. - Don’t be shy and don’t compare. What advice do the long-termers have? Make a list of 5 people you can ask and set a date to talk with each of them – even briefly.
2. Find a peer coach. Peer coaching is simply two people willing to ask open-ended questions and actively listen to the response – with the end goal of helping each other grow. Discuss the questions below, one at a time, using open-ended follow-up questions. Meet regularly to share ideas and to hold each other accountable to points of action. Commit to no comparison.
3. Map your social network. Put yourself in the middle, and begin making a “map” of your significant relationships (in your host country) – write expat names in one color and host peoples’ names in another color. How are they connected? Draw lines linking. Who do you have influence with? What natural communities could you be a part of (nationals that are already connected)? Who are you spending most of your time with, nationals or expats? After six months, make a new map and compare them. How have your host relationships grown?
4. Increase your intrinsic motivation. If you’re going through a season of decreased motivation, thoroughly think through these questions, alone or with your peer coach: (Ideas from “Drive” by Daniel Pink)
Purpose: Why do I want to learn this language? What will I be able to do when I can communicate?
Autonomy: What is my plan for growth? Who do I have that can meet me in my growth zone? How can I make the most of my time with that person? Where do I want to be in six months? One year?
Engagement: What relationships do I have in the host language? Am I focusing on my Host Identity or my Home Identity? What is the potential for those relationships as I grow?
Visible Growth: How am I able to be “more known” now than I was three or six months ago? What can I understand and talk about now that I couldn’t before?
5. Consider your goals as a Growing Participator (not just as a “language learner”)
For example: while a goal in “language learning” might be “reach Level ____ by ___,” a goal in Growing Participation might be “talk with three new people this week,” or “initiate a new friendship in the next 3 weeks.”
How much total time are you committed (and/or expected) to be spending in in the host language each week?
How is your time divided between interaction, listening, studying, reading, class, etc.?
Social goals (relationships with host people, in the host language)
What sort of relationships do you want to develop?
List five different places you might be able to meet the person you’re looking for.
What relationships do you have that you want to invest more time in?
What cultural topics or areas do you feel “lost” in?
Who (host person) can help you sort through those questions?
What things might you need to change in your own behavior to become more relevant to host people? In what areas are you resisting change?
Understanding goals (words and thoughts)
How much are you listening to previously-made recordings? How many hours a week do you want to be listening?
What is your plan for increasing the amount of speech you’re able to understand?
What domains (areas of life, thought, vocab, etc.) are you missing out on because of lack of understanding?
How many new words are you getting in an hour-long session? (Side note: for comprehension-based programs like GPA, 8-10 words per hour is a good range, with the goal being understand the meaning of these words in context. For production-based programs that expect mastery of new words, 3-4 per hour is reasonable.)
How much are you listening to previously-made recordings? How many hours a week do you want to be listening? (This is a prime factor in how much you’ll be able to speak! A good goal and our recommendation is to listen to the recordings from the previous class three times before the next session.)
How are you stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone in speaking? (If you are in Phases 2-3 of GPA, are you retelling with your Nurturer’s help the stories or pictures from the day before? If you are in Phases 4-5 are you doing Record for Feedback daily where you allow your mentor to make sure every sentence in your recording is said in the native-way?)
In what domains (areas of life, thought, vocab, etc) do you find it difficult to express yourself fully?
What level of literacy would you like to reach, and for what purpose?
Is your goal reading for understanding, or reading aloud fluently?
What types of materials would you like to be able to read without external help?
How much time are you practicing reading on your own? How much with a language helper?
Who do you have open doors to connect with?
Does that person trust you? Have you taken the time to listen?
Do you have tools to communicate in a way people will understand? How can you develop those tools?
Final Questions to Synthesize Your Pain Points and Action Plan for Maximizing Language Growth
What are the top challenges you’re facing in your growth?
What’s the biggest thing you’d like to change? What would that be worth to you?
What’s motivating you? Is it motivation based on dissatisfaction or is it a new goal? (Either can be positive!)
How does what you’re doing in language and growing participation fit with your gifts and your purpose?
Consider the completion to the following:
"Right now I feel the greatest sense of need for..."
"The problems or challenges I most want to overcome right now are..."
"The things that sap my energy that I most want to remove from my life are..."
"The place I feel stuck is..."
Considering all of the above categories – in which areas are you moving ahead, and in which areas do you feel stuck?
Whether you are learning language in person or online, from within the host country of your Nurturers or from afar, these questions can help focus your motivations, energy, and ultimately your growth. Hopefully you have someone within your circle who can help you process your thoughts. But if not, the Growing Participator Approach has trained people all over the world to be Language Learning Encouragers- fellow language learners who are eager to encourage you in your journey. In fact, the content of this article was compiled from resources circulated among these coaches, now published here to continue to be positioned to help learners everywhere. Launch India has several people certified in this role who would be delighted to meet with you and help you get and stay on track to achieve maximum growth in language learning. We also have organized Peer Learning Communities open and free for anyone learning a language anywhere to join where you can meet with other learners at your level as you grow.
We would love to hear your story and are excited to keep pressing on with you in this enriching adventure!