Strategies For Language Learning Motivation


Strategies For Language Learning Motivation

How to Stay Inspired While Learning a New Language

By Geralde Vincent-Bancroft

Language learning motivation is crucial. Studies have shown that motivation can directly affect one’s success in language acquisition. In this guide, we discuss three specific ways to stay motivated in the long term and achieve your language learning goals.

Cultivating Intrinsic Motivation for language learning motivation

 Intrinsic motivation is the desire to learn driven by personal interest, enjoyment, or curiosity. To cultivate intrinsic motivation, consider the reasons why you want to learn the language, such as connecting with your heritage or travelling to a foreign country. Be sure to celebrate your progress, no matter how small, and give yourself permission to mistakes as you learn.

Cultivating intrinsic motivation is a critical aspect of staying motivated while learning a new language. This type of motivation  is driven by personal interest, enjoyment, or curiosity, and is important for maintaining a long-lasting commitment to language learning. 

Benefits of Cultivating Intrinsic Motivation

When learners cultivate intrinsic motivation, they are more likely to engage in the learning process, seek out new opportunities to practise the language, and push past their comfort zones. Cultivating intrinsic motivation also helps learners to:

  • Enjoy the language learning journey more fully
  • Maintain consistency in practice
  • Feel less intimidated about making mistakes
  • Embrace challenges as opportunities to learn and grow
  • Build more confidence in their own abilities

Overall, cultivating intrinsic motivation is one of the most effective ways to stay motivated when learning a new language. When learners have a clear sense of purpose, celebrate their progress, maintain a positive mindset, and enjoy the ride, they are sure to make great strides towards their language learning goals.

Here are some ways to cultivate intrinsic motivation

Find Your “Why”

Having a clear sense of purpose and an emotional connection to why you are learning a language is critical to cultivating intrinsic motivation. For example, if you have family members who speak another language, learning that language could help you connect with them on a deeper level. Or if you enjoy travelling, learning the language of your destination could help you immerse yourself in the culture more fully.

Celebrate Your Progress

It’s easy to get discouraged when learning a new language, especially when you feel like you’re not making progress. Celebrating small successes, such as mastering a new grammar rule or having a conversation with a native speaker, can help boost your motivation  and keep you moving forward.

Create a Positive Mindset

Learning a new language is a challenging and rewarding endeavour. When you have a positive outlook, you are more likely to be motivated, even when the going gets tough. Instead of focusing on mistakes or setbacks, focus on the progress you’re making and what you’re learning along the way.

Visualisation and Mastery Orientation for language learning motivation

Visualisation  involves imagining yourself in situations where you are successfully using the new language. This can strengthen your motivation and help you maintain a positive attitude while studying. 

Mastery orientation, also known as a growth mindset, is about focusing on learning and making progress rather than on outcomes. When you focus on the process of learning, it can be easier to stay motivated even when facing setbacks or challenges.

Examples of a Growth Mindset when Learning a Foreign Language

Learning a new language can be challenging, and adopting a growth mindset is essential to overcome obstacles and continue making progress. Here are some examples of a growth mindset when learning a foreign language:

  1. Perseverance: When learners encounter challenging aspects of the language, such as complex grammar rules or tricky pronunciation, they keep practising until they get it right. For example, a learner who struggles with the nasal sounds in French doesn’t give up after the first attempt but rather keeps practising until they become second nature.

  2. Taking Risks: Learners take risks, such as speaking with native speakers or participating in language exchanges, even when they are not comfortable. They embrace their mistakes as opportunities to learn and practice. They recognise that mistakes are a natural part of the learning journey and help them learn and progress.

  3. Accepting Mistakes: When learners make mistakes, they don’t get discouraged but rather use them as lessons to improve. For example, a learner who misses a word during a conversation and doesn’t understand a response learns from that mistake and makes an effort to understand the meaning of words or phrases.

  4. Embracing Challenges: Learners embrace challenging activities that promote learning, and expose them to new vocabulary and grammar. For example, learners who undertake more advanced level reading, even when it is difficult, and push beyond their current learning level.

Encouraging Growth Mindset for language learning motivation

Encouraging a growth mindset  when learning a foreign language is crucial to the learner’s success. Teachers can encourage this mindset through ongoing praise and input, providing feedback that motivates students to persevere and celebrating their progress while guiding them towards the next challenge. 

By adopting a growth mindset, learners view challenges as opportunities to learn, adopting a positive approach towards the struggles that come with learning a foreign language. 

With consistent practice and the right attitude, learners can make significant progress, no matter how daring their learning journey may be.

Setting Achievable Goals 

Setting achievable goals  provides learners with a clear path to success and keeps motivation high. Start with small goals that are within your reach, such as mastering basic greetings or mastering a new grammar rule. As you achieve these small goals, set new ones that are slightly more challenging but still realistic.

Achievable Goals for Learning a New Language

Here are some examples of goals that beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners can set:

Beginner Goals

  • Learning the basics: Set a goal of learning basic greetings, numbers, and common phrases. Achieve this by using apps like Duolingo or Rosetta Stone, joining beginner classes, or watching children’s shows with subtitles.

  • Mastering alphabet and pronunciation: Set a goal of mastering the sounds of the language and recognizing every letter in the alphabet. You can use apps like Memrise or Youtube videos to help you improve pronunciation.

Intermediate Goals

  • Becoming conversational: Set a goal of being able to hold a basic conversation in your target language. You can achieve this by using language exchange apps like Tandem or HelloTalk, finding conversation partners, attending language meetups, and practising speaking daily.

  • Reading and writing proficiently: Set a goal of reading and writing short texts, such as articles or emails, without using a dictionary. You can accomplish this by reading graded readers, articles for language learners, or language-specific websites.

Advanced Goals

  • C1/C2 proficiency: Set a goal of reaching a C1 or C2 level in the language proficiency scale. You can achieve this by taking intensive classes, hiring a tutor or language coach, attending language immersion programs, and participating in language certification exams.

  • Mastery of slang and idiomatic expressions: Set a goal of mastering the slang and idiomatic expressions of the language. You can achieve this by watching TV shows or movies in the target language, reading novels, attending local events, and by practising with native speakers.

Benefits of Achieving Goals

  • Boosts Confidence: Setting achievable goals enables the learner to take pride in their accomplishments, making them feel more confident to take the next step.

  • Maintains Motivation: Goals help learners maintain motivation by providing a clear path to progress, thus, providing a purpose.

  • Tracking Progress: Achieving goals can help learners track their progress, and learners will be able to determine if they need to increase or reduce their effort.

  • Mapping Out Succession: Goals help learners map out their successions, ensuring they are achieving the correct milestones.

Setting achievable goals can help you gain momentum in your language learning journey. When you reach a goal, use it as motivation to move on to the next one. Don’t be afraid to adjust or reset your goals if needed. 

The key is to stay focused, motivated, and celebrate every milestone. Remember, language learning is never truly over, but the journey can be enjoyable and fulfilling.


In summary, staying motivated is an essential component of language learning. By cultivating intrinsic motivation, visualisation, and mastery orientation, and setting achievable goals, learners will be more likely to stay motivated and achieve their language learning objectives. With persistence, motivation, and a growth mindset, achieving language fluency is within reach.

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