This post is about the reasons and meanings of habits with language learning. We all have habits in our daily lives to make things easier. When you stick to habits, you have less decisions to make and you are more likely to do things in a certain routine.
Why do we have habits and routines?
There are a number of people out there claiming how important it is to stick to habits. There are even people like Steve Jobs, who only wear certain clothes so they wont have to think about “what to dress” in the morning, but can start their days right away. It is easier for us to get our minds free, if we do not have to make too many decisions.
The more decisions you have to make until you actually start your task for the day, the more likely you will not do the task.
Like me doing my vocabulary. I keep on thinking about whether it is better to use sticky notes, a vocab-journal or flash-cards. And as long as I have not made a decision, I will not start actually learning!
Another example is the time you set for you as “learning-time”. If you do it every now and then you are very likely to say: “Ok, I`ll do that later. I have plenty of time for this.” But in the end of the day you will realize you have not done a single thing for your learning.
The routines and habits are strong tools to make you stick to your tasks.
On the other hand routines and habits are very strong. If you are used to getting up at a certain time, you will realize that you will not sleep longer, even if your alarm doesn`t run, because your body already knows the time you get up.
How to implement habits and routines in your daily live
First of all: Start small!
If you have to make a big step out of your comfy-zone you will not do it regularly. If it is only a very basic baby-step, it is harder to demand that you can not do it.
For example, if you want to learn more vocabulary, you may start with only 1 additional word every time you note down your vocab. If you write them down every week that will make an extra amount of 52 vocabs every year. Not much? Well, these 52 words you wouldn´t have learned if you didn´t add them additionally, right?
Second: Track the times/days you did your new routine.
The trick is, that you will be very motivated in the beginning, but this will decrease with time. There are different oppinions on how long it takes to implement a new routine or habit, but it is definitely longer than one month. This means that you will have to stick to your routine at least 33 times, untill you may say that it is a new habit. And this is quite a way, I can tell you!
So in order to stay motivated and move on, it is a good idea to show you with a tracker or list, how far you already got. Note down every time you`ve completed the task and note when you didn`t.
You can see, that I changed my habit-tracker two weeks ago, because I realized I forgot to note the “hearing-section” of the foreign language.
There are also lists out there that give you room not only for checking off if you actually did your task, but also to note what source you used, how much time you spent and what activity you actually did.
You can also use tests to check your actual state, but this requires a lot of extra time so I never did it. For me tracking must be funktional and easy to do. It can`t be any extra-work!
So I simply check my boxes every day I did some activity. And as you can see since I started my DTC in August 16, I produced quite some texts! The other aspects didn`t work out so well till now, but I guess, when I build in more Challenges, I will be better there, too!
Third: Give yourself an award for achieving a certain goal.
For me checking of the boxes is already something satisfying, but I also need some extra-boost now and then. So I decided whenever I managed to do 25 days in a row of some category, I will reward myself with some nice gift. Whether this is a spa-session at home or a short-trip with my husband or just a fancy dinner or buying that thing I longed to have such a long time, but didn´t want to spend the money on. Pick, what suits you!
Forth: Use your tracker to get better
In order to really improve, it is crucial, that you not only track your way, but also review it every now and then. I do this every week and try to find the reasons, why I had not managed to stick to a certain goal or method.
In this point it is necessary to be honest. You can only improve, if you know, why you failed. And there is always be a reason, why we fail. So for me my reading-section is very empty in the moment. This is mainly, because I find it very hard to read texts, that are easily available. They are simply full of words I do not know and having a dictonary beside me and finding all that words is a very exhausting thing. So I got lazy. I do not WANT to do this!
I had to find a solution. In my case I came up with the idea of using books for language-learning. But these are not very helpfull, because the texts are not very long and not very many. I`m still looking for some solution, since books for children do not have the vocab I actually want to learn. (Who needs to know about farmers, when he/she visits a foreign country?) Talking with people, who also learn foreign languages can help a lot with this problem!