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30 days: How to improve self-discipline

 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
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 Message 9 of 39
16 November 2009 at 11:07pm | IP Logged 

The best thread of the year!

Thank you very much, emk.

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 Message 10 of 39
16 November 2009 at 11:45pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
Volte wrote:
I tried this for studying 6 languages at once - most via Assimil - a couple of years ago;

Impressive! But 6 languages every day is an enormously difficult goal, and it will completely eat your life. That might be perfectly OK for some folks, or during a Total Annihilation Challenge. But I've never been able to usefully keep 6 daily tasks going at a time; I always end up whittling one or two of them down to a token commitment just to stay sane.

For example, I've been doing this for more than two years, and I'm currently experimenting with a fairly heavy load. Right now, I have two different commitments for French (general study and SRS), one for exercise, one for keeping a GTD task list up to date, and one for a programming project. The first three are doing great, but I can't devote enough time to the other two. So later this week, I'll probably drop the programming project, and set a higher minimum bar for the GTD task list.

But when I started out, I couldn't have done all this. I could only handle a single task, and that was a huge stretch. If you've never tried to make a daily commitment before, make one, and keep it to 20–40 minutes. After you've done that for a month or two, you can consider adding a second commitment.

It actually wasn't that difficult or life-eating; I had a list of quite a lot of other things I was doing on a daily basis as well, and the language part took two hours/day if I was pressed for time, and up to 3 or so if I wasn't.

The problem was that it made language learning into unpleasant drudgery - it was effective, but I grew to dislike it more and more with each passing day, and so I stopped. I find no point in having a hobby I loathe.

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 Message 11 of 39
17 November 2009 at 2:08pm | IP Logged 
Volte wrote:
The problem was that it made language learning into unpleasant drudgery - it was effective, but I grew to dislike it more and more with each passing day, and so I stopped. I find no point in having a hobby I loathe.

That's a really good point.

For me, French isn't exactly a hobby. It's a personal goal. So I'm allowed to occasionally think it's a drag, so long as I keep doing it. :-) Mostly, studying French is a lot of fun, and some moments are simply amazing—such as the first time I picked up a real book in French and read chapter after chapter.

But there are times when I'd rather just sit around and browse the internet, or do some other useless thing. And at times like those, studying French seems like a huge burden. And if I give in during those low times, I know that I will eventually give up entirely. So for me, it's better to just slog through, and fairly soon I'll be having fun once again.

I rather envy people who can learn a language as a hobby, working only when they enjoy it. For me, that was never really a viable approach. But who knows? Perhaps once I reach a C1 level in French, I will have the skills to learn a language that way.
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 Message 12 of 39
27 March 2010 at 5:55pm | IP Logged 
The OP is the best post I've seen on any forum in a long time. Merci beaucoup, emk.

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 Message 13 of 39
27 March 2010 at 6:37pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
One day, however, my wife asked me to learn French. It's her native tongue, and we had already decided to raise our children to be bilingual.

I agree with those who say this is an excellent original post and thread. Thanks for it, and keep up the great work.

Can you comment on your plans for the children? Was it the plan to get you bilingual and then have some kids? Or are the kids already being immersed in this fertile bilingual environment?

I read a bunch of narratives from Dutch expats who are living abroad in primarily English environments and want to ensure their children retain their Dutch. Some of the techniques they described as effective are:

1. Interesting, appropriate-age-level books, TV and movies.
2. Target-language friends their own age. (probably difficult)
3. Vacations in target language areas. (Quebec, France, St Pierre and Miquelon [part of France, just off the coast of Newfoundland], French Caribbean/South America, etc.)
4. Specific home activities, such as the evening meal, always in target language.
5. Target language pen-pals.
6. Most important: Ensure it is always fun, never drudgery, for the kids.

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 Message 14 of 39
27 March 2010 at 9:13pm | IP Logged 
And the thread rises from the dead. ooaooaoooaogoooooo!!!!!

More seriously though I've actually tried this. This post actually got me interested.
However, I was not able to actually pull of the 30 days. For about a week I was pretty
ill and unable to continue.

Outside of that I had made impressive gains up until that point, so I do whole-heartedly
recommend this method to anyone who has a bit of the procrastination bug!
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 Message 15 of 39
28 March 2010 at 7:20am | IP Logged 
That was an awesome post, and it's definitely true that if you skip a day, you'll skip two, etc etc. It's so hard to to come to something you do daily after skipping a day.
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 Message 16 of 39
28 March 2010 at 6:35pm | IP Logged 
Thanks for resurrecting this post, I enjoyed reading it. I very much agree, it's a very positive goal to do at a least a little bit every day. I also remember first hearing about the 30-day trial in a gym where I was a member several years ago, where I was told at the time how it takes about 30 days to turn any exercise into a habit (or vice versa, that this is the time it takes to reverse an unhealthy habit, i.e. by not succumbing to it for 30 days in a row). At the same time, if you do unfortunately become ill or something important crops up with work or family that means you won't be able to work on your target language that day or the next, then this is perfectly normal too. Your health and family are vitally more important than studies, in fact, if you don't look after your health properly then language studies may be the least of your worries. So what I'd like to say here is that one needn't beat themselves up about missing a day here or there and falling off the wagon too much. It's all very understandable, and the long road to learning a new language comes with its inevitable bumps and bruises and ups and downs along the way. The trick is instead to continue believing in yourself, to dust yourself down and get back on that wagon as swiftly as possible each time this happens, and to try to get into a habit of doing this too.

Edited by Teango on 28 March 2010 at 6:40pm

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