What is your motivation for learning English? I bet your teachers in school never asked you. A widespread problem among English learners is that they feel forced to learn instead of wanting to learn. Any teacher will tell you that you cannot teach a student who isn’t motivated. Here, I will discuss some top reasons given for learning English, as well as some new motivating benefits of language learning.
Top Reason 1: Your job
English is the international language of business, sure. That’s not why anyone wants to learn another language, most of us wish we didn’t have to work and could pursue other interests or spend more time with our families. Given the choice between your free time and learning English, you are more likely to choose anything else over English. Additionally, there is no correlation between speaking English and making more money at work. As this research from Wharton (University of Pennsylvania) and former consulting agency LECG Europe concluded in 2005, a second language may only add 2% to your salary.
The truth is many companies pay for their workers to improve their English. Free education is a gift that would be valued by many people globally. Additionally, work can provide opportunities to practice your English, so you don’t have to save that practice for when you get home.
Top Reason 2: Future Travel
English is a common language in many parts of the world. You can travel to many countries where they local language is difficult, but restaurants, attractions, and other businesses are prepared with translations offered in English. Sometimes people want to prepare for a trip, retirement plans, or visit an English speaking country. The problem with this lies in a procrastinator’s favorite phrase, “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?”
Travel doesn’t have to be in the future. Studying abroad can be as easy as opening the internet. People used to have to drive, take ships, and ride horses to experience another culture and language. Immersion can be created within the comfort of your own home, watching videos, reading, and surrounding yourself in English. It’s never been easier.
Top Reason 3: Everyone else is better
Students often compare themselves to other people they know who can communicate in English with less of an accent, more confidence, studied abroad, or had bilingual parents. You don’t have these experiences, maybe you never will, so what is the point in trying?
You don’t have bilingual parents, or maybe they didn’t have time to teach you. You didn’t study abroad, or you have a thick accent. It’s never too late! A recent study at MIT proves that adults can master a language to nearly the same level as a child. Children do not learn better (okay, maybe pronunciation) but they also have more time. Children are not going to work, paying bills, making dinner, or doing the laundry. If you had as much free time as a child, you might advance as quickly if not quicker in a second language.
Also, no child has ever complained to me about Dora the Explorer speaking Spanish. Adult students are sometimes more stubborn than the open-minded child who wants to try everything and isn’t afraid to make mistakes.
Now for some motivating truth:
Truth 1: Learn at any age
If you didn’t learn English yet, there is still time. I didn’t start speaking French until I was 24 years old. I taught myself Spanish after age 30, and I’m currently working on German. This goes for so many multilingual people out there. You can learn later in life, and you are often a better learner than you were as a child. As this study states, your life experience, maturity, and dedication can be bigger motivational factors and aids to helping you learn better than that of a child.
So much has changed since many of my student’s were in school, and that goes for what we known about learning a language. That is why so many teachers focus on speaking and communicating rather than drilling the different tenses and drowning students in grammar. You still need tenses and grammar, but there are better ways to put this into practice.
Truth 2: Immersion now
So you didn’t study abroad, you don’t have bilingual parents, but you do have the internet! You have the ability to immerse yourself, and create some of the same experiences you would have if you lived in an English speaking country. It’s as easy as changing your settings on your email, applications, and programs you use every day. Email? Learn how to ‘send’, ‘reply’, and ‘mark as spam’. Instagram? In English, follow some English speakers, learn some new hashtags. The list is as long as the amount of time you spend in front of a screen each day.
Old school? I’m still a fan of labeling your space with Post-It notes until you can name everything in your apartment or home with ease.
Truth 3: You can do it!
There are lots of reasons people don’t succeed, but the number one reason is often self-doubt. It’s never too late to learn a language, it simply takes motivation, time, and practice. You will learn and it will take time, don’t give up! Don’t compare yourself to others! While some people seem to learn with ease, everyone will tell you it took them time to communicate basic words, practice to make full sentences, and lots more practice speaking to feel relaxed in a new language.
Do you have a reason you struggle to learn I didn’t mention here? Write in the comments and I’m happy to give some advice and suggestions.