Watch any detective drama and you’ll learn a few things.
First, nothing is as simple as it first looks.
Second, dead bodies turn up in the darnedest of places.
Finally, everything always boils down to motive.
Detective dramas and learning Spanish have a lot in common in that regard.
Hopefully your road to fluency is littered with significantly fewer dead bodies, but motive still matters.
Whatever your reasons for learning Spanish are—whether you’re learning Spanish for work or just want to pick up some vacation vocabulary—these reasons can contribute to your motivation. This, in turn, affects your learning.
But sometimes, finding all the motivation you need to keep learning Spanish can be challenging.
When you hit a roadblock, like challenging vocabulary or grammar rules, you might feel like giving up.
If your life gets busy and it gets hard to find study time, you might feel like you don’t like learning Spanish anymore.
And perhaps most demoralizing of all, if you’ve been studying Spanish but rarely or never get to use it, you might start to wonder if it’s worth continuing.
But don’t let any motivation zappers stop you!
Take a cue from those drama detectives: Pick up a magnifying glass and find your motivation again in perfect clarity. We have six ideas to help you get there.
Why Does Motivation to Learn Spanish Matter?
First and foremost, motivation directly impacts learning.
In fact, one study found that motivation may be one of the main factors that affect language learning. After all, your motivation can impact how frequently you interact with native speakers, how you use learning strategies and so much more.
Proper motivation can also make learning more enjoyable. If you’re truly passionate about learning Spanish, studying won’t seem like work. Instead, it’ll feel like an important step towards your goal.
Finally, motivation is the key to fluency. Becoming fluent in Spanish can be a long process. Participating in a Spanish immersion abroad or volunteering in Latin America can help propel you towards fluency, but full fluency may take longer than just these experiences alone.
Since you won’t learn Spanish overnight, reaching fluency will require plenty of motivation to keep you going when you feel like quitting.
Many of us have felt that loss of motivation dragging us down. Sometimes you stop and wonder “Why am I really doing this? Is it worth it?”
If you’re experiencing a foreign language “crisis of faith,” or if you’ve hit that dreaded learning plateau and feel like you’ll never break away from it, here are six ways to get back on the saddle!
Lost the Motivation to Learn Spanish? Here Are 6 Powerful Ways to Get It Back
1. Make a list of all the reasons you’re learning Spanish—and keep it close.
When you start learning Spanish, your reasons probably seem obvious to you. You may want to travel, hope to have better job options, desire to experience unique cultures or even wish to connect with your own heritage.
However, when you feel like quitting, chances are you won’t think of any of these reasons.
That’s why you should make a list of all the reasons why you’re learning Spanish. Keep it in a handy place, ideally near where you study or with your study material.
Whenever you hit a roadblock that seems too challenging to overcome or you feel like skipping your usual study sesh, refer back to your list.
Reminding yourself of why you started learning Spanish in the first place can help you keep your focus and resolve.
2. Indulge in authentic media.
Watching authentic Spanish-language media can be tremendously motivating. When you binge-watch something, you tend to feel truly involved in it. The popularity of shows like “Game of Thrones” just goes to show how effectively you can get sucked into a good show!
The same addictive properties can help motivate you to improve your Spanish skills. If your favorite material to watch is in Spanish, not only will watching it give you valuable practice, it’ll also give you the motivation you need to improve your skills so that you don’t need to lean on subtitles or keep looking up unfamiliar vocabulary.
FluentU is a great tool for using authentic media to learn Spanish. Since FluentU uses real-world videos, like movie trailers, music videos, news and more, it’s fun—and, yes, motivating—to use.
FluentU takes real-world videos, like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks, and turns them into Spanish learning experiences.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store for iOS and Android devices.
Netflix also offers a huge array of authentic, bingeable Spanish media, like “El Barco” (“The Boat”) and “Narcos.” (All show availability depends on your region—if Netflix isn’t streaming these in your region, look for any of the service’s other awesome Spanish-language shows!)
After watching hours of captivating TV, there’s a strong chance you’ll be much more passionate about improving your Spanish skills. At the very least, you’ll definitely pick up some maritime vocabulary for your next apocalyptic cruise.
3. Reward yourself.
Learning Spanish is pretty challenging, so you deserve a reward!
Giving yourself rewards along the way can help you recognize what you’ve accomplished and boost your morale for the future. This is called the theory of operant conditioning, which simply states that we’re more likely to keep doing a behavior if we receive a pleasurable outcome from it.
You can reward yourself for completing both short- and long-term goals to keep your motivation high as you go.
For instance, if you can’t get through the day without a handful of peanut M&Ms (they have valuable protein, after all), consider using your snack as an incentive to study. You don’t get your precious M&Ms until after you’ve studied Spanish for a set amount of time, like 15 minutes.
Not only will this help give you the motivation to study daily, but it could even help remind you to study when you might otherwise forget. When you get that M&M craving, you might recall that you need to study to earn them.
Heck, if you give yourself one M&M for every five minutes spent studying, you might soon find your study time ballooning from 15 minutes a day to 15 hours a day.
Rewards for long-term goals can also be valuable.
For instance, if you’re working through a course or textbook, you can set a reward for when you complete your next level. If you decide to treat yourself to an evening out with your best friend when you reach your goal, there’s a strong chance you’ll aim to get there a lot sooner.
4. Adopt cultural aspects.
Research shows that adopting cultural aspects associated with a second language can improve learning. It goes without saying that it may also increase motivation to learn a language.
If you’re passionate about the culture associated with a language, you more likely to be interested in learning that language.
One easy way to connect with a culture is through food, so try making dishes from Latin America or Spain whenever you need a quick shot of motivation. Make a paella. Perfect your favorite tamale recipe—then make them a Christmas tradition. Even your churro addiction could fuel your motivation to learn Spanish.
Of course, there are many other ways to bring culture into your life. Celebrate the holidays, adopt the Spanish tradition of the siesta (nap) or start following the fashion trends of your favorite Spanish fashion blogger.
If you love the culture of a region where Spanish is spoken, you’re likely to feel more connected to it, which could, in turn, rekindle your love for the language.
5. Interact with (or listen to) people in Spanish.
Using your skills is a huge motivator to keep improving. It confirms that you’ve made progress, which can give you an unbeatable sense of accomplishment.
Interact in Spanish whenever possible. If there are Spanish speakers around you, try to engage them in conversation. If not, you can always find a conversation partner through a service like Tandem.
If you’re finding it intimidating to talk to Spanish-speakers, just remember: even if they look at you funny, most will humor you and respond in Spanish.
Just imagine how you’d treat someone learning English: You’d probably want to help and encourage them! The feeling is mutual.
Help a Spanish-speaking tourist in her language (she’ll be thankful and relieved!). Ask a grocer you’ve heard speaking Spanish where the tomatoes are… in Spanish.
It’ll feel odd and be difficult at first, but the more you practice speaking Spanish, the more confident you’ll become.
And the wonderful feeling you get from the little interactions will rekindle your motivation for learning the language.
You can also just listen in on conversations when you hear Spanish being spoken.
Don’t be a creeper or anything—be as subtle as possible and if personal topics are addressed, be courteous and tune out! Still, successfully listening to a family debating what type of pizza to buy can make you feel like you have a special superpower, which might make you feel more motivated to hone your secret ability.
6. Plan a trip to a Spanish-speaking country, even if you may never take it.
Planning a trip can be incredibly motivational, even if it’s entirely theoretical. That’s because the more you read about a place, the more you’ll want to go there.
And if you’re planning a trip to a Spanish-speaking country, you’ll feel super motivated to improve your skills so that it can be the trip of a lifetime (even if it never progresses past the planning stage).
When you need a study break, just plan your dream vacation. Consider where you’ll stay, what sites you’ll visit, what food you’ll eat and what you’ll do when you’re there. Dive into Lonely Planet and look up your favorite Spanish-speaking countries to see what you might do on a trip.
You might even print out your favorite pictures to look at whenever you need an extra motivational boost to keep you going.
It’s no mystery that learning Spanish requires proper motivation. With these simple methods, you’ll never be left searching for a motive.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.