You’ve put in months, years, even decades into learning Spanish and you’re just about ready to throw in the towel.
You feel like you haven’t made enough progress and that you’re still grappling with the same confusing grammar concepts.
Feeling frustrated and defeated, you say to yourself, “What’s the point!? I’ll never get it!” But you still love learning Spanish and, deep in your heart, you don’t want to give up.
So, how do we continue to show up every day and motivate ourselves to press forward with our Spanish learning?
When you’ve lost inspiration, try to take a step back and consider these four things:
1.) Take note of how far you’ve come!
With the way our culture operates these days, we are obsessed with the “microwave effect.” This is the mindset of wanting (and getting) almost everything right now.
Technology has made obtaining information extremely fast and we’ve begun to think that everything in life should be easy to pick-up. But, unfortunately, your brain, and the learning process, doesn’t work like that.
I like to think of “learning Spanish” as a lifelong journey. Even as a Spanish instructor, I am still, and will always be, a student. On days when I’m feeling extra frustrated, I often sit back and reflect on my journey. I think to myself “wow, 10 years ago, I could barely say xyz and now I can hold a full conversation!”
So, right now, take a deep breath and give yourself a pat on the back. You are doing an amazing job and I am really proud of you!
2.) It’s ok to take a mental break and revisit material later
On days when I’m not on my “A-Game” with my Spanish (i.e. making silly mistakes or the language just isn’t flowing out of my mouth as it ought to), I take a mental break. I put away my grammar book or short story and go for a walk or focus on something else for a while. “A while” can be a few hours, a day, a week….basically, until l’m ready to refocus with a better attitude.
You see, there is a fine line with frustration. It either motivates us to do better or it can completely overwhelm us and block us from progressing.
When I take a mental break I sometimes like to say, “Spanish – I’m putting you on a time-out right now. I really do love and care about you but you’re driving me crazy!” Yes, sometimes I think of my relationship with Spanish as an incredible telenovela with lots of drama and tears, but that always ends with love and admiration.
3.) Remind yourself of your “why”
So, why did you jump into learning Spanish in the first place? Was it to travel? To progress in your career? For pleasure?
Simon Senek’s book, “Start With Why,” totally changed my perspective on how to understand what motivates and inspires me. In terms of Spanish, when I’m feeling particularly drained with the language, I go through old pictures and journals of my travels through Spain and Latin America.
I see pictures of the incredible people I met and read about the many adventures I’ve had and the vast knowledge I’ve acquired because I was able to speak Spanish. These memories inspire and motivate me to continue on my Spanish journey.
If you’re a visual person, jump on Instagram to follow inspiring pages of your favorite countries, or create a vision board on Pinterest. If you’re more of a social person, find an online Meetup or Facebook group with like-minded people who also love Spanish. If you’re a reader, grab an inspiring memoir of someone who’s lived in your country of choice.
4.) Set a personal deadline and ask your Spanish teacher to help hold you accountable
When push comes to shove, sometimes we just need a little accountability. I call myself a “Spanish Instructor” although really, I like to think of myself as more of a “Spanish Coach.”
Just like having a fitness instructor, the one-hour a week is not going to get you into shape. It’s what you do in-between sessions that will get you to your goal. And having a fitness coach checking your progress, giving you tips and tools, correcting your form and celebrating your accomplishments helps motivate you to stay on track.
The same goes for learning Spanish. The real progress comes from the work you do outside the classroom – the grammar exercises you do, the podcasts you listen to, the pages in your workbooks that you complete, the short stories you read etc. And really, I am just there to correct your form, give you tools and resources, explain new concepts and most importantly, tell you you’re amazing and that I’m proud of you!
To sum things up, author and speaker, Brené Brown, has spent the last two decades writing about courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy (I highly recommend both her books and podcasts). She talks a lot about the courage it takes to step into the “arena of vulnerability” when we try new things. Most people like to sit outside of the arena, passing judgement and criticism. These people will never experience the full joys of life.
On the other hand, those who bravely place both feet in the arena, who take on vulnerability head-on by openly facing challenges and set-backs, feel the empowerment and joy of overcoming adversity.
I like to think of “learning Spanish” as stepping into a new arena. It is a vast, arduous space filled with difficult verb conjugations, confusing sentence structures, embarrassing moments with native speakers, and feeling like you’re 3-years old when you have a master’s degree and a vast vocabulary in English.
But oh my I will tell you, on the other side of all of that struggle, is a beautiful rainbow full of travel, culture and experiences that makes it all worth it. So press onward my friend!
Sí se puede y sí vale la pena.