Learning a new language is not something that you will master in a few months. The best approach is to think about it as a long-term challenge and to make study a regular, ongoing part of your life. New students sometimes make the mistake of trying to do too much study too soon and “burning out”. If you put too much pressure on yourself and your weekly schedule, you might just make yourself mentally tired and lose your motivation. The best approach is to think about making study a regular habit.
I have recently started learning Vietnamese and in the first few weeks found that I really wasn’t doing enough study. I would plan to study for one or two hours but usually found an excuse not to start, or to allow myself to be distracted by something before I had even done thirty minutes of study. I was not in the habit of studying and I was putting too much pressure on myself. I really wanted to learn and was actually a little confused about why I was not able to study more and learn faster.
Learning another language is a valuable experience for a language teacher. It makes us remember and test the methods and advice we give to our students, but which we sometimes forget ourselves. The piece of advice I needed to hear (from myself) was to start studying in small blocks of ten to thirty minutes. Then I reminded myself to make sure I did at least one block of study each day. What I was doing was gradually making study a regular part of my routine. I started making study a habit.
After a week I began to increase the length of some (but not all) of my study sessions. I tried to make at least three of my study sessions about forty minutes long. When I felt tired, when I was busy with other things or when I felt I didn’t have enough motivation I just did a short ten minute session. So my advice for new language students is to try this approach. Remember that it is a long-term project and try to gradually introduce study into your life. That way, you don’t “burn-out”, you make study a habit and it begins to feel like a normal part of your daily and weekly routine, not an extra challenge on top of your “normal” life.