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“To have another language is to have another soul” – Charlemagne

If you’re wondering why today’s post is not your usual motivational Monday productivity post, it’s because I wanted to share one of my favourite hobbies with you. That’s language learning, of course! I wanted to share why I love the way Charlemagne’s quote expresses it.

Embracing the “Soul” Of A Language

So what do you think the French king meant when he said a second language was having a second soul?
Way back when I was studying at the English department at the University of Alberta, I took as many foreign language and culture courses as could fit into my schedule. I even took a course on Italian Culture meant for Italian majors, just because I had spent a few weeks with my Swiss host family the summer before in Italy. I was intrigued by a culture course.
Here’s one of the books we read:
Of course, moving to a new place has its associated culture shocks, so it’s not always as blissful as most of these stories make it seem. In my experience (living in Switzerland, Singapore, England, Holland and Spain), I can say culture shocks are usually much different to what you’d expect!

5 Ways To Stay Motivated To Learn A Language

1.  Get Into The Culture

Can you name the local dishes of the places in the world that speak the language you are studying most? Get studying!

2.  Go Out To Eat

Can you name the local dishes of the places in the world that speak the language you are studying most? Get studying!

3.  Find Friends

Nothing beats having friends to practise with! Finding friends who are willing to immerse themselves in the culture is key. Better yet, find native speakers of the language you are learning who will really speak only in that language with you!


4.  Spice Up Your Textbook

So, what’s the best way to do this? I’ll be the first to admit that most language learning textbooks are so boring.  I can’t wait until the day I start designing my own 😉  You can definitely spice up those grammar textbooks by using a little known tip: do the exercise, but change m so boring!ur friends’ names.  Change the situations to ones you’d really be in, or a more lighthearted and fun situation.  Suddenly practising tenses doesn’t seem so boring!

5.  Plan A Trip

While I understand this is a little different if you live in a place like Canada, where the flight prices are a bit ridiculous, it’s often possible to book a flight to a country where your target language is spoken. Trust me, that gets you studying fast! In fact, a friend just invited me to come to Geneva in May (and I haven’t spoken French in over a year). So…French review, here I come!

There are a few more langauge learning tips below, and if you missed my post on 5 Language Learning Myths you can check out my thoughts on that, too!


3 More Language Learning Tips I Love


1. Audiovisual Input (Yes, watch TV!)

Netflix Foreign Films are your friends, my friends!
Listen to music, too.   Choose foreign language songs, movies and tv shows, and you’ll learn more slang and idioms than you’d ever think.
My last French tutor was so impressed at how much slang I knew without having lived in France. Where did I learn that? Movies with subtitles!

2. Create Mini-Immersion Situations

How I Learned Spanish in 8 months-1

Don’t speak _______ (insert native language here)!   Yes, I said it. Immerse yourself.  I know the research on code-switching (and using the student’s native language in the classroom) is divided, but this is my personal opinion:

Immerse yourself. I mean it.   It’s worked for me every single time.

The first 18 months I was in Barcelona, I learned Spanish in 8 months and spoke it over English every single time I could.  Even though I had people offer to switch to English, I resisted switching to English, until they eventually switched back to Spanish.

“English, right?”

“I speak Spanish”. (in Spanish).  They hear your accent, and try to switch again. They understand you, but keep trying to make you speak English (or whatever your native language is).  Stay strong. Don’t switch. Eventually, they will give up, and you’ll have a chance to practise 🙂


3. Set A Specific Goal

I bet you didn’t see that one coming in a motivational post from me (wink, wink). You know I love my goal setting!  I was so determined to meet my goal of speaking Spanish as soon as possible after moving to Barcelona that I gave up English activities. I went to the hairdresser, the personal trainer, the masseuse, photography meetups, sailing meetup trips, painting classes, the gym, doctors appointments etc. etc. only in Spanish. 
Did I know the vocabulary? Nope. But you can bet I did at the end of the activity!  Be really clear about what you want – and go get it!
(P.S. You don’t have to do this forever. After 2 years of living here, I started to do more “English” activities, and have more English speaking friends, because I felt confident enough in my Spanish to do so).

Language Learning Summit

Where To Get Language Learning Help

Usually, I’d launch into a discussion here on finding Meetup groups, Facebook groups or communities at your school or workplace that share your interest.  That’s still a great, idea, of course, but remember to seek help from experts, too. 

You may not have time to seek out hard to digest academic articles on second language learning or teaching, or attend a bunch of conferences and seminars. Remember that looking online can be a great resource to connect to others who share your goals. There are tons of language teacher bloggers out there, ready to help 🙂

Guess what?

You’re in luck if you’re reading this on the day I post it, because there are four days left to get your $2 tickets to Paulino Brenner’s Language Learning Summit. 

You can use my special discount code  “celebratelanguages” (all lower case) to grab your tickets now! That way you’ll have full access to 50+ talks from language experts and teachers until February 24, 2018. You can even purchase Premium Passes and keep the videos for life! I’ve bought Premium Passes at Paulino’s summits before, and they are awesome value.  Just head here to check that out!

How do you stay motivated to learn languages? What are you studying now? I’d love to hear from all of you in the comments below.

Have a lovely and productive Monday!


P.S.  The photo for today’s post (and poster!) is one I took in Lisbon, Portugal, on a trip last spring.

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