Advice, People

The Secret to Being a Successful Language Learner

Marie Forleo on language learning

An Interview with Life Coach and Motivational Speaker Marie Forleo 

When you made that resolution to learn a new language, you were probably eager to wipe the slate clean and launch energetically into the best version of yourself. But it’s been a few weeks and if you’re even the tiniest bit human, you’ve probably gotten waylaid. A big project at work. Catching that flu that’s been going around. Hey, it happens to everyone. What matters now is what you do next. How can you refocus and find the motivation you’ve lost?

Enter Marie Forleo, a life coach and motivational speaker whose #1 New York Times bestseller helped her launch a digital empire that inspires millions. Marie describes herself as a “multipassionate entrepreneur” whose insatiable curiosity and passion drove her to find ways to help others thrive. From Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday to Richard Branson’s mentoring program in South Africa, Marie has earned her place as a thought leader for young entrepreneurs. 

We were thrilled to interview Marie to glean the secret to staying focused and achieving your goals, whether it’s starting a business or learning a new language.

Q: In your work helping people pursue their dreams, is there a singular factor that makes the difference between those who follow through and those who don’t? In other words, is there a secret sauce to being successful in any endeavor? (And can we have the recipe.)

A: Hunger. You must want that change, result, or outcome bad enough. When you’ve got a big enough why—something that’s emotional and personal to you — you’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. It’s nearly impossible for anyone to reach a big, important long-term goal if they feel lukewarm about it.

Q: Many folks start off the new year committed to doing something meaningful. Getting in shape, starting a business, learning a new language. By the time February rolls around, most of us have already gotten hopelessly off track. What would you say to people who are struggling right now with their resolutions?

A: Be kind to yourself and, then, recommit to your goal. Jump back on the bandwagon and don’t just hope you’ll make the time, schedule it.

For example, schedule the time and the place that you’re going to take action and have a backup plan. Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson found that deciding in advance exactly where and when you’re going to take specific actions to reach your goal can actually double or triple your chances for success. Add in any kind of accountability (checking in with a friend, coach, committing to a group class, etc.) and your chances for success increase even more.

Q: In your experience, what’s a common mistake people make when they try to do something challenging?

A: Trying to take on too much, too soon. Rather than imagining you’ll work on a new language for an hour a day, every day… why not commit to just 10 minutes? New habits start with small changes, not big sweeping moves that are nearly impossible to keep. 

Q: Like many worthwhile endeavors, learning a language takes time and the ability to be patient with yourself when you make mistakes. Do you have any words of wisdom for language learners about how to be resilient and roll with the punches?

Focus on progress, not perfection

A: Focus on progress, not perfection. Your only measure of success is this: did you show up today and practice? Did you put in the effort to make even the tiniest progress on your language learning journey? If so, celebrate. Then recommit to showing up and putting in effort tomorrow.  

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