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The two fuels of language learning : motivation and curiosity
Home > Guide > Tips & Tricks > Fuels

Learning a foreign language is a long trip - you can't do it overnight. To reach the end of the trip - fluency - you need to have enough fuel. There are two kinds of fuel in language learning: willpower and curiosity:

  • Willpower is the force you rely on to do things that are not inherently attractive but need to be done to achieve some remote goal - a diploma, being fit or learning a foreign language. willpower is like a capital – you only have a limited quantity of it. If you use it for other purposes (learning music, stopping to smoke, dieting, etc…), you will have less willpower left to fuel your study of languages.
  • Interest is a renewable energy. If you get bored reading a book in Spanish, you can watch a Mexican movie. If this bores you, why not listen to some Spanish pop songs?

The key to success is to use as much curiosity and as little willpower as possible.

By increasing the number of interesting ways of working on your target language, a given dose of willpower will get you much further. You can't increase your willpower indefinitely, but there is almost no limit to the interesting and painless things you can do in your target language.

Whenever possible, use interest or curiosity to fuel your study, to save willpower for the most objectively boring part of the study.

Here are some examples:

  • You like movies? Find movies with subtitles in your target language, or better, movies shot in your target language.
  • If you are learning Spanish, instead of reading a bording text from an antiquated language textbook, go to Google News Mexico and download a real article about something that interests you. There are thousands to choose from – you’ll find one that you will really want to read for its content, not for the sake of Spanish. This will give you free, renewable energy that you can dip into to get you through the end of the text. If you had used a bland textbook article, you would have needed to use sheer willpower to finish it – and willpower is a rare commodity.

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