How to find the motivation to work hard and learn?


It’s an essential question for language students. We know that success depends on working hard over a long period of time. How do we keep ourselves at it?

In search of some inspiration, I went to meet author, singer and motivational coach, Naomi Susan Isaacs. Naomi has been helping people overcome their mental barriers to achievement, both on and off the stage, for decades. She sat down to share stories about her own motivational challenges and gave me a whole range of tips about how we can all motivate ourselves to start and to keep going….
Find your learning style     Make a Start    Speak

Understand your ‘Reason Why’

“As it says in many a self-help book, tapping into your ‘reason why’ is an essential. You need to understand what it is and where it’s taking you. If your direction of travel doesn’t align with your core desires, you’re likely to hit troubles when things get hard. That goes for anything, starting a business, learning to sing, or indeed learning a language.“

“Formal goal setting doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, but everyone needs to find a way of visualising and defining their desires. So thinking about the advantages that you can get from learning is good place to start. How will your life be different once you can speak the language? Who will you be able to talk to? What new activities will be you be able to take part in? Who will be impressed? Who will take you more seriously? – you can vision it all.”

Can we learn anything?

“With hard work we can achieve a lot. The environment into which we are born is very important to our outcomes, but we can get a long way through dedicated learning. Mozart was born into a very musical family, but even he didn’t write a great piece of music on the first try. Mozart’s first attempts were not worth listening to, he had to work at it too.”

How can we stay motivated to learn?

“We all have to find our own motivations for learning. A lot of that is finding your own working style. Some people love to work in a busy café, others need total silence. Some thrive in a community setting and learn best when they involve colleagues or friends. Others will only feel comfortable making mistakes when they are on their own.”

“Generally, as language is such a social thing, the best way to learn is by speaking. It’s natural to do it by organising get-togethers or games and turn a chore into a pleasure. If that’s really not your style then I would recommend watching television or perhaps recording yourself and getting feedback that way.”

What about the self-study. How do we find the discipline for that?

“Do I want to do this? Should I do this at all? Is this the right time to do this? These are questions that plague us all. In the end, we just have to make a start.”

“I’m a very undisciplined person myself, so I know all about it. One of the myths you have to dispel is that everything you do has to be fun. Of course sometimes to achieve things you just have to knuckle down to unpleasant tasks. I think the secret is to choose your moment and make a start. If I have a moment in the day when I can’t decide what to do (and let’s face it, we all have these once in a while), then I always choose to do the thing I don’t want to do. The thing I’ve been putting off doing. Then I do it and feel great about having done it afterwards.”

Growing up does not mean giving up. A lot of grownups think that what they had to do at school stops when they grow up, but they’re wrong. Learning is a life-long journey and you can’t just sit back and say ‘I don’t want to do this’. As a child you are never allowed to say ‘this is not my subject’ I want to give up. So too as an adult, we shouldn’t let ourselves quit just because things get hard.“

What advice would you give people who are afraid of speaking in a language they are learning?

“I often set my students tasks where they have to deliberately put themselves into situations they fear. For example, if you are afraid of people laughing at you, deliberately practise doing things that make people laugh at you, but where you are in control. So, for example, walk into a bookstore and ask where the bookstore is, something like this.”

“With language, the fear of making mistakes often prevents us from just speaking, perhaps much more than we realise. So, we need to recognise that fear inside us and actively combat it.”

Tell me about the power of languages.

“As soon as you go to a country and make an effort to learn their language, they treat you very differently. You get a much better reaction.”

“Take my German, which is not native, but pretty close. I’ve learnt about the mentality of the people here in a way that I could never discover by reading a book. Bavarians have a reputation for being grumpy (they have a special word for it grantig), but when you get to know them you realise that they are not being rude at all, they just don’t have a verbal tradition of over-politeness. The very opposite of America in this way. “

Naomi grew up in London but is long established in Munich where she is currently offering training in Charismology and the art of finding your own fulfilled self. She is fluent in German and also speaks very passable French and Spanish. Thanks so much for all your good advice Naomi!


Images courtesy of Dalibor Kojic.

About the Author Simon Goodall

Language learner, teacher and contributing author to the Rosetta Stone magazine

Leave a Comment:

Naomi says 6th April 2018

Thanks for the interview Simon. Was a most enjoyable “chat” and I feel you have really captured the essence of what I had to say. Thanks once again and all the best, Naomi

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