by Marc Anderson

Be a DREAM CHASER not a Dream Killer – Ignite Your MOTIVATION to Learn ESL

So many people think that those people who are successful at learning a second language have…

  • high cognitive abilities
  • a special talent
  • a unique skill

Research shows otherwise. The number one factor that is a predictor for successful ESL learning is MOTIVATION. And the number one word to help justify an excuse is the word BUT.

Check out this video and see how “BUT” is a dream killer…

  • But I tried once or twice and it didn’t work out.
  • But I don’t have the time.
  • But it is so hard.
  • But do I really need it?
  • But I am so tired.
  • But studying can wait.
  • But I am not so sure what online ESL course to take.
  • But I don’t know if the money is worth it.
  • But I don’t know where to find the best resources to learn.

So how can we ignite motivation and stamp out those “but’s” that seem to creep into our lives? Motivation… think about it.

It makes sense that motivation is associated with English as a Second Language achievement since language learning requires…

Wouldn’t you agree that people who are motivated are more likely to spend time required to learning a language? Wouldn’t you also agree that having a specific goal regarding language learning helps you to focus on your efforts and to help with maintaining your motivation? Motivation… think about it.

Don’t get me wrong. Motivation is not a constant. On any given day, your motivational level changes. You might really be more focused some days because of one or more factors… maybe because of the rest you got the night before, your diet or exercise level, how your relationships are going, the level of other work and the responsibilities you have, etc.  These factors all play into how motivated you are to study ESL. To better understand motivation, think of  a time that you were very motivated (i.e. maybe to run, to exercise, to get some housework done, to cook a new recipe, to learn something new, etc.) Now think of another time when you just weren’t as motivated to do this same thing. What caused this shift in motivation? There was definitely less interest. Maybe you were preoccupied in thought? Maybe you had other things that were more important to do at the time? Maybe you were tired or hungry, etc.?

Research also shows that students studying ESL are more motivated if the content they are studying best matches the goal(s) they have. That is why goal-setting is so important.

For example, your present work involves talking to people in English, let’s say at a college or health clinic. Therefore, when you are studying day-to-day presentation skills and casual English, etc. in your ESL coursework – this most likely increases your motivation to learn English. You can take what you learn from your ESL study and apply it to real-life situations immediately. However, if your English study focuses on English literature, for example, and you are working at a college with people or at a health clinic, then the motivational level to learn English this way (i.e. by studying English literature) would most likely decrease. On the flip side of this argument, if you enjoy comparative literature, you would be motivated to study English that focuses on English literature and possibly less on other aspects of language learning (i.e. pronunciation, writing/spelling, and listening comprehension skills).

*****So what we can learn from this one important factor is to ensure that our English study has elements of what are goals are.

Find materials and resources, classes and online programs that best match your goals. Wanting to do well on the TOEFL Test or hoping to perform admirably in an interview, getting help to deliver that business power point presentation to wow your audience or wishing to write the best resume to showcase your strengths are all different goals… as is accent reduction and learning to speak as a native speaker, so it is important that you find a way to learn English that will best meet these goals… *****

holidays on the beach, smiling woman in hat


*****Another factor that increases motivation for language learning is how you view the people speaking that language. So if you are more positive towards English-speakers, then your motivation to learn English increases.*****

Maybe you have a friend who is a native English speaker, you watch English television and love the actresses/actors, or you enjoy English pop songs and find yourself singing along with the lyrics. Possibly you listen to the public radio programs in English and recite some of the broadcasts in English. You may even belong to an English-speaking sports or literary group and you want to contribute more or participate at a certain level and knowing more English will serve that purpose. You might be someone who typically reads some scientific journals in English or who has had the opportunity to attend a business or conference where people used English. You might be one of the many people who has travelled, studied, and/or worked abroad and gotten first-hand experience with the English language this way. *****Any number of these examples, as well as your own that you can add, is factors that help to increase motivation for language learning.*****

*****It is also a good idea to continue to ask yourself why you want to learn English and to find ways to use ESL to reinforce your interest and the learning you have already achieved. You might find reading some inspirational quotes will help motivate you, too. This will fuel your dream and help you overcome some of the obstacles that undoubtedly we meet when studying a second language.*****

The YouTube video above talks about “…saying yes to your life” and banishing the phrase “Its’ not worth it” from your vocabulary… It encourages you to “take head-on” the dreams you are chasing and reassures you that “…life will never be the same again.” It restores your confidence.

Please write to me in the space below about your language learning goals. My staff and I promise to do our best to help you meet these goals as you chase your dreams. What’s preventing you from your language goals?

  •  But I tried once or twice and it didn’t work out.

You never know if today is a better time unless you try again. You might have less stress in other areas of your life now. You might realize that this ESL goal is more important now. You might really realize the need to learn English and recommit to signing up for a course at a local school, take one of the many online options, or hire a one-on-one tutor. Tell yourself it is worth trying again and you never know if it is a better time until you try again.

  • But I don’t have the time.

Do you find yourself saying that mantra about other things in your life? But I don’t have time to have a relationship. But I don’t have time to help out around the house. But I don’t have time to exercise or eat right. But I don’t have time to study, go to the library or bookstore. But I don’t’ have time to check on available classes. Can you put language study as a priority? Can you do something about it today?

  • But it is so hard.

Think about other things in your life that you thought were hard to do at first. How did you get through this? What have you mastered that was once hard and now is just part of your lifestyle? What was really hard at first for you to do, but now it is much easier? You probably have also heard the expressions that… many things in life are hard and often the things in life that are most worthwhile are hard. Would thinking of your dream and imagining succeeding at it help you?  What if you thought about how difficult it is to not pursue your dream? Would that help you? Think of what you would be giving up. Convince yourself that learning English is really not that hard.

  • But do I really need it?

It might help to make a list of why you need English. Maybe there is only one reason or maybe there are several reasons to studying English. It only takes one reason. Keep telling yourself why you need to learn ESL and this will help with motivation. Then go after it.

  • But I am so tired.

Is there something you can do to gain more energy? Can you adjust your sleeping patterns or your diet? Can you add more activity level to your day to bring more energy into your life? Is there something you can take out of your present lifestyle that is a hindrance to being well-rested and spending quality time towards your specific language goals?

  • But studying can wait.

Can it really wait? How long do you want to wait before you really seize your dream? Tell yourself it can’t wait. You want it now.

  • But I am not so sure what online ESL course to take.

The internet is flooded with options that are individually tailored to meet student’s needs. Maybe you can spend about 30 minutes each day looking for some quality program of study until you find it. Or write to me and I will help you find a course that best meets your goal(s).

  • But I don’t know if the money is worth it.

First, you need to find out how much money the instruction costs. Then you need to see if you have that amount allotted in your budget. If not, is there something you are spending money on now that can be adjusted? If learning English is a top priority for you now, then finding the money will be an easier task for you. Plus you need to remind yourself of the reasons for learning English and what the outcome will be. Are you doing it for personal pleasure? Will meeting and befriending English-speaking friends be worth it to you? Maybe you will get that raise or new job as your English skills increase. Weigh the results… then tell yourself that learning a second language really is priceless. Individual satisfaction, opening up one’s brain, embracing another culture… these all have unlimited value.

Again, spend some time looking online, visit a bookstore, call a university language department, and talk to your friends who may be already enrolled in ESL programs. And, like I mentioned before, you can always write to me. It is my mission to help people like you to learn English and along the way to be satisfied learners.

What’s today?

Today is the day to stop being a dream killer.

Today is the day to eliminate the word “but” to justify an excuse.

Instead – today is the day to be a dream chaser. It is the time to catch your dreams, to learn English, and to have the life you envision. 

girl with headphones listening to music

About the author:

Marc Anderson is the co-founder and CEO of TalktoCanada. Since founding the company in 2006, he has grown it to over 25 staff with operations in 50 countries. Marc spends his time outside of TalktoCanada travelling, playing with his son and working on new business projects.