What Sports Can Teach Us About Language Learning
Although not a natural athlete, I have spent a good portion of my life playing sports, and I am a more confident and resilient person because of it. I have done everything from curling and golf, to figure skating and skateboarding, and I have learned so much from each of these activities.
I have also spent a significant part of my life coaching sports. I began coaching others when I was 12, and during the last twenty years, I have seen a lot of people make a lot of progress. This has made me believe that the basic tenets of sports training can be applied in multiple situations, including learning a language like English.
In particular there are three things from coaching I believe are essential to learning a new language: breaking down tasks into manageable chunks, turning learning tasks into habits, and developing resilience. Even if you don't like sports and never will, bare with me for this post, I know you'll still benefit from these learning tips.
Breaking down tasks:
You can break learning down into manageable chunks by simplifying an activity into stages, and by creating some sort of reward for yourself once you have achieved your learning goal. The key is to make the steps so small that they are impossible to fail at. For a good example, you can watch a young girl who has never high jumped before tackle the task. For your own learning, think about what rewards will motivate you, and how you can break down your learning into really small steps and you will begin to see results.
Turning learning into a habit:
You can turn learning into a habit by continually positively reinforcing successes with positive incentives. This could be as simple as a high-five from a friend upon completing a task or allowing yourself access to something you enjoy like a TV programme or podcast. You can also make progress by turning learning into a habit by hooking it onto habits you already have. For example, if you want to learn English, you could attach learning to your daily cup of coffee. If you love coffee like me, this could be both hooking learning to an existing habit and attaching it to a reward. I'm currently using this technique when I'm not with my Spanish teacher and want to learn independently.
To build resilience, you have to try and fail, and try again. You have to commit to learning by doing, and never give up, no matter how hopeless it feels. Anytime you feel defeated, think again about how you can positively reward yourself for returning to the task. Skateboarding in particular taught me resilience. That is, falling and falling and falling again and continuing to try. This is perhaps the most important mindset you can take into learning a language, the courage to try and to fail, and to try again and fail again. I can't even tell you how many times I have been on the ground and have had to pick myself up again. I keep myself motivated by remembering how it feels to succeed, and with the positive reinforcement and comradery I share with friends during sessions.
While it's always easier said than done, if you break down tasks and establish habits in a way that works for you, and you combine this with an attitude of resilience, I know you will succeed. Need an experienced coach to help guide you? Get in touch!