Language is a Habit, and so is Language Learning

Right now this very moment as I let the words flow from my fingers, I have no idea where they are coming from. I’m not looking them up in the mental dictionary nor am I really expending any energy at all to make them appear. Even the act of typing has become so second natural that I’m not aware of it either. That is because I have done these things on a daily basis for so long that they have become second nature — they have become habits.

A habit is, in other words, something that has become so familiar to us that we do it without thinking. Language very much fits this description. And as a language learner, it is our task to create such a habit. It takes time and repetition — but not in the sense of rote repetition, more so in that something must be done everyday. In the same way that it would feel weird for you to go to sleep without brushing your teeth or shake someones hand with your left, the act of growing your language tree can be like this as well.

But here’s where myself and most people stumble — setting goals too high or too low, will lead to either burning out or losing interest. The defined study-goal (ex: 2 hours a day) is a necessity to most, but I disagree. In my experience, a flexible goal that can be accomplished with 1 minute or 1 hour of study actually is most effective. This is because the act of making the habit is more important than the individual instances of meeting the amount of study time you set for yourself. Life gets in the way of plans, and so, having the most flexible plan allows for the most adaptable study habit to form.

When you start, start with 5 minutes a day and never ever break it. Anyone can spare 5 minutes. And the beauty is that if adhered too, you may actually want to exceed that sometimes. But most importantly, once the habit of studying is ingrained into your brain, the things that you are habitually exposing yourself to in those studies will soon become little habits in themselves. The frequency of exposure will signal the brain to keep those things on top of mind and soon, one by one, they will start to flow out of you. Drips slowly dripping into a cup… plip… plop… however slow, will eventually overflow.

Fill the mind. Make the habit. Grow, my friends.