Good Habits

Good Habits

The neuroscience of learning and habits — Hedvig Sandbu

Making Language Learning a Habit


As an EFL teacher, my students often ask me how they can advance their learning because they want to feel like they’re getting better at English. Of course, nothing can replace the high-quality and personalized instruction provided by a TEFL certified teacher (if that’s your goal, 2021 is a great year to join us at Via Lingua and check that certification off your list of resolutions!) But it is important for students to make their language learning a habit outside of school if they want to boost their progress and notice it more tangibly. Especially now at the beginning of the new year, goal setting is likely to be on the front of our minds.  We should always encourage our students to keep up the effort in between lessons and make language learning part of their daily routine. However, starting a new habit is always easier said than done. Here are some suggestions to give your students to help make the goal of consistent English practice a habit, and to hopefully create a greater sense of student autonomy in the process as well.

 Effective Language Learning Habits

1)      Use accessible resources: At Via Lingua, we teach our trainees how to identify and utilize the best instructional resources, and you will learn what to consider before sharing materials with students. Given the vastness of technology today, it is impossible to deny how many resources are out there that can supplement your students’ work in their lessons. They even may be resources that your students are already using. Sharing articles related to topics of interest with students is a great way to encourage them to read. Organizations like the British Council and Cambridge Assessment have website resources for students to independently practice specific skills. There are various language learning apps that exist, and social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube have thousands of channels and profiles designated to language learning. Always preview these supplements to see if they’re appropriate for your specific student before giving a suggestion!

2)      Identify a clear objective, and make it attainable: Saying “I want to improve my English this year” is a big statement if you don’t break down the goal into bite sized pieces. Find something specific to focus on, and set a daily or weekly goal that’s reachable. Choose something like “Practice English for 15 minutes each day.” It doesn’t sound like much, but if you’re consistent, those minutes will really add up!

3)      Set a reminder: Daily goals are nice ideas, but they don’t mean much when they get lost among all the other things we do in the day! Create a reminder about your daily goal, and put it in a place where you can't miss it. You could write it in your planner, add it to your to-do list, or set an alarm on your phone to remind you.

4)      Ease in with “habit stacking”: Creating new habits and sustaining them is not easy! Pair your new language habit with something you already do. While you’re making coffee, watch a video in English. When you’re eating breakfast, complete a lesson on a language learning app. As you’re traveling to work, listen to a podcast in English. At the end of the day, write about what happened during the day in English while drinking a cup of tea. You’re more likely to maintain the habit if it’s built into your pre-existing routine.

5)      Track your habit progress: Create a system where you can check off every time you complete your daily goal. There are habit tracking apps you can use, or if you’re a more “analog” type of person, you can create a tracking system on paper to mark off with pencil. Having a visual reminder of the progress you’ve made towards your habit is motivating, and the action of having something to mark off physically is another layer of accountability towards our objective.

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