Learning a language online: Four tips to stay motivated

Learning a language online: Four tips to stay motivated

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How do you stay motivated when learning a new language online? Noortje van Scheppingen from The Language Academy, an online platform for language learning developed by UvA Talen, gives us a few tips!

You come home after a busy day at work, kick off your shoes and start making dinner. You’re trying to learn a new language and have signed up for an online programme, so you want to start working on that after your meal.

But then your favourite show comes on TV. And after that, you have to take your dog for a walk. And then, you have to check your social media... And before you know it, it’s time to go to bed!

Learning a language online seems to be an ideal way to improve your language skills. You can learn whenever and wherever you want, the programmes are interactive and smart technology makes sure you are given exercises tailored to your specific needs. But it isn’t always easy... 

How do you stay motivated to learn a language online?

The Language Academy has four tips to help you stay motivated when learning a language online: 

1. Study regularly

Since no one is expecting you in a classroom at a certain time, you have to create your own schedule. Try to plan a regular time to work on your language skills and block that time in your schedule. The intensity is up to you: you can study daily, every other day, or once a week. As long as you are comfortable with the schedule and are certain that you can actually spend that time on studying, you’ll be fine.

And don’t worry if you skip a day, especially if you skip it because you’ve got another opportunity to use the language.

2. Set practical goals

You can set yourself goals like "finish five lessons in two weeks" or "spend seven hours a week studying", but it’s way more motivating to pick practical goals. Try to work towards something you can actually accomplish. This could be buying entrance tickets at a museum, calling a customer helpdesk, filling out an online form or sending a text to a friend in your target language. And it’s extra motivating if you combine your goal with a fun activity.

Remember that using the language in the real world will make the language come alive! 

3. Find a learning partner

Even though you might be sitting at your computer alone, you’re not the only one learning a new language! Try to create opportunities to practice, both online and offline.

There are lots of others like you and the Internet provides plenty of opportunities to meet them. Websites like give you the opportunity to find someone who wants to learn your language in exchange for teaching you theirs. You can either message them online, use Skype to talk to them or meet up in person.

If you live in the country of the language you’re learning, keep an eye out for language cafés. These are often organised by language schools or libraries.

4. Mix it up

If you’ve decided to work with an online language programme, it doesn’t mean you have to stick to just that one. Try a combination of online programmes, free language apps, social media groups and anything else that might help you.

If you feel you need more support or feedback, you can always join a language course or find a private tutor to help you with specific problems.

Radio, television, and film are also very useful to immerse yourself in a language. There are endless numbers of language quizzes, games and apps (such as Wordfeud and Draw Something) as well. These are perfect to use as rewards or to test your knowledge. You'll probably wind up using a combination of resources; just find the recipe that suits you.

Keep it fun

Whatever advice you take on board and methods you use, don’t forget to have fun. Learning a language can be frustrating and you will probably struggle from time to time but, in the end, it will be worth it!

The Language Academy offers complete online courses in Dutch, English and Spanish. Their course range is expanding quickly. Visit their website or follow The Language Academy on Facebook to stay informed.

Noortje van Scheppingen


Noortje van Scheppingen

Noortje works as a course coordinator at UvA Talen, where she organises tailor-made language courses for companies and individuals. Loves languages, animals and Amsterdam.

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