Staying Motivated and How to add Accountability to your Language Learning GoalsTotal read time: 8 minutes

Have you ever had trouble staying motivated?

After your first week, first month, or first language mistake, do you feel it’s hard to stay on track?

I know I have. And I’m sure you have too.
I’ve been studying a foreign language practically non-stop for 7 years now. Each go around I’m always learning a new hack, new strategy, and getting better at learning a language.

I’m here to dispense that knowledge with you. I’m also preaching to myself. Reminding myself on the lessons I’ve learned and that maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually start implementing them.

Today I want to go over various ways I use for staying motivated for learning any language.

Part One: Why Your Why Is Essential

Part Two: Enlisting Others For Help

Part Three: Giving Yourself Deadlines

Part One: Why Your Why Is Essential

Learning a new language is fun! Exciting! Exhilarating!


Okay, so even I’d admit that it can get pretty damn tiring and frustrating, staying motivated and the thoughts of quitting are a constant battle.

Honestly, this blog is a big factor as to why I’m being so dedicated to French. But I’m not going to suggest that we all start blogging. I wouldn’t dare want to invite more tasks to your day.

However, I want to ask you “Why are you learning this language?”

In my post on “How I Choose What Language to Study” I briefly described the “Why”.
I’m going to go into that again. As I truly believe, first and foremost, having a strong clear why is essential for staying motivated on your language journey.

What is a why?

Well, it’s a pretty straightforward question. And it’s likely the first question people will ask you if they learn that you’re studying a language.

Why are you studying X language?

Honestly, if I had a nickel…

Regardless. People don’t really give a damn. I believe it’s more out of habit that they ask you why. To show and express some interest. Which is fine.

I’m cool with that.

But the reason why I still mention this point is because your personal why, your true why, is likely one that you’ll keep reserved in your notebook. Only to be expressed to your closest of friends. It’s a bigger answer and more thought-out than what you’ll say to your new acquaintance.

Your why should be able to answer these 4 questions:

  1. Why did you start learning language x?
  2. What do you like about the language? the people? the culture?
  3. Do you feel some sort of connection to this language or culture?
  4. Why are you continuing to learn this language?

Just remember…
There’s nothing wrong with learning a language for fun. You don’t need a 5 and 10-year plan. You don’t need to have career goals.

Just do you 😉

Why have a why?

It took me a long time to realize the importance of creating my why.
And an even longer time to actually start physically writing down my why.

I was denying it.

Thinking that spending all of this time on some deep-thoughts was just a waste of time. Why waste time on that when I can just keep on studying and avoid the “pain” of thinking.

But I’ll tell you what, when the tough gets going, and oh man will it get going, not having a why really shows.

Staying motivated with your foreign language goals is a lot easier when you have a strong, clearly defined, and written down why.

“Hey, weren’t you studying French last week?”
“I thought every morning you were using Anki/Memrise/Duolingo?”
“How are your Spanish studies going?”

Have you ever been asked one of these questions and then felt too embarrassed to answer?
I know I have.

“Err… ehh… yeah well you know… life.”

1. Motivation

I can’t express how much easier staying motivated is once you have your clearly defined why.

It’s like that candle in a cave leading the way.

Whenever the punches start rolling and you get knocked down, it’s your Why that’ll extend that arm, and all you gotta do is reach out and grab hold.

2. Goal Planning

How are you doing to goal plan if you don’t even know why you’re doing what you’re doing?

Be proactive.*
Put first things first.*
Have the end in mind.*
*three habits of highly successful people 😉

I always feel that the Why is the coal within the furnace.


Better yet.

It is the furnace!

You can always add more and more coal. Get motivation from here, and from there. But those coals will eventually run out and you’ll need more.

However, where will the coals stay lit for longer?

In the wide open on the sidewalk? Or in a nicely built furnace with proper ventilation, not too much air and not too little, and with protection from all of the weather storms that are sure to come by.

Build your furnace. And build it strong my friend.

Creating Your Why

Okay, let’s do this.

Do me a favor and follow along with me.

I hope you’re in a comfortable position. Relaxed. With little to no distractions. Maybe you’ll want to put on some headphones.

staying motivated phillearnsalanguage no distractions

Chillin’ at Starbucks w/Coffitivity in the Earbuds

Take this question to heart…

Why are you studying (target language)?


Give a nice long deep thought. Spend some time now…

Whenever you ask yourself a why question, and you’re seriously seeking an answer, you’ll Always get an answer.

Do you have your why yet?

I can still wait…

Did you ask yourself what do you like about this language? Do you like the culture associated with this language? How about the people or food? Are you desiring to travel to a county whose major language is your target language? Maybe you’ve got the tickets already. Maybe you saw a cute girl/guy from your target language’s country.

If you have your why, I would love to hear it. If you’re willing to share, please email me, Phillip, at

My personal why for learning French

Why am I learning French?

Finally, a New Language
I’m learning French because it’s about time for me to learn a new language.

I’ve been studying Mandarin Chinese for about 3 years now.

Even though I’ve had some stunts in Esperanto, Thai, and Vietnamese during these 3 years, mostly all of my time, effort and talking in a foreign language has been in Chinese.

My brain is begging for a break and wants a new fresh language and culture to play around with.

It’s a Western Language
It’s my first time studying a “western” language as an Adult!
Outside of my 1 month of Esperanto, I haven’t studied a non-Asian language since high school. Even then, I wasn’t really serious about those high school Spanish classes.

Some Connection with France
Oddly enough I seem to have some connection with France.

I graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, a French-based culinary school, in the states. During my studies, I had to learn some French words related to cooking.

France, Paris in particular, is probably the main city I’ve ever been attracted to in Europe.
I’ve never traveled to Europe, but still, the first place I’ve always wanted to go has been Paris.

Also, ironically, Paris is the only place my girlfriend has been abroad to. Which, to me, further creates this strange connection with France in my life.

It’s “difficult”
Many times I’ve heard people talk about how difficult French is. At the same time, I’ve heard many people talk about how simple it is.

Of course, the complainers always whine about the conjugations, masculine and feminine, and pronunciation, etc.

For some strange reason, I always want to try something that others think is difficult.

To prove them wrong?

To prove I’m better?

Who knows. But it’s Fun 🙂

I like it
God damn it because I like it and I want to!
Isn’t that enough for you!
I want to order une baguette avec du fromage 😉

Part Two: Enlisting Others For Help

Many times we don’t really consider adding accountability to our language goals.

Sure, maybe we will tell our best friend or a family member or two but we aren’t really enlisting help, are we? In fact, the more likely reason we tell someone is to actually boost. Show off.

Hey, look at me! Admire me! Because I’m cool and I’m smart because I’m taking a French class now.
*or maybe that’s just me? 😉

Okay, I definitely don’t know anything about whether boosting is good or bad. However, maybe this TED Talk can shed some light on that subject. But instead, I want to go over the various ways, tools, and resources we can use enlist others to assist us with our language goals. Just another way for staying motivated.


Go Fucking Do It (GFDI) is a fantastic website that provides a unique service. With GFDI you will enlist your friend to help keep you accountable to your goal. If you accomplish your goal, then GREAT! If you fail… well… you lose money! Here are the steps:

  1. Enter Your Goal<-- that's goal, not goals, keep it simple
  2. Make a Deadline
  3. What’s the Price you’ll Pay if you Fail
  4. Enlist a friend as your accountability partner
  5. Provide your personal email
  6. Enter your card information
  7. Agree
  8. Go Fucking Do It!

Step 1: Goal

Picture 1 of 8

GoFuckingDoIt Step 1: Goal

You and your accountability partner will get an email confirmation.

Once the deadline has come your accountability partner will get an email asking whether if you’re completed the goal or not. It’s pretty straight forward. A simple yes or no will determine if you’re being charged or not.

Completion Email

Picture 1 of 4

GFDI Challenge Completion Email

The Good
I really like the straight-forwardness of GFDI. Putting money on the line is a good way for staying motivated for many people

Also, enlisting just 1 good friend is quite useful. Sometimes, even better than telling the whole world. Let’s be honest, there are a lot of crappy people out there. Many people just want to see your crash and fail and say “I told you so.”

It’s a good way for both of your to keep each other accountable.

A Bad Point is that you could easily lie to your friend and just tell him/her that you completed it OR they could feel sympathetic towards your goal and tell GFDI that your goal was completed. However, if you set up your goal correctly, then you won’t have this possibility to just cop out of your promise.

However, maybe enlisting your ex or your boss might be better than your friend 😉

The add1challenge is great! In their own words:
The Add1Challenge is a private community of passionate language learners who have overcome shyness, gained consistent motivation, and even landed jobs in their new language. Learning together is better than learning alone.

Their promise:
Hold a 15 min Conversation With a Native Speaker In 90 Days

In fact, I’ve taken on the add1challenge a few times. Here are my videos.

The add1challenge is bigger and much more than what I can put in this blog post but in a nutshell here a few key points:

  • You must “apply” & pay money to join the challenge. The add1challenge IS NOT always open and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be accepted. They only want truly motivated people. Also, you may be removed from the challenge if you’re not staying motivated and staying on track.
  • You must submit a video introduction to apply
  • You can only study 1 language at a time
  • You must regularly update your progress.
  • You must submit a video of yourself speaking to a native speaker.
  • There’s a private facebook group for the add1challengers and in addition to that you’ll be placed in a small group, maybe 4-6 people, and these are your accountability partners.
  • There is a prize for “winning”. However, just completing the challenge is already a major win towards your language goals.

Youtube/Facebook Videos

Now this “hack” or advice is contrary to that TED Talk I posted above, however, for a language learning goal, I think this totally works.


Okay, I’m going to share something a bit embarrassing. However, here on my personal YouTube account, I have several videos of me working out.

I’m not sexy.

I’m still overweight.

I am still working on building that fitness habit.

Now although I have almost no subscribers or comments on my videos, I felt such a strong sense of responsibility that I just had to work out that day and upload a video as proof to keep true to my “fans”.

I was too shy to share these videos to my Facebook.

Maybe next time haha. But that would be an amazing compound effect, both youtube and facebook videos keep you accountable.

This tip may not work for everyone. Which is fine. That’s why there are multiple resources for staying motivated in this post. Find what works for you.

Money Pot

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book.

A money pot utilizes two hacks for staying motivated:

The Pain of Losing Money
The Pleasure of Gaining Money

Let’s explain this with a real-life example.
5 friends come together. All 5 decide they want to study a language every day for 90 days. Everyone is so motivated that they pay $50 to join.

So the money pot is now $250.
Whoever completes the challenge gets their $50 + a percentage of the remainder.
i.e. 4 people complete the challenge, 1 person fails, and so the 4 people will get $50 + (25% x $50) =  $62.50. And that 5th person loses their entire $50.

No one fails, then everyone gets their $50 + the satisfaction of completing the challenge!

I’m sure you’ve heard of these for weight loss. However, how do we do this for language learning? How to track?

Here are a couple of ways:
1. Everyone uses the same app
You can track the streak on Memrise, Duolingo, or have an italki video recording, etc.

2. Everyone uses the book
Most language books follow the same order with language introduction, vocabulary, and grammar, and finally end the chapter with exercises. So everyone can do 1 lesson per day.

3. Everyone signups and go to a language school
Pretty straightforward here 😉 See who’s motivated to go to every class.

Most schools don’t have daily classes, so you’ll likely need to combine this with another method.

4. Everyone takes Italki classes
Private tutoring will ALWAYS trump group classes.

So I would totally take this route. Plus Italki will track the classes you take.

Supplementing classes with writing notebooks on also is a good combo.

5. Who improved the most?
This is most easily trackable with friends who are studying the same language and are around the same starting level. You can easily test your current level with an actual physical test, or have a professional tutor on italki be the judge.

I’d recommend that all 5 friends use the same tutor and that all 1st days videos are recorded. Then the tutor will be the judge with who had the biggest improvement.

Remember, this is just a staying motivated hack. It is in no way, shape, or form a true indication of someone’s real success in a language.

What one may be learning may not be readily apparent at the end of 30 days. There may be a lot of “background” or “unconscious” learning i.e. learning what is grammar, the training one’s ear, the training of one’s lips, mouth, tongue, etc., learning how to learn, and etc.

Giving Yourself Deadlines

Tim Urban has an amazing Ted Talk on procrastination.

This just says it all. You must give it a watch.

In the end.

For most of us.

There is no life-threatening or career-threatening deadline in place for our language goals.
We must give these goals and deadlines to ourselves.

The Add1Challenge is a good 90-day deadline.
I gave myself 30 days to learn Esperanto and documented that on Youtube.

As for my French.
This year I’m signing up for French Proficiency tests. DELF & DALF.
I’ve already found the location, dates, time, and price.

Once registration opens up I’ll signup for DELF B1 for this April.

Then I’ll take DALF C1/C2 This November.

These are my self-given deadlines. And it’s a lot of money wasted if I fail.


Staying motivated is a constant battle. I still watch my 2 favorite motivational youtube videos [1] & [2] to this day. However, that feeling is fleeting.

“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.” – Pearl S. Buck

I got that from this recommend book:

Sometimes we just need some “grit.”

Learn to “love the suck”.

At the same time, with proper planning and the resources in this guide, we can make our language learning much more successful than our attempts in the past.

Signing off



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