I posted a comment on a Hacking Chinese article (great read!) about how to deal with slumps in language learning. It has a good discussion of activities people can do for different levels of time commitments and how that can help you during the time that you don’t study as much (for any reason).
To me the way to get through slumps with anything to make sure that you have a great habit in place already. I don’t think I have the answer (yet), but this posting is an introduction to habit thinking and some possibilities on what a cue could be for learning a language. More posts will be coming with further discussion around habits in their entirety.
As an introduction, I recommend you read The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg. It really helped provide great examples and thoughts on habit formation.
In summary, any good habit is broken into three pieces:
- Cue – what triggers the routine
- Routine – the action that is taken by the person (and this is what we really care about)
- Reward – the satisfaction we get from completing the routine
As you see the cue and get a reward the most likely you are to repeat the cycle. You will have a hard time changing the cue and reward (or removing them entirely), but the routine is what can be replaced to be better for you (if the routine is not good).
There are a plenty of different articles that reference reasons that someone should learn a second language, but they are focused on logical or other benefits that aren’t rewards in the sense of a brain pleasure cycle.
How do we identify the cue within the habit cycle for learning? Learning a language is hard and when possible people will avoid doing it (even children).
My first guess would be that we cue learning when we have a purpose or reason for that learning. Good examples of that are an upcoming trip, living in a place that requires it, a job we want, etc.
Or is the cue that we are within some context that we want to understand and so we are motivated (or reminded) to learn? Maybe immersion is the reason why we learn since we see it all around us?
Or possibly it is much simpler when we talk about the idea of a habit around a particular learning tool? Maybe it is making it more fun or competitive that makes it stick? Or what about shaming someone that they are not learning?
Finally, it is important to understand that there may be different cues for each type of learning we need to do. Reading/writing is probably different from speaking/listening.
What are your cues to start a learning habit cycle, especially for reading?