In a previous life, I was a musician. And the piano was my weapon of choice.
I was very serious about music for years. And I even did my undergraduate degree in jazz piano!
When I tell people that, they usually say it sounds pretty cool! It was a lot of fun. But a lot of hard work.
In my first year at music college, I had a piano teacher called Norman.
Norman was a great guy. He was quite a philosophical kind of teacher. And he seemed to really understand me, and how I thought… which I guess is why I liked him!
Now, Norman’s big thing was the psychology of how we approach practising our instrument every day. One day, Norman said something to me that I've never forgotten.
I will have succeeded as your teacher when you don't need me any more
What a powerful philosophy!
But let's think about that for a moment:
For me, a teacher isn't someone who imparts knowledge on you from on high. (Although they might do that too.)
The job of a teacher is to help you, the student, develop the skills to continue to improve by yourself, without relying on a teacher to tell you what to do.
In other words, the teacher's job is to make you a self-sufficient learner.
You never stop learning, and there’s always more to learn…
And it's precisely because there’s always more to learn that, ultimately, you have to be able to do it by yourself.
Here’s some of what you need to be able to do as a student:
Not easy. Not easy at all.
When Norman said:
I will have succeeded as your teacher when you don't need me anymore
…that's what he meant.
His job is to guide you towards being able to learn effectively by yourself, without anyone telling you what to do.
Now, with languages, the challenge is the same:
When you can study by yourself, that’s when you can truly take control of your language learning, drive forward your progress, and even go on to learn multiple languages if you want.
The thing is…Far too many people are dependent on their teachers.
I saw this as a teacher myself…
It's a mentality of: “I'm paying, so teach me.”
Sorry…it doesn't work like that!
Learning only really happens in your own time, when you're working at it under your own steam, pushing forward with your own goal in mind….
Not when you're sitting in a class being the receiver of knowledge from a teacher.
That's why, for example, in my Uncovered courses, the very first thing you do in each module, before any teaching happens, is read the story by yourself. That's because I want you to get used to working your brain muscles independently.
And so, to bring us to the point of this Rule of Language Learning…
How do you learn how to learn by yourself?
How do you become totally awesome at learning languages by yourself?
Well, you need to do exactly what Norman, my piano teacher, encouraged me to do:
This is not easy work.
You need to be the inquisitor of your own behaviour, look inwards, with complete honesty and openness, at how you're spending your time when you sit down to study languages.
You need to learn spot patterns in your own study…
What works, what doesn’t.
But here’s the thing – you can't spot patterns of any kind when you’re jumping around, doing different things every day!
Quite the opposite!
You need as much consistency as possible in how you study every day in order to spot patterns and improve.
In fact, if you're new to language learning, or if you're struggling to figure out how you learn best…
I recommend that you follow the exact same study routine every single day.
To keep things simple, you could pick one activity…
It really doesn't matter what the activity is, as long as it's an activity that you believe is helpful.
Then just do it every day.
And keep this up… probably for longer than you're thinking – even a few weeks or more.
Do this consistently, and you'll start to discover little things about yourself and how you learn.
You'll try something new, and it'll work.
So you'll do it again the next day.
And so on.
For example, let's say that your daily routine is to read for 30 minutes in your target language.
Every day, you might try to read in a slightly different way:
Each time you try something like this, you're discovering more about how you learn, and you can take these lessons with you into everything else you do in the future.
But Olly! Isn't variety important in language learning? What about creativity and fun?
Yes, variety, creativity and fun are all important. But so is discipline.
So try one approach for a while, and then try the other.
But Olly! Isn't it boring to study in the same way every day?
Well, it might feel like that at first.
But when you start to see how fast you’re learning as a result of all that lovely discipline, I promise you that you’ll forget about any sense of boredom!
Look…becoming an independent, confident language learner is the greatest gift you can ever give yourself…
It really sets you free…
But you do have to work to get there.
So ask yourself: Is sacrificing a bit of variety in the short term a price worth paying to become a better learner?
Discipline in the small things, gives you freedom in the big things.
That's my philosophy, anyway…
So, do yourself a favour, and Study The Same Way Every Day.
What do you think of the philosophy that “Discipline in the small things, gives you freedom in the big things.”? Do you agree? And what routines are you going to put in place to build consistency in your language study? Let me know below in a comment.