028 : How to stay motivated as you study English



Motivation is something that everyone needs. We need it at work. We need it at school. We need it in life in general. The same is true for ESL learners like yourself. Sometimes you get frustrated. You don’t know what to study. You don’t know who can help you. And you don’t know how to get the next level. And you get frustrated and you get depressed and you lose your motivation for studying English. There was a famous quote by a man named Robert Collier. He said, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”

Well, in this episode we’re going to talk about how to stay motivated so that you can experience success as you study English. I’m going to talk to you about three proven ways to stay motivated as you study English. I’m going to talk to you about how to set and attain goals, how to change up your learning style so that you’re not doing the same thing every day, and even the exact amount of time you should be studying. With these three simple ways you are going to learn how to actually stay motivated as you study English. This is what we’re going to get into today.

Welcome to the Speak English with Tiffani podcast, a podcast especially created for intermediate and advanced English learners. In this podcast you will learn the specific English tips and tricks that will make you a better English speaker. This podcast will take your English ability to the next level and help you to be more confident and more fluent when you speak English. Are you ready? Well then, let’s jump right in.


Hey, hey, thank you for joining me, teacher Tiffani, for another episode of the Speak English with Tiffani podcast. Now if you have been listening to this podcast for a while, you’ll notice that the style has kind of changed. This is the first episode I am doing in this style. You guys spoke to me and you told me that you really wanted a podcast that was focused on teaching the tips and tricks of how to excel and really improve your English speaking ability, but specifically for intermediate and advanced English learners. So I listened to you and I changed it up, so today is the first episode.

Now remember, as always, if you want to follow along with the transcript, all you have to do is go to speakenglishwithtiffani.com/episode28 so you can still read along with the episode. Even thought the style has changed, I still have prepared a transcript just for you. Today I want to talk to you guys about how to stay motivated. I remember when I was living in South Korea, remember I told you I lived there for about 10 years as an English teacher, I remember many of my students coming to me and expressing different forms of frustration. I had some students in my 6:00 AM class.

So while I was in Korea, I taught all throughout the day, I taught morning, afternoon, and evening classes, and some of the students that I really admired were the 6:00 AM students because that’s really early in the morning to get up and actually to study English. I thought they were very diligent. But what they would tell me is that they were getting frustrated because they felt like their English wasn’t improving. Many of them had spent months and years studying English, continuously studying over and over, but they still felt like they weren’t improving, whether it may have been when they spoke, they felt like they didn’t know what words to say, or even when they listened to something online, an audio lesson, they felt like they didn’t understand what was being said, or even when they read something they didn’t feel like they were able to grasp the English words that were being used and it was frustrating them.

Then I even had other students during my time in Korea who studied extremely hard. I mean they gave hours and hours studying English, but they didn’t feel like they were improving. It wasn’t that they weren’t giving their best. It was just that their ability wasn’t improving, so they were frustrated.

Then even another group of students would tell me that, “Teacher, I love English, but I don’t know how to study.” They had been through the grammar books. They had watched movies on YouTube or online. They had even gotten novels and read them, but they just couldn’t get the hang of how to study English and they were getting frustrated.

This is why I wanted to talk about how to stay motivated because the majority of my students were intermediate and advanced students. I had a lot of beginner students as well and I really enjoyed teaching them, but this podcast is mainly for the intermediate and advanced learner which is you. So I wanted to talk to you about how to stay motivated when you study English. There are three different ways. These three keys are vital or very important for you as you study and try to improve your English.

Now the first point is set small attainable goals. One more time, set small attainable goals. I remember for myself this actually helped me. When I was in school, I had a huge exam that I had to study for. Now this exam required me to read tons of books, it required me to read over and study hundreds of pages of information about history, about names, about dates, I had to do all of this in a set period of time, over a six month period. To be quite honest with you, it was very overwhelming.

As I looked at the information in the very beginning of my time of studies, I realized that there was no way I could accomplish everything if I kept focusing on the big goal. So at that moment I developed a study plan where I had small attainable goals. So instead of looking at the 10 books I had to read, the 200 pages of information I had to learn, I instead looked at, okay, each day I will study two pages from the book and I will study one page from the other information or documents that I had. In my brain instead of focusing on the bigger goal, I now had the ability to focus on this small goal on a daily basis, and it actually gave my brain a lot less stress and I felt free and I felt like I had accomplished something every day.

How does this apply to you as has the English learner? For you for example, let’s say you want to set a goal of memorizing lots of vocabulary words. A lot of students, a lot of you have emailed me and messaged me on Instagram or YouTube asking me for ways to memorize vocabulary words because you want to memorize more vocabulary words. Well, let’s say for example your long-term goal is to memorize 1000 vocabulary words. That’s a huge goal. It’s very big. However, if you break that goal down and let’s say for example, well, let’s say instead of 1000 words you say, “I want to memorize 100 words a month,” now that actually equals much more than 1000, equals 1,200 words for a year, but now I have a goal of 100 vocabulary words for this month.

Okay, so how can you break it down even smaller? If it’s 100 words for that month, what can you do each day? So why not learn 3.3, for those who are really good at math out there, 3.3 words every day. Now again, you can change it up. You can do four words one day and three words another day, but you understand what I’m trying to tell you. You went from this one 1000 word goal to breaking it down to three words. That’s right, three words a day. This is an example of setting a small attainable goal.

Now the next thing for that is you want to write it down and make a checklist. This first step, again, the setting small attainable goals will require you after you’ve set the goal to write it down and make a checklist. I mentioned vocabulary. The first thing on my list is 1000 words, and I’ve broken that down into 100, and then I broke it down again into three. On my checklist, on your checklist you’ll have the first one as three words a day, and every single day you can check off did I learn three words a day?

Now I’ll be very honest with you. Some of you as you’re listening to this podcast you’re probably thinking, “Teacher, three words a day is so simple. I can do that in my sleep.” Well, listen, I’m very happy for you. I’m hoping that that’s your thinking, but that’s the point. You see, developing a habit is what’s going to help you accomplish your greater or your bigger goal. Focus on your small goal and that will keep you motivated because every day you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something.

Now you need to remind yourself of your small goals often instead of reminding yourself of your failures or inability. Let me explain this clearly. What happens with students is you set mini goals. Let’s say last year you set a goal and your goal was, “I am going to memorize 100 vocabulary words every single day.” Now that’s a lot. Some of you may be able to do it, but that’s a lot. Let’s say the first day you did it, the second day you do it, but by the third day maybe you got an assignment at school or maybe you had to work overtime at your job, or something happened that enabled, that caused you to not be able to accomplish that goal of 100 words for that day. Then move on to the fourth day and the only thing looming or remaining in your mind is the fact that on day three you did not accomplish your goal. What I want to tell you is don’t focus on your failures. Instead, remind yourself of what you did accomplish.

With this setting small and attainable goals it’s so easy to remind yourself of what you accomplished the day before because it’s only a small goal. “Man, yesterday I memorized three words, and the day before that I memorized three words, and the day before that and the day before that.” What happens? At the end of a week, seven days, you’ve memorized 21 English words, English vocabulary words that now you can use when you speak English. Again, the first way is to set small attainable goals and this will help you stay motivated.

Now, step number two, you want to change up your learning styles. One more time, change up your learning styles. I remember when I was in Korea, another situation, I was teaching junior students. Now even though they were young, they were intermediate and advanced students. These students could speak English very, very well. I had one class where the students were in about sixth grade, sixth or seventh grade of middle school and we would have long conversations and debates. But there was one girl in the class whose English ability was not that good in comparison to the other students. I started to focus on her to see what her issue was. I noticed that when we did classroom activities the other students would finish in less than five minutes, but she would take about 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes and then she would still have difficulties with that lesson that I just taught.

One day I sat down with her and I just began to talk to her and I asked her what she liked to do and how school life was for her because I was just her English teacher, but I wanted to know about her regular school life outside of our institute. By the end of that conversation I realized that she was a visual learner. In class, we were using a lot of books and we were using a lot of words and things I would write on the board, but she was a visual learner. She needed pictures. She needed something that she could picture in her mind. She was a very creative young lady. So I had to change up the way I taught her because I wanted to match her learning style. When I did that, I saw the gleam and the twinkle in her eye because finally she was getting the information, finally she was motivated to study English harder.

The same is true for you as you’re studying English. You know yourself. It’s up to you to figure out what’s your learning style. But the other thing is change it up. Let’s say for example one day you use books. Now it’s true, if you’re going to learn grammar, you need to get a grammar book to practice and learn the rules. But you don’t want to study a grammar book every single day. Instead, you want to study the grammar book say day one, then the next day try to apply what you learned which means writing. So one day is reading the grammar book or studying it. The next day is writing and application. Then let’s say the next day maybe you’re also a visual learner, you could change it up. Draw out the situation, draw out the word, the meaning that you just learned.

You can do this. You can even use YouTube video. For example, let’s say you’re studying the past tense or you’re studying about different ways of expressing yourself in English about current events or about food or about sports or about family, all of these different topics you’re studying, but you can’t just study a book. Maybe you can study using a YouTube video. You can find a video about the topic that you are studying and just take in all of the information as opposed to just reading a book every single time. Now you could alternate it by days or by weeks. This will help you also retain the information better.

Now again, I have a video on my YouTube channel where I go over different study plans that help you to change up your style, but again, basically you know your personal learning style, but even if you know your personal style, you still need to change it up every once in a while. So if you do a book today, then tomorrow do writing, and the following day do drawing or creative or visual study style. The next day do a video. Then repeat this cycle over and over. Again, you want to change up your learning style, that’s number two.

Finally, number three, don’t study too long. Again, don’t study too long. Now I know this sounds kind of crazy because you’re like, “Teacher, I need to learn English because I have to get a job,” or, “I want to travel to America and go to university. I need to study as much as possible.” Now that is true. I understand. Trust me, I’ve studied overseas too, and I get the need to study, but there is a very popular effect. It’s called the pomodoro effect, pomodoro effect. Now let me explain exactly how this effect works. It is talking about the amount of time you study and study in intervals.

Again, I mentioned before that I was studying for an exam, and there was a lot of information that I had to take in. So I literally studied from morning to night, but I used the pomodoro effect. What this effect is you spend for example, you choose the amount of time that you want to designate for focused study time. Let’s say for example it’s 25 minutes.

During that 25 minutes you have no interruptions, you look at nothing on your computer, nothing on your cell phone, and nothing else but what you are studying at that moment. So that grammar rule or the grammar book you’re studying from, whatever you’re studying at that moment, you focus only on that for 25 minutes. After that 25 minutes you take a short five minute break. And during that five minute break, you study nothing, you just relax. Then after that five minutes is done, you go right back to another 25 minutes of focused and intense study. Then you go to another five minute break. You do this cycle for three periods or three times. So it’s 25, then 5, 25 then 5, 25 and after the last 25 you take a 15 minute break, doing nothing, just relaxing. No studying. Just relaxing.

Now what happens is your brain gets an opportunity to relax. Think of your brain as a muscle. If someone goes to the gym to work out, they don’t stay in the same machine for an hour. No. They do a set of reps and sets. Let’s say for example if you have a weight and you’re lifting the weight over and over again to work on your biceps, well, you can do 10 reps and then you rest. You do another 10 reps. You do three sets of 10 reps. Think of your brain in the same way. When you’re studying English, there needs to be intervals where you study extremely hard, where you’re focused and then you take a break. Then you go right back in, study hard, and take a break. You’re giving your brain the ability to study, retain, study, retain, and then relax. This is exactly how you can stay motivated when you’re studying English.

Now I gave you those three points. Number one, set small attainable goals. Number two, change up your learning styles. And number three, don’t study too long. Now I do want to give you guys a bonus point. Here is the bonus point. Give yourself a break, but not too much of a break, but give yourself a break. When I say break, I mean choose one day to just watch a movie in English or watch an English drama, not for the purpose of studying, not for the purpose of writing notes, just enjoy it.

When I first started learning Korean I did this, and I still remember those moments as being enjoyable. You’re not going to understand everything, you’re not going to understand every idiom or every expression, but your brain is amazing and in those moments when you are relaxing and taking a break and just taking it in for the fun of it, you will learn more than you realize. Okay?


Again, these are the three ways that you can stay motivated when you’re studying English. I really hope that they help you and I hope that you enjoy studying and speaking in English. Now remember, if you want to see the transcript for this episode, go to speakenglishwithtiffani.com/episode28. This has been Teacher Tiffani with the Speak English with Tiffani podcast. Until next time remember to speak English.

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Chonlatit kotbutdee
Chonlatit kotbutdee
5 years ago

Good job!!!!!

5 years ago

Great Tiff!!!! I love this style~~

5 years ago

You’re doing a great job teacher Tiffani! i like your style of teaching 🙂 I’ve been living in english spoken country for past 10 years. I can listen to and read advanced english well like 80% but i have a hard time/struggle to make full sentences that make sense! that got me really frustrated at times.. i just listened this episode. i’m grateful for that! i’m gonna try these methods..

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