Practicing mindfulness helps you connect with the deepest reasons why you learn French. As I keep noticing, most learners identify their motivation for learning French at a superficial level, whether it is extrinsic or intrinsic. For example, you may say you’re learning French to be able to travel to France and speak to the locals (intrinsic). Or you may learn it in order to get a job offer abroad (extrinsic).
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
The difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is usually well-known amongst the language learners, but let me insist.
If your motivation for learning French in extrinsic, you’re likely to meet some difficulties on your path to fluency.
This is because extrinsic motivators are not strong enough to keep you going when you meet obstacles, such as “lack of time”, “a Netflix show”, or the paralysing fear of making mistakes. You must find a stronger, deeper connection to the language if you wish to pursue that road successfully.
Intrinsic motivators come from you. They give you an inner reason why you should be doing this. Having a personal reason to learn French obviously makes the task more enjoyable and the goal more attractive than extrinsic motivators. But is it enough to keep you out of your comfort zone? Is it enough to let you take risks? To bravely face your fears of rejection and of sounding ridiculous? To let you take your eyes off of the destination point and focus on the road instead?
In my experience, no.
The deeper reason why
What I have observed, after 15 years as a language teacher, is that when you only connect to an intrinsic motivation at a superficial level, it only gets you so far.
Students will typically keep taking lessons, month after month, without taking too many risks of stepping outside their comfort zone, forever indulging in a soup of French that is understandable but not to the level of their expectations.
What helps learners go the long way is connecting to a deeper, often subconscious reason why. And there is always one.
Intrinsic motivation is like an iceberg: there’s the surface reason, and then the deep meaningful, often subconscious reason.
You see, languages, they’re not just a fun thing to do on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun, especially if you’re a geek for words and etymology, like me. But let’s dig a little.
Our common human traits
Languages are the way we human beings express ourselves, connect to ourselves and connect to each other. Languages express how we identify and belong to a group, as small as a nuclear family and as large as the human kind. We speak its language, and therefore we understand and relate to its culture, its history, its mentality. We are one of them.
In my workshop in Nice during the Mindful French Retreat 2019, we learned about mindfulness for and through French. Together with the participants, we explored their motivations. and after a few moments of hesitation, each of them was able to identify theirs. And guess what? It was always related to their core values.
Some examples of deeper why’s
- Identifying with loved ones who speak / spoke that language;
- Raising to a challenge and being committed to progress;
- Being part of a community of language learners;
- Or more specifically, a community of French speakers;
- Connecting to yourself and the world;
- Gaining security in who you are;
- Developing self-confidence in life through self-confidence in your language;
- Freeing yourself from language barriers for inner and outer exploration;
- Expressing your authentic self outside of your own cultural expectations;
- Relating to and being accepted by a culture;
- Healing from your own traumas.
In fact, I’ve heard many testimonials of learners for whom learning French, and learning languages in general, was a real life therapy. I find this absolutely fascinating because it’s my story too and the direction I’m giving to my programs, retreats and 1:1 sessions.
Be aligned with your core values and identity
As in Life Coaching, before even starting to set goals and deadlines, you must identify your core values and your core identity. This, in turn, will help you express your broader purpose in life.
If you set a goal that has nothing to do with this life purpose and is not aligned with your core values/identity, you will most likely lack the motivation to reach it. You will find excuses, you will fall victim to the inner chatter. You will meet obstacles that you won’t have the strength to overcome.
It’s completely normal and there’s nothing to feel guilty about. Why would I keep practising bungee jumping when it terrifies me and doesn’t serve my purpose of helping people overcome their stories?
Likewise, if learning French is linked to what you value in life and possibly your bigger purpose, you will have a very strong connection to this activity. You will have a very powerful reason to keep going, even when it’s hard. And we all know it sometimes is.
How to access the subconscious reason why you learn French?
Why don’t you journal about it to see what comes out?
Take a few deep breaths and allow your body to relax. And ask yourself: What am I trying to achieve in this life? Why is French so important to me? What will I be able to do once I’m fluent in French? Who will I be able to connect with? What am I trying to express? How do I feel when I’m learning French? What does it mean to me? Let your soul tell you what it wants without any filters.