5 ways to stay motivated

One of the most difficult aspects of learning a language is keeping up your motivation. So many of my students go through patches of lacking in motivation, and when you do it is easy to fall out of routine altogether, coming up with reasons not to learn (too much on at work, not enough time, etc), and the learning process might even grind to a halt completely.

In this blog post, I wanted to talk a bit about motivation and give you some hands on tips on how to stay motivated. You can also download our free Motivation Builder (Goal Setter and a Vision setter), to spark your motivation at the end of this blog post.

Internal vs external motivation

Internal motivation is basically enjoyment. It is the satisfaction of making progress, enjoying the learning journey, feeling curious and open, enjoying learning new pieces of information, feeling satisfied when understanding something tricky.

External motivation is some kind of reward, which could be real or symbolic. It could be achieving good results in a test, it might be the prestige in being fluent, or the rewards in being able to communicate with extended family and friends perhaps. The issue with external motivation is that it can lead to a situation where learners are learning even though they don’t actually enjoy it. It is therefore better to focus mainly on making sure your internal motivation is nice and strong!

How can we work on our internal motivation?

1. Make positive associations

Connect Swedish with your other interests. If you like politics, read the news headlines on dn.se or svd.se. Now is a particularly interesting time in Swedish politics, following the general election. Are you interested in history? Look into the history of Sweden. Like baking? Learn how to bake cinnamon buns, and translate a recipe from Swe to Eng. If you like music, research music with Swedish lyrics and try and translate them, and of course – sing along! I have a playlist on Spotify that you can have a look at: http://open.spotify.com/user/browwn/playlist/1ielXWVCjGa7cvYad7xWPc

Also try and associate learning Swedish with your favourite activities and places. Put a Swedish podcast on when you’re running, for example. Watch movies and tv series in Swedish. Look at youtube for Swedish clips. Go to sr.se (Swedish radio) and listen live or download a podcast. The channel P1 is news, current affairs, debates and culture. P2 is classical and jazz music. P3 is pop music and programmes for a younger audience. P4 is local radio stations. It’s worth checking out the programme Klartext, which is a daily news bulletin in easier Swedish (shorter sentences, reduced vocab). There is also a brilliant app for smartphones, called SR Play.

2. Don’t give up

You need a holistic and realistic view of the learning process. Many language learners start out with high hopes for achieving fluency fast, but their enthusiasm quickly dips when they find themselves making the same mistakes again and again, and maybe speak in an (often self-perceived) embarrassing accent.

This is definitely not the time to throw in the towel and admit defeat! These errors are 100% normal and actually a part of the progress. It is therefore EXTREMELY important to remember this:

Language-learning errors are not a negative reflection on your intelligence!

Instead, learn to love your errors. They are your friends, they bring you step by step closer to fluency and confidence. Smile, and learn from them.

3. Remember why you started

Was it to be able to speak more with colleagues at work? Or with your in-laws? Or to be able to at some point move to Sweden? Or to be able to speak like Saga Noren in The Bridge, just because it’s a cool thing to be able to do? Or because it’s cooler and more unusual than just learning Spanish or Mandarin?

Remind yourself now, maybe even write yourself a little e-mail to yourself with  http://m.futureme.org/ to remind yourself in 6 month’s time.

4. Explore ways to monitor progress

The thing with learning in general, is that it’s hard to sense progress. This is because of something I call “Moving Goal Posts”. Just as you have mastered one grammatical aspect and feel quite pleased about that, you turn a page and realise a whole damn new section that you didn’t even know before! The goal post is constantly moving. As Einstein himself said: “the more I learn the more I realise how little I know”. This is completely as it should be, it’s part of learning.

However, what is worth doing, is to capture your level at certain points, so you have something to compare with. If you are following some kind of course, this will probably be included anyway. Writing exercises that you can look back at in 3 months time. Why not make a short audio recording on your mobile phone or computer? No one needs to know, but you can go back in a year’s time and see how much you have progressed.

5. Consider not having a schedule

I know it may seem sloppy or disorganised somehow in our society to not have a schedule, we are extremely goal oriented as a society. The problem is that having a too strict schedule can make learning a language into a chore. Chores = boring = less internal motivation and less likelihood to succeed.

Learning a language is a bit like going to the gym. You won’t notice immediate effect, and you’ll have good days and bad days. You can’t just work out like mad for 6 months and then go couch potato for 2 years and expect the same level of fitness throughout. But if you work on it regularly, you will notice a difference over weeks and months. Expecting quick improvements is to expect too much from your brain, it’s simply unrealistic. Learning a language is more like a marathon than a sprint, and remember that a flood is made up of raindrops!

Some more useful tips:

  • svt.se (Swedish television, some programmes are available outside of Sweden)
  • TV4play and Kanal5play for smartphones
  • 8sidor.se (notice especially their “Lyssna” feature in the left-hand side menu)

Download our free Motivation Builder to get your motivational flow going!


Linnea Henriksson – Du söker bråk, jag kräver dans (lyrics)


Åh. Jag var inte alls beredd. 

Satt och lyssna på Frank Ocean 

och allting skedde i slow motion.

Vilken träff! Allting blev som tecknad film.

Flög små fåglar runt min skalle. 

Fick du visa nu hur ball du är?

Oh. Du vill så gärna nån ska se dig, 

men jag har hela världen med mig.

Du söker bråk, jag kräver dans.

Åh. Du är stor, men jag är snabb.

Nästa gång slår jag tillbaka. 

Först en krok sen fyra raka.

Oh. Du vill så gärna nån ska se dig, 

men jag har hela världen med mig.

Du söker bråk, jag kräver dans.

Vi kommer nu.

Vet var du bor.

Bröder och systrar, fler än du tror.

Du söker bråk.

Jag kräver dans. 

Med dina moves har du ingen chans.

Visa mig – break!

Du står så still.

Du som var så tuff vet inte längre vad du vill.

En piruett. 

Jag är besviken. 

Du vill bli sedd, men vågar inte ta publiken.

Oh. Du vill så gärna nån ska se dig, 

men jag har hela världen med mig.

Du söker bråk, jag kräver dans.

Albin – Din soldat (Lyric Video) ft. Kristin Amparo

Låt mig vara din soldat, ey! (3x)

[Vers 1:Albin]
Har du också tänkt sista gången och gjort samma miss om och om sen?
Har du också legat vaken hela nätter, massa press, pressa tänder?
Har du också lovar dig själv, att imorgon tar jag tag i mig själv?
Har du också provat deras norm? (Sen fattat att du inte är som dem)
Har du också satt i en bil, bara kört tills du inte har bensin?
Har du också tänkt ‘om jag flyr kommer allt bli bra inuti’?
Har du också fattat till slut att den enda som kan rädda dig är du?
Du behöver inte bära allt själv, för jag har känt allt precis som du känt!

[Refräng: Kristin Amparo] (2x)
Jag har sett hur den där skiten alltid tär på dig,
Jag kommer kriga för din skull och finnas där för dig.
När du stupar nästa gång så vill jag bära dig.
Låt mig vara din soldat!

[Vers 2:Albin]
Har du också kört huvudet i väggen, så hårt att det känns som du sprängt det?
Har du också svurit att aldrig, ge upp det du drömt och sett fram till?
Har du också stått på ditt jobb, sen känt att du är värd mer än så?
Har du också stressat ihjäl dig, för en lön som knappt ger dig skäl, nej?
Jag har också tappat ibland, för att snabbt försökt komma ikapp.
Jag har också sett när du faller, och försökt bygga nytt ifrån marken.
Jag har också varit nära min gräns, så jag fattar precis hur det känns.
Men jag lovar att allt kommer vända, om vi lovar att tro på oss själva!

[Refräng: Kristin Amparo] (2x)

För de pekar, blickar in oss, vinkar hitåt, måste bli nåt.
Skapa normer, väcka sorger, bygga luftslott utav ångest.
Informerar, propagerar. Ger oss manus för att leva.
Så vi blundar för det skeva men om vi vågar kan vi segla.

[Refräng: Kristin Amparo] (2x)

Låt mig vara din soldat! (3x)


Let me be your soldier, ey! (3x)

[Verse 1: Albin]
Have you also been thinking for the last time and made the same mistake over and over?
Have you also laid naked the whole night, panic, stress shaking your teeth?
Have you also promised yourself, that tomorrow you’ll start your LIFE
Have you also tried being normal?
(And then realized you’re not like them)
Have you also been in a car, just driving until there’s no gas?
Have you also thought ‘if I run away will everything be okay inside of me’?
Have you also understood that the only one who can save you is you?
You don’t have to carry everything alone, for I have felt everything you feel.

[Chorus: Kristin Amparo] (2x)
I have seen how all this shit has torn you apart,
I will fight for you and be there for you.
When you fall the next time, I want to carry you.
Let me be your soldier!

[Verse 2: Albin]
Have you also banged your head in a wall, so hard it feels like it’s exploding?
Have you also promised to never give up on something you’ve dreamed and looked forward to?
Have you also been at work feeling I’m worth more than this?
Have you been stressed to death for a pay-check you can’t survive on?
I have also lost sometimes so I can try to catch up.
I have seen when you fell, and had to build up everything again from the ground.
I have also been close to the line, so I know exactly how it feels.
But I promise everything will go your way, if we believe in ourselves!

[Chrous: Kristin Amparo] (2x)
I have seen how all this shit has torn you apart,
I will fight for you and be there for you.
When you fall the next time, I want to carry you.
Let me be your soldier!

They’re pointing, looking at us, waving this way, have to be something.
Creating norms, awakening sorrows, building dreams of anxiety
Informing, propagates. Give us scripts to live after.
So we close our eyes for the skew, but if we dare to we can sail. 

[Chorus: Kristin Amparo] (2x)
I have seen how all this shit has hurt you,
I will fight for you and be there for you.
When you fall the next time, I want to carry you.
Let me be your soldier!

Let me be your soldier! (3x)

Svenska and English lyrics here: http://lyricstranslate.com/en/din-soldat-your-soldier.html

Swedish vs. British weddings

One of my students, who has been to numerous Swedish weddings, has written this brilliant (and, of course, subjective) reflection on Swedish vs British weddings, which she has kindly agreed for me to share. Pictures (apart from last one) by http://www.evaberonius.se 

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 21.09.26

Swedish vs. British Weddings

  • The Ceremony

    In the UK: A church ceremony typically lasts up to an hour and includes several hymns, the vows, the exchange of rings, signing the register, a sermon from the priest, several readings from the bible (or perhaps a poem or two), and procession from the church. The bride walks down the aisle with her Dad, with a few bridesmaids following after. Only once they’re married do the bride and groom walk back out of the church together.

    Best bit: when the priest says “you may now kiss the bride”, everyone claps and cheers

    In Sweden: A church ceremony is usually only 25-30 minutes and includes songs, a soloist singing a song to the couple, the vows, exchange of rings, and procession from the church. Unlike in the UK, the bride and groom walk down the aisle together at both the beginning and end of the ceremony, and there aren’t usually any bridesmaids.

    Best bit: the soloist, particularly if they sing anything by Beyonce

    Who wins?  The UK

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 21.10.02

  • After the ceremony

    In the UK: Everyone congregates outside the church and throws confetti over the happy couple! OK, it’s more likely that we huddle inside the church because it’s raining outside. But this does give us an opportunity to talk about the ceremony and (hopefully) give a hug to the bride and groom.

    Best bit: whenever it’s not raining

    In Sweden: Everyone congregates outside the church and throws confetti over the happy couple. Then we get into a long queue to hug and say a few words to the bride and groom (this is compulsory).

    Best bit: hugging and kissing!

    Who wins? Both traditions are essentially the same, so it’s a tie.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 21.10.27

  • The Reception

    In the UK: We sit down for a civilized three-course meal. At some point (usually during or just after dessert), we have three speeches: the father of the bride, the best man and the groom. Although it’s not forbidden for other people to make speeches, in reality, no one else ever does. The meal is usually over in around 1.5 hours, but that’s only if the speeches don’t drag on for an hour…

    Best bit: you can eat your food uninterrupted (this will make sense shortly)

    In Sweden: Wow… where to start. First of all, you can forget sitting down to a meal for a mere 1.5 hours. Oh no. We have 10 or 12 speeches to get through! So plan to sit down for at least four hours and probably five. Those speeches will include the three in the British tradition, but also friends, other relatives, the men’s stags, the bride’s hens… (yes, women can make speeches too!). However, the good news is that all these speeches are relatively short and (usually) very funny. Especially the stags. But why stop there? We also sing songs and sometimes we play games, too.

    Best bit: when the bride leaves the room (a toilet break is essential during a marathon reception meal), all the women in the room usually run up to the groom and kiss him on the cheek. Ditto for the men who must kiss the bride when the groom leaves the room.

    Who wins? Let’s face it, Sweden wins this one hands down.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 21.10.42

  • Party Time

    In the UK: After the reception meal, we start the real purpose of the night: drinking. Having a certain amount of alcohol in us is essential for us to be able to dance. And then we rock the dancefloor until… ooh, maybe 11pm or midnight. Yeah!

    Best bit: The drinking. Obviously.

    In Sweden: Now, this would be near-identical, were it not for the fact that we’ve just been sitting down eating and drinking for FIVE HOURS. So we are pretty drunk already. Yes, we hit the bar, but we get on the dancefloor pretty quickly. And then we dance to a combination of euro-pop, swedish pop (ABBA, the song that won Eurovision a few years ago, etc), Swedish folk songs, and a few global chart-toppers until 2 or 3am.

    Best bit: ABBA. Obviously.

    Who wins? The UK for the music, Sweden for the late-night finish.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 21.18.08

Så mycket bättre

Så mycket bättre (“So Much Better”) is a Swedish music reality television show on TV4. In the programme, each artist attempts to do their own version of another artists well-known songs, with each person getting an episode featuring all of their songs being performed by the other musicians. The artists spend eight days together at a hotel in Gotland, where they attempt to put their own stamps on the songs.

Here is Darin singing a version of Olle Ljungström‘s ‘Apan’ – an old favourite of mine, with an emotional Olle and other artists watching.

And here is the original:

Ways to think and be drunk in Swedish

This month’s installment of Speak Like a Swede features different ways of saying “think” in Swedish: “tycka”, “tro”, and “tänka”; slang words for being drunk; a Swedish saying about having many names if you’re popular, and learning Swedish by singing.

Read it on Nordic Spotlight here!