Lesson Transcript


Chigusa: Welcome to a special Inner Circle Audio Lesson! I'm Chigusa and I'll be your host. My co-host today is the founder of InnovativeLanguage.com... Peter Galante!
Peter: Hi everyone! Peter here.
Chigusa: In this Inner Circle, we’re talking about...
Peter: How to Create Long-Lasting Habits for Language Learning
Chigusa: And you’ll learn...
Peter: One: The Habits I Rely On to Learn Languages
Chigusa: And Two: How to Create Your Own Habits
Peter: So you can master your target language and reach your goals!
Chigusa: Listeners, welcome to the Inner Circle.
Peter: Last time, you learned how to get started with learning a language…
Chigusa: …with our Fundamentals Welcome pack. And Peter, last time you said you’ll be learning Hindi this year.
Peter: That’s right.
Chigusa: Did you hit your goal for the month? I think you promised 1 minute last time.
Peter: I did. I reached 1 minute. And by the way, the goal for the year... is to reach 30 minutes. So, I’ll always try to go up month by month.
Chigusa: Alright, that’s good, you’re starting out strong!
Peter: Well, Chigusa, we’re still at the start of the year. The start is my specialty. This is the easy part, in a way. It’s new, and there’s lots to do in the beginning, but it’s that there’s always that middle stretch that’s the toughest part.
Chigusa: Right, but most people that make New Year's resolutions usually fall off around this time… If they haven’t done so in January. And you’re still going.
Peter: Yes, it is my job in a way, so it’s not such a fair comparison. Because I’ve lost quite some other New Year's resolutions quite fast too, so I can understand some of the challenges but applying some of the things we learned here to other areas and other New Year’s resolutions also works, so I think it’s the habits I’ve developed over … 10 or 15 years of learning languages… that makes it easy for me to keep going, or pushes me through. But, if you’re not able to create habits and routines… I think you’re going to struggle with reaching your goal.
Chigusa: That’s true. One thing I notice with language learners is… at the start, you’re excited. You come up with a routine or plan to stick to… like learn 30 minutes a day… and maybe that works when you’re still excited. But it’s hard to keep going.
Peter: Yeah, and I think this is applicable to many types of goals, even outside language learning. And that’s where habits come in. But you need to learn how to create and stick with it first in order to create a habit. So, let’s get into part 1 of this Inner Circle.
Chigusa: Part 1: The Habits Peter Relies On to Learn Languages
Peter: But first, Chigusa, believe it or not, I used to have terrible learning habits, and I wasn’t always good at learning languages.
Chigusa: Really?
Peter: Flashback to high school and even middle school. I never had very good results in those classes - my native language is English and…. Italian, Spanish and French use the same Latin alphabet, so - I should’ve… it gave me an advantage over a language such as Japanese or Chinese, and I never had good results. And as you mentioned earlier, it’s hard to stick with things when you need to force yourself to get motivated, right?
Chigusa: RIght.
Peter: If you think about it, the way we work… our behavior works is… if you get a good result or reward, you do it again. And if you get punished… or you don’t have a favorable result, you tend to not do it again, or slowly it loses focus for you.
Chigusa: …or if you get no immediate result… you also may not do it again.
Peter: Yeah, we’re all kind of wired to want results to stay motivated or see progress. But with long-term goals like language learning… or fitness is kind of another good example… it takes that time to see some results. So, it’s understandable why it’s hard to make it a habit.
Chigusa: Yeah, and it definitely explains why it’s hard for us to stick with goals like that.
Peter: Exactly. You can come up with a nice routine on paper, but if you can’t physically stick with it… it’s kind of useless. The trick is to keep going… until it becomes a habit. So, one of the things I did was set a specific time and location dedicated to learning language. Right now, I mostly study at the cafe near my house, and interestingly enough, cafes are starting to get more crowded, and it’s winter right now, so if you leave the door open… or being outside is not as fun as the spring, summer or fall. So, I simply adjusted my time to when there are less people inside the cafe, and that's the nice thing about still being at home and still having limited time in the office -I have that flexibility to adjust the time that I do things. And you’d be surprised what a place you’re familiar with looks like at 8 AM vs. 10 AM vs. noon vs. 2 PM, 6 PM, 8 PM. So playing with that time can be an interesting way of finding a timeslot that you’re comfortable in order for you to achieve a location for a routine. And that could be your house, a cafe, or anything like this.
Chigusa: So, time and location.
Peter: Exactly. And the reason I did this is because our habits are ruled by time and location. These are the 2 key things you need to identify in any goal you want to achieve.
Chigusa: Yeah, if it’s 8 PM, it’s dinner time. If it’s midnight, it’s time to brush your teeth.
Peter: If you’re on my schedule, that makes sense too. And again, if you’re at the office - a location - it’s time to work. If you’re in the living room on the couch, there’s people coming in and out. It’s very hard to get some heavy deep concentration work done. By setting a location, by picking that place, you give yourself a plan to work from. And if you pick the time too, if it’s 8 PM, you automatically know what to do.
Chigusa: And does this really work?
Peter: Well, again, it’s the preparation. It’s showing up for the test with the right tools. Doesn't necessarily mean you’ll do great on the test. But it gives you a chance. That’s all you can kind of ask for is a chance, and it’s really up to you, though… but by showing up at the place, at the time, ready to go, it puts you ahead of most of the other people.
Chigusa: Right, you can make a nice plan…but it’s on you to make the first step.
Peter: Yes, but… time and location are the 2 most powerful cues. Especially location. If you think of gym, Chigusa, have you ever - before a trip that you went somewhere that you might be for some while, interestingly they sell these weights that you can fill up with water, and you can work out in your hotel room. It’s the same thing. You can buy them when you get to the hotel room, but it’s really, really hard to get a great workout in a hotel room. When I go to the cafe - again that location that I attach with me learning and doing progress - and I see other people working away, I also want to be productive… For me, the cafe is tied to learning. And for you, it might be someplace else. Locations are tied to doing different things.
Chigusa: I see. When it gets warmer, a park can be a choice, right?
Peter: Yeah, I think this can be a great choice. You know, Chigusa, you said park, so you maybe identify going to the park and relaxing and studying a bit, then going back relaxing, taking a walk. So, for you, this can be a great location. So, I think we each have our own location where we want to make that progress. The 2nd tip is very similar… create an environment that’s good for language learning… where it’s easy for you to learn. Again, for me, it’s the cafe because there’s a lot going on at home. You can be distracted easily by an interaction between 2 other people that may be going well or not well. But, you can turn a room or a corner of a room into a learning space… where you can easily pop in and start learning. For you, Chigusa, you mentioned the park. The park can be a great place. Wherever you can go to get some work done, then that’s a great location.
Chigusa: It’s like that example…if you want to go running more, leave your running shoes out in the open so that it’s easier to put them on and go.
Peter: Yeah… I don't know about out in the open. We have a small house, kids always leaving things out in the open. Exactly. Your environment can make or break your habits… is the point I want to say. So putting out your running shoes makes it easy to slip them on and go. We could probably give another example, picture this, if you had a gym on the first floor of your building, it’s much easier to go, what do you think, Chigusa?
Chigusa: Definitely, and you wouldn’t need to motivate yourself as much. But, if it’s 5 blocks away, it becomes so much harder.
Peter: But again, if it was 5 blocks away… but on your way to the train station that you have to walk to every day to commute to work… then it’s easy. It’s on the way. You don’t have to go out of your way. I think every case is different, but it’s sitting down and analyzing - a very personal thing - where does it work for you? When does it work for you? And for everyone, you can try a few things until you come across the ideal situation for you, where you can actually make that progress. The 3rd thing I really like is… piggybacking, but it’s also called habit stacking in the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Chigusa: Piggybacking. What’s that?
Peter: Here, you take a look at your existing habits and routines. For example, wake up, eat breakfast, commute to work, lunch, leave work, commute home… maybe you walk your dog... Or go for a jog later. So, we have in lives our own habits, these routines, and habits. You look for a habit where you can piggyback language learning on top of that existing routine. In my case, it’s on my commute to work…in the past. These days I tend to go out for a walk at a certain point in time because to be in the house all day is not the best. So, at that time, when I go for a walk, I’ll use the Innovative Language Learning App and spend around 30 minutes on lessons. And this is a habit that I’ve had when I was commuting that I transferred over to my new routines because it was a good 30 minutes of learning every day, and this is a habit I’ve stuck with for years. In the earlier days, I’d be on the train practicing reading or drilling physical flashcards, and now that I walk, I do more listening so that I don’t hurt my ankle or do something else while I’m looking at the flashcards.
Chigusa: Hmm, but that’s a good one. You can get 2 things done at the same time.
Peter: Yes, my exercise plus my language lessons. You know, and you don’t have to push yourself to learn. I’m already walking around the park near the house, and it’s now part of that routine. I understand that when the time and there’s not much I can do… so it’s very simple to play a lesson. Chigusa, what about you? Where would you be able to fit in language learning?
Chigusa: When I’m taking a bath. I love to soak in the bathtub for like 30 minutes when I have time, so I can use that time, maybe.
Peter: That’s a nice one. You can put the cellphone right outside put play on. And you can listen away, and you’re taking care of your body and taking care of your mind. Great example.
Chigusa: Now, Peter, what if someone took the first tip - set a time and location and applied it with piggybacking. For example, learn for 10 minutes while on the train to work.
Peter: That’s great. You have a stronger chance that this will become a habit. You don’t have to think about it. The whole point is to make it easy to do, easy to show up. This piggybacking, stacking, multi-tasking, you already have this existing routine, and you’re just going to add on top of that rather than carving. We spoke about this in other lessons. Rather than trying to carve time out right away, you piggyback first. It kind of transitions to the 4th tip of another way to make habits easy… and it’s called the 2-minute rule.
Chigusa: So, try to learn for 2 minutes?
Peter: Exactly. If you want to create a habit, do it just for 2 minutes.
Chigusa: And then walk away?
Peter: After 2 minutes, you walk away. The whole point here is… to master the habit of showing up and learning. So, 2 minutes isn’t enough to make major progress or maybe even any progress at all… but for a beginner who doesn’t have good habits to start with… this is more than enough. Again, just taking that first step, right? Isn't that one of these sayings, the first step of a long journey is the hardest, right?
Chigusa: Right, I was thinking that 2 minutes wouldn’t really feel like enough time…
Peter: It's enough to build a habit. That’s the key thing. With habits, it’s not about how many hours you put in in every session… it’s how many times you’ve done it - the frequency. So, someone that did 100 2-minute lessons for 2 weeks will have a much stronger habit than someone that learned for 1 hour a day for 2 weeks and wore themselves out. If you’re going to warm up, if you’re going to train for a marathon, I don’t think you do a marathon once a week until the marathon, you start with 5KM in the first week, and you build from there - you build that base, right?
Chigusa: Right, I didn’t know that. So it’s more about how many times you’ve repeated it…
Peter: Exactly. And that’s why many of our lessons are very quick - some are just 3 minutes. Chigusa, if you had to learn for just 2 minutes and then immediately stop, how would you feel?
Chigusa: Hmm, that’s a good question. I’d feel like I could’ve learned more. That it’s not enough.
Peter: And that’s actually a good thing!
Chigusa: It is?
Peter: Like you said earlier, what many first-time learners do is… they’ll sit down for an hour on their first try, right? They carve out time to do this, and then they cant take care of the rest of the things they’re trying to do. They overwhelm themselves, and afterward, they don’t want to do it again. So they quit. It’s a chore. It’s painful. If you go to the gym for the first time in a long time and you work out hard, what happens the next day, Chigusa?
Chigusa: You get really sore, and you feel awful, and you never want to go back to the gym again.
Peter: I remember when I was young, you could do all these things. A few years ago, I went to play basketball. I played so well during this 3-hour stretch, and I could not move the next day. And it took me a week to get my full mobility back. So, I didn’t go back to play again. Gotta ease your way into these things.
Chigusa: I see. So, it's like you’re kind of ending the session on a high note…
Peter: Yeah, when you have these small increments, it’s like, “Oh, that was easy,” you trick yourself. That wasn’t bad. And once you’re used to it, you can then put in more time. You even want to learn more. Nowadays I spend around 30 or 40 minutes. Sometimes an hour with my teacher, without a problem. Again, let me back up a minute, with the languages I'm very proficient at - Italian. It’s great. I sit down for an Italian lunch every Wednesday with my teacher, and we have a great time. I look forward to this. And if you asked me to do 1 hour of Hindi with my teacher over lunch, it’d be painful at this particular point because we wouldn't be able to talk for an hour... So starting small and building up it’s such a powerful way to develop these routines. Let’s go to this fifth tip that can potentially help you make progress. And the fifth tip is to track your habits, and it’s something I’ve done with a calendar.
Chigusa: Ah, yes, I’ve done this too. Where you cross the days on a calendar every time you do something, right?
Peter: Or every time you don’t do something, right? For bad habits. And it’s a great approach. Having that habit tracker does two things. First, it keeps the habits on top of your mind, and second, it gives you that reward or result. So crossing out a day when you did something positive or you didn't do something negative is so satisfying. It’s mentally helping you through the day - that satisfaction of the actual pen touching the paper. Maybe it’s not it anymore. Maybe it’s a click on an app. But anyway, crossing off that day is really powerful. So, if you’re consistent, you have the visual proof right in front of you that the streak is ongoing.
Chigusa: If you’re not, well, at least now you know your progress.
Peter: Exactly. So these are some of the ways I developed the habits. I think another big one I started doing later in my journey… I’d always get an in-person teacher and use our Premium PLUS teacher as well. Recently, with the live lessons, it’s really really powerful to study the lesson on my own, then send the teacher a message, and then show up in class and actually use it - it really reinforces some of these habits. So I make sure that I have one mark for when I do something, self-study, then I have another mark for when I text or send a video message to my teacher. And then I have another mark for how I did in the class. And then I get my results, and it's really powerful to see this reinforcement across all these different things. One mark is an X, and one is a triangle. And one is a circle.
Chigusa: Yeah, having someone waiting for you… makes it harder to back out…and easier to create a strong habit. Like if you have a lesson every Thursday night.
Peter: Yeah, exactly. This is another way to build a habit. It’s called a commitment device….
Chigusa: ….where you commit to something?
Peter: Where one action dictates your future behavior. So, for example, if you have trouble sleeping with your current mattress, buying a new one… will improve your future sleep. With my teacher, I pay for several sessions ahead of time… the days and times are locked in… so I’m locked in, and I have to show up...
Chigusa: Ah, yes, you already paid the money. It’s kind of like with language schools.
Peter: Again, I do enjoy language schools, exactly.
Chigusa: It’s funny because, for some people, this sounds inconvenient... Because you have to pay upfront and your schedule is set ahead of time… but it’s probably the best way to get a habit started.
Peter: That expression, you get what you pay for. And I’ve actually done that in the past… with German if you listen to the past Inner Circle episodes. I was failing my monthly goals, so I joined an in-person class to get back on track, and it really worked. The lessons aren’t cheap, to be honest, it was very inconvenient to physically go to the school. But guess what happened? It cost money, I had to go to the school, but I adjusted to the routine... But, with all of these tips - the whole point is to make it easy for you to start and stick with a habit… and then it’s a matter of time until it becomes part of you, it becomes part of your schedule, and that’s when things really turn the corner.
Chigusa: Peter, but how long does it take to form a habit?
Peter: According to some studies, 21 days, then there are studies that say 2 months on average. But the most important part again is… frequency. The current habits you have… have done hundreds and hundreds of times which is what makes them automatic. There’s one thing that we haven't included in this lesson is… how motivated are you—the motivation scale. For languages or for goals that I’m very motivated, 21 days sounds right. And for others, if I don't connect the motivation to the goal, then, to be honest, never. So, you also have to take a look at the motivation. So, if you're motivated, 21 days, that’s about right.
Chigusa: I see
Peter: I think that’s when it becomes a part of you. It’s much harder to quit… because you start to see some results. It becomes a part of your identity. Maybe your friends or family start to ask you about it. And it’s interesting too. Positive and negative. One of my friends, he started to get into shape, and at first, before he started to get into shape, he got a lot of encouragement. And when he started to get into shape and really started to do well, and he stuck to his routine, then the family started to get upset with him for not being around. It’s kind of funny. But, if you really want it, 21 days to 2 months is a pretty good way for it to become that… incorporated into your schedule. And then, and it may even start to take away time from other things that were part of your routine, maybe some bad habits or routines that weren’t so positive. Going out for a drink gets cut out, and then this replaces it. So I think that’s what you want to aim for… rather than just a few days, try and stick with something for one month.
Chigusa: Alright, now what can our listeners take away from this?
Peter: Let’s jump into part 2.
Chigusa: Part 2: How to Create Your Own Habits
Peter: Listeners, our lives are governed by routines and habits. If you think about waking up in the morning, maybe you reach for your phone, maybe you check any messages, calls, any things like this. Then, you go downstairs, have breakfast, and you’re flicking through the news that you watch. And whatever you do, you probably do it multiple times a day. Same time train. Same time car commute. Same time you log on to your thing, you have school. We’re trained to live our lives in routines. And a lot of time, we’re doing things out of habit… without having to think or motivate ourselves.
Chigusa: Now imagine if you could do that for language learning…
Peter: …where you can easily slide in, start learning, without needing to push yourself.
Chigusa: That’s where habits come in…
Peter: Habits start with a cue - which is an outside signal - for example, it’s 8 PM. Or you smell some food at 8 PM.
Chigusa: Then a craving. If you eat dinner at 8 PM, you’ll start wanting to eat.
Peter: Then the response, you eat.
Chigusa: And then the reward: you feel satisfied… or guilty.
Peter: But building habits is tricky… especially when there’s no instant reward. Language learning is a time commitment. So, what can you do?
Chigusa: Here’s a quick recap with examples for you to do.
Peter: First: Set a time and location.
Chigusa: This one depends on you and how much free time you have. But, keep it simple and don’t aim high—for example, 8 PM to 810PM at home.
Peter: Or, 2 PM to 230PM at the cafe every Saturday or Sunday.
Chigusa: And the reason is.. again, time and location are powerful cues for our behavior.
Peter: There’s a certain time we sleep, eat, do work, and there are places where we work…and so if you want to build a habit, start here first.
Chigusa: Second: Create an environment that makes language learning easy.
Peter: You can turn a room or a corner of a room into a learning space… where you don't have any distractions in the way… and where it’s easy to start learning.
Chigusa: And if your home isn’t the best place, then try a cafe.
Peter: The whole point is to make learning easier to jump into.
Chigusa: Third: Piggyback on your existing routines and habits.
Peter: In other words, combine language learning with a routine that you already do, like… commuting to work, doing chores, or taking a walk.
Chigusa: That way, your brain automatically starts associating with your commute time as language time… and you can easily do a lesson… without having to push and motivate yourself.
Peter: Fourth: Use the 2-minute rule.
Chigusa: Meaning, if you want to create a habit, do it only for 2 minutes and immediately walk away after.
Peter: The whole point is to build the habit of showing up to language learning… and you don’t need to put in hours there. It’s all about how many times you’ve shown up… Not the actual hours you’ve studied.
Chigusa: And you can easily learn with our lessons… or the word of the day emails.
Peter: Fifth: Track your habits and don’t skip 2 days in a row.
Chigusa: If you can track and measure something, that means you can also improve it. And the same applies to language learning.
Peter: If you see that you were able to stick with it for a week… That’s a powerful reward, which means you’re more likely to keep at it without breaking the chain.
Chigusa: By the way, we included a habit tracking calendar in the PDF of this Inner Circle for you to download, print, and use.
Peter: Sixth: Surround yourself with other language learners… or get a language teacher.
Chigusa: Like the environment, people also have a big impact on your habits.
Peter: So, if you’re a Premium PLUS user, be sure to take advantage of teachers available in our program.
Chigusa: Or you can sign up for live classes… our next semester opens up in May…
Peter: …for Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, Chinese, Italian, German, and English.
Chigusa: Alright, Peter, let’s get back to goals then. What’s your goal for next month?
Peter: So it’s been about 2 months, and now we’re entering the 3rd month, so I’m going to aim for something new - I’ll aim for 2 messages a week to my teacher, and each message contains a text - and finally I will aim for 3 minutes when I have my in-person teaching class. That could be good.
Chigusa: Deadline?
Peter: March 31st, 2022.
Chigusa: Sounds very good. And listeners, let us know what your small, measurable, monthly goal is… email us at inner dot circle at innovative language dot com and stay tuned for the next Inner Circle.


Chigusa: Well, that’s going to do it for this special Inner Circle lesson for this month!
Peter: Bye everyone!
Chigusa: Thank you for listening, and we’ll see you next time.