Stand with Ukraine. Donate via the National Bank.

A year-long journey to native English fluency. New Year's non-resolution.

New Year’s resolutions never work for me. There’s always that side of myself grudgingly wondering: what is special about those dates again?

Who enjoys being haunted, really? The closer to the “deadline” that I arbitrarily set for myself, the less motivated I feel to “make it”. And few things feel more demotivating than broken self-promises, let alone the science behind announcing those goals publicly [1].

I was after a different sort of motivation, and it had to, by design, embrace sustainability. I hated the strategy of small steps 20 years ago, but by now I’ve grown to love it.

My previous post on starting English classes got some attention on Hacker News, and that revealed that I don’t feel comfortable enough putting myself out and responding to the commenters. My real-time replies would never match that thoroughly polished post. As demotivating as this would be to the perfectionist I’ve always been, this time I could turn this worry into a tranquil confidence that it’s just a phase, an attribute of learning. The key to this was that I had a plan: a sustainable approach to writing regularly. I knew that eventually I would get there.

Arguably, sustainability comes from intrinsic motivation, and for me it boils down to a single thing: enjoyment. A challenge can be fun. Hard work can be fun, too - you’ll know it when time flies while you’re getting things done.

Motivation transforms over time. When I first started with English, I was bragging to my primary school mates with a list of all the English words I already knew. Much later, I was getting excited just at spotting yet another unfamiliar word or expression. Somehow it always felt like a game.

To further up that game, I recently switched my life-long journaling from Russian completely to English. And whoa, it revealed so many blank spots to fill in! Exciting. Room for progress. Doable.

If you’re at this level, the thesaurus is your friend. Your passive knowledge carries the subtle difference between “calm” and “tranquil” already, and most of the time, all you need to do is to see a few synonyms to intuitively spot the exact one you want in a sentence. If in doubt, ask your tutor. Or ChatGPT. I do both.

I hate deadlines just like the next guy. And no, the title of this post isn’t another self-promise. Rather it’s a reminder to myself about how far I can go in just a year if I crack the secret of keeping up - something that I may write about next. Even if the goal doesn’t get achieved, it doesn’t belittle that extra boost of intrinsic motivation that I get from thinking about the year ahead.

[1] Keep in mind, though, that this kind of research, being based on statistics, is all about average, which you are not, right?

Discuss on Hacker News