It’s easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm and excitement of setting a language learning goal, especially when you feel so inspired around reflective times like the New Year holiday or your birthday. Aspirations are, after all, the stuff from which goals take shape. Nothing feels worse, however, than that deflating sense of failure in knowing you had a goal you were excited about and kind of, well — left it on the shelf.
This can be especially true of language learning goals. You get fired up about this year being the year to get your Spanish back into shape, you finally decide that you’re going to recover the French you had at school, or you book that summer-long trip to Berlin and don’t want to be that kind of traveler.
If you really want to break the cycle of unfulfilled language learning goals, then consider these 3 very simple but very effective steps.
Keep it focussed and simple
It’s great to dream big — it gets us out of our comfort zones. Set too big a goal, though, and you might soon find yourself getting off course because of daily distractions, shuffled priorities, and expectations of what you should be achieving and how soon you should be achieving it. That can set you up for disappointment, demotivation, and even failure.
Keeping things focussed and simple can put you on the fast track to reaching your language learning goal. Let’s imagine your goal is to learn French this year. Break that goal down into smaller steps.
What does learning French actually mean to you? Does it mean being able to watch a film without subtitles and still understand what’s going on? Do you want to read a book without checking the dictionary at every third word? Do you finally want to have a conversation with a native speaker in which you make yourself reasonably understood? Decide on this and then you have your map.
Now, break that into smaller, clear steps or ideas. How many of the words that you don’t know are verbs? How many are words that relate to a specific topic? Break those into even smaller steps or ideas. What you’ll end up with is a very focussed list of specific milestones to reach that you can achieve one at a time.
If you haven’t already learned the 4 Steps to Better Habit Building for Language Learning, check them out now to learn more about how to create small goals you can reach to build something that is truly a long-lasting achievement.
Make it real
One mistake that many people make when caught up in the excitement of planning a language learning goal is making a goal that’s specific but hard to relate to your everyday life. Maybe you want to improve your German. You know you need to do that by gaining more vocabulary, listening to more native examples, and brushing up on your grammar — but how are you going to measure your progress so you know for sure you’re actually getting more words, understanding more, and using better grammar?
The solution is to keep it real. Just like breaking down your goal into specific, focussed steps will help you to create milestones, you also need to give those milestones a real-life value. Give your vocabulary milestones a concrete number: “I want to learn 75 new words a day”, “I want my correct rate to get up to 80%”, “I want to learn 30 minutes a day”, “I want to complete two daily challenges”.
Don’t know which stats to use? Check out your Lingvist Home screen and pick one to start with.
Stay accountable — use the buddy system
Accountability can come in many forms. For some it might mean sharing progress on Facebook, or tweeting it out for everyone to follow. The benefit is that people can share in your progress or cheer you on when you hit a snag. For others it might simply be sharing updates with friends or family members. All of these are a nod to our general social tendencies as human beings.
Few things, however, compare with getting a friend to learn with you. Not only will you have a built-in pep squad and study buddy, but you might also benefit from a bit of competitiveness to compare stats and see who meets their daily goal, or who gets the better correct rate. You’ll also be more likely to learn for a longer time each session and focus more because you have someone else to share the experience alongside you.
Want to encourage a friend to learn along with you? Giving a Lingvist gift card can jumpstart a friend’s language learning!