Learning a new language takes time. In fact, for English speakers, being fluent in a language that is related to their mother tongue takes at least 480 hours. For languages that are too different like Chinese or Korean, it takes at least 1300 hours to become conversational. 

Students, especially those who are just starting out, aren’t aware of the dedication learning a new language entails. Often, they are discouraged when they struggle after a few classes. 

At the core of effective language learning is setting the right goals for your personal development. Goals help you fast-track your accomplishments. It gives a learner a means to measure his or her progress. It is also a tool to keep you focused and eager to learn. 

That said, not all goals are created equal. Just because you set a goal doesn’t mean they would bolster your learning. Setting effective goals is as important as having goals in the first place. In this article, we would discuss effective goals - what makes a goal effective, and how to create ones that work for you. 

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How to Set Good Language Goals

Taking time to set goals. Source: Pexels

When you create goals, you set yourself up for success. Taking this time can ensure that you remain on track with your quest to language fluency. Below are specific points to keep in mind when creating goals:

Remember: SMART

You probably already heard of S.M.A.R.T goals but did you know that this technique is also effective when it comes to language learning. If you are seeking fluency in a language, the goals that you make for yourself should be specific, measurable, accurate, relevant, and time-bound. 

Specific goals are easier to reach because you know exactly what you are working towards. The ability to measure your progress is vital especially during challenging times. Accurate and realistic goals prevents the feeling of disappointment and despair during setbacks. Likewise, a timeline can help you schedule your learning in a feasible way given your busy schedule. 

Write it Down

Writing down your goals makes them real and tangible. Seeing the words on paper transforms your dreams into actionable tasks that you can physically tick off. Words have power and putting pen on paper has the ability to encourage you to take the time to review and learn.  

Make sure that when writing your goals you choose verbiage that are strong and positive. Avoid using words like “may,” “might,” or “would like.” Choose three big goals, write them down on a big piece of paper, and post it somewhere you see everyday. 

Create a Personal Timeline

When learning a new skill, any skill, even those beyond language learning, it is important to remember that everyone learns at a different pace. Do not be tempted to compare yourself with your peers. Likewise, avoid creating deadlines based on their achievements. 

Your timeline should be personal to your learning preference as well as your schedule. As an adult, learning a new language is difficult to fit into your already busy schedule. Trying to force a lesson in can take the joy out of the process altogether. 

Learn To Take Breaks

Burnout happens to the best of us. It can happen even for activities that you truly enjoy. Taking on too much without allowing yourself to breathe and process your learnings can discourage you from challenging yourself in the future. 

Breaks should be included in your timeline. They don’t have to be a month-long, even skipping just one lesson can excite you for the next one. 

Prepare for Setbacks

Setbacks happen. Mistakes are unavoidable. Life can get busy and it is easy to forgo your language learning goals. It is important to remember that you are not your failures and your mistakes do not define your abilities. Even if you fail to reach your goals based on the deadlines that you have for yourself, that doesn’t mean that you can’t reschedule and pivot. 

If you are finding it difficult to reach your deadlines, then there is a good chance that you need to reevaluate your schedule. It might be too tight for your lifestyle. 

Learn to Start Again

Part of dealing with setbacks is knowing how to pick yourself back up from a mistake and starting again. That said, choosing to dive head first can be overwhelming. If it has been awhile since your last language class, there is a good chance that you no longer remember your lessons. It is best to ease yourself into your old language learning routine. 

Instead of attending 5 classes a week, schedule your tutorials for thrice a week instead. At the end of the day, bite-sized tasks are easier to commit to. 

Characteristics of a Good Goal

How to Create Good Goals. Source: Pexels

As discussed earlier not all goals are created equal. Below are characteristics of effective language learning ones:

Personal to Your Learning

Each student has a different learning style and pace. Some learners absorb information better in sprints - 30 minutes of reviewing every day. Others prefer long study periods less often. Think, reviewing for 3 hours every weekend. 

The goals and deadlines that you set for yourself should be determined by your personal preferences. Again, if you truly want to be fluent in a new language try not to compare yourself with the progress of your peers. More often than not, doing so would only discourage you from trying harder. 

Measurable 

Good goals are measurable. The goals you create should be able to give you a clear picture of your progress. This is why it is important to take down notes. These notes would serve as your gauge. 

Is it easier to recognize words? Do you have to search terms you missed during class after hours? Do you need to take down less notes because you already understand the lesson as is? Simply having a notebook specific for your language learning can help you see your development in a completely objective way. 

Specific and Broken Down

It is difficult to achieve abstract goals. Likewise, it is overwhelming to tackle big goals. Being specific with the goals that you create and breaking them down per task can help you make them more digestible. 

When it comes to language learning, it is best to take on one aspect at a time. If you are focusing on grammar, start with nouns and stick to it until you recognize conversational words. Likewise, when your focus is on verbs, your goals should involve conjugation.

Realistic

It is easier for disappointment to creep in if the goals that you create are unrealistic. No one knows you more than you know yourself. The goals have to be tailor-fitted for your needs, your learning preference, and your pace. It has to be within the bounds of your busy schedule. 

Related to Your Personal Goals

Learning a new language entails a lot of things. Between perfecting grammar and practicing your accent, it is important to set goals that are relevant to why you are learning a new language in the first place. For instance, if you intend to learn Chinese for a trip to China next year, your goals should be geared towards learning conversational Chinese. Likewise your timeline and reviewing schedules should account for when you are leaving for China. 

Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Goals

Mistakes in Goal Setting. Source: Pexels

As they say, knowing the enemy is half the battle won. Below are common pitfalls most new language learners fall into when setting goals:

Avoiding Deadlines

Deadlines get a bad rep. But contrary to popular sentiment, deadlines are vital in goal-setting. Having a timetable makes it easier to allocate the little time that you have on the things that are important to you. 

There is also a sense of accomplishment that comes with ticking a task off of your calendar. When it comes to difficult tasks like learning a new language, it is all about celebrating the little things. 

Taking on Too Much

Truth be told, creating too many goals is as detrimental as not making goals at all. Having too much on your plate can become overwhelming especially when you are tackling a big endeavor like becoming fluent in a new language. 

It is ideal to have at most three big goals that are to be broken down to smaller actionable tasks. These tasks should be set against a deadline. 

Refusing to Pivot

Goals aren’t set in stone. They need to be reviewed often in order to remain effective. Refusing to pivot your goals would stunt your progress. It is best to revisit your goals especially in times that you fail to reach them. Often, it isn’t your failure, your goals are just not realistic to your situation. 

Setting goals seem to be another task on your already long to-do list. However, you would be surprised by how effective this step is in your language learning development. Taking the time to write your specific goals down can help you achieve fluency in the language of your choice, faster and more effectively. 

To hasten your progress even further, we encourage you to connect with us at Superprof. Our roster of talented tutors can give you the help that you need not only with the language you are trying to learn but also with setting good goals as well. 

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Mike is a freelance writer with a passion for continuous learning, self-improvement, and helping others through education