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Well I've been speaking with my students about their new year's resolutions and I've noticed that many of them have a new year's resolution to improve their English, or to master English. These aspirations are great and I hope that everyone is striving to improve in some area of their life. The acquisition of skills is a crucial part of life that helps you reach self actualization and could be the only thing that makes it possible to fulfill your life aspirations. I can't imagine living the life I'm living now without the skills that I've achieved over the past five years. This makes me reflect on my goal setting habits in the past, and I want to ask you this: Would you enjoy more happiness, and fulfillment in your life if you were better at setting and achieving goals? Well, I'm here to tell you that there is such a thing as a bad goal. This doesn't mean that the intention is bad or that if you achieve the goal you won't benefit. Really it just means that you probably won't achieve it because you didn't plan and define your goal. Personally, one example comes to mind where I failed to make high quality goals and I really regretted it, which is not a cool feeling.
Be decisive and stick with it
Portuguese has been a small part of my life for the past 6 years or so. The key word is small. When I was about twenty-three I had a goal to know 5 languages by the time I was thirty. Since then I've studied, Portuguese, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Hebrew, Romanian, Japanese, Thai, Arabic, and possibly others that I've forgotten. But I must confess that I haven't reached fluency in most of those languages. Now isn't the time to discuss my specific skills in them but let's just say that I've only got 2 years left and I wasn't happy with my progress until recently. Where did I go wrong? Why am I not fluent in a bunch of languages by now? It's simple; I didn't plan well! I made an awesome goal but I didn't plan how I would accomplish it.
So let me tell you how I've done a complete makeover of my goal setting habits. How can you define your goal well and create a strategy to achieve it.
Goals with numbers and dates: URGENCY
So first I made a plan to reach my goals in romanian and Portuguese more efficiently. I struggled with this process but here is the final result of the plan. For Romanian I decided I would complete 50 mini speeches in Romanian in 3 months. These mini speeches would give me the basic foundation for conversation in Romanian. I came up with a detailed strategy that would help me achieve the goal and I'll talk to you more about it in a bit.
Define the parameters of your goals: ACCOUNTABILITY
For Portuguese I decided to go into overdrive and drastically improve my conversational level. I decided I would call it conversational fluency, which is a rather common but also relative term, so I defined it even further. Conversational fluency, to me means that I want to have a good conversation with native speakers without them getting frustrated from my lack of conversational skills. In order to do that I decided I needed to listen to native speakers. Repeat after them. Chat and converse with them. Reading in portuguese was already part of my habits so that wasn't anything new.
I decided that 1 hour minimum a day of focused study in both languages was a good habit to make. But I didn't stop there!
Minimum daily goals: Discipline and Responsibility
For thirty days I planned to experiment with a very detailed timetable of study. I divided each hour into 10,15 or 20 minute activities. I set the timer before starting each activity and when it beeps I move onto the next one until my 1 hour time is finished. I hoped that this would ensure that I didn't neglect any aspect of study. I've finished about 3 weeks so far... My speeches are coming along well, and my Portuguese conversations with native speakers are paying off, because I've been able to really make a connection with them and have meaningful conversations. Stay tuned, send me a whatsapp message and feel free to ask me how I'm doing.
These short term goals are so important and are pretty straight forward but we usually don't make them. Guys, leave general behind. He just aint good enough. Instead of saying, "I want to be fluent," say, "I want to be fluent before this time and I will use X strategy for X amount of time X days a week.
What will you really use? What topics will you talking about when you speak the language?
I'm going to learn ten words a day and 300 words in a month. But what words will you learn? How will those words connect to make sentences if you have no reason or rhyme to which ones you'll learn? I've found it best to pick a subject and divide that subject into subcategories and then you can be much more focused in your daily studies because you can choose a subcategory and work on it until it's finished. For example. I chose to have 50 mini speeches, but I will be focusing a percentage of those mini speeches on daily conversations like greetings, talking about my day, explaining my health and or sickness etc. I make mini dialogues and work until I can speak all of it in my target language. My other mini speeches will be about language learning because I talk about it all the time. Why should I learn how to call a cab if this is not a likely task I'll be attempting in the near future? Focus on what you say in your real life or on what you consume. Do you read about finances? Then this should be a part of your goal? Do you talk about action movies a lot? Then you will need to learn how to use lots of EXPLOSIVE verbs and probably will use the past and past continuous on a regular basis, so make it part of your goal!
Get in the Flow!
I can only describe flow as an intense excitement, focus and a positive feeling of butterflies in the stomach about language learning. How do I find my flow? I'm not sure if I can pinpoint just one thing, but I can definitely tell you some patterns I've observed that gradually gave me this unquenchable thirst to work all day and all night on languages.
It's pretty simple guys. I found the flow by planning stuff on paper and doing them just how I planned every day. Plan something on paper and you're much more likely to do it. If you don't plan, you are much more likely to put it off. Don't make too many decisions every day. Make decisions that you can use every day. I plan what I'll do every day for the next month and then I just do it. So you need to sit down and come up with a customized strategy for how you're going to reach your language goal. This goal should be measured to the minute and have specific language tasks. Let's say you want to do flashcards every day. Write it in your strategy and decide how many minutes you need to work on it and write it all out. If you want to talk to a native speaker three times a week then write down how many minutes you'll do that and find a convenient time for it. If you have an hour a day for language studies, don't just write: 8-9 language practice. Divide the hour into multiple time slots and fill them with specific tasks! I can't stress this enough because if you don't do this, I promise you, your practice sessions will be a disappointment... why? because you'll spend fifteen minutes browsing for a cool youtube video, then you'll sit down and watch it, then you'll spend five minutes deciding what to do next and then another five minutes to find the resources to do it and you will get frustrated. I am enjoying my language learning so much because the progress is measurable and planned out.
So there you have it! Six strategies to make good language learning goals and actually achieve them! I hope you guys enjoy this article and put it into practice! If you enjoyed it then add me on whatsapp and we'll chat and I can send you more tips! Whatsapp +15035452855