New year, and it is when we tend to make a massive list of resolutions and also in the new year, we think that this is the time where everything will fall in place, the year where language mastery will come at long last.
You might be right, but to reach this milestone in your language journey you need to take a different approach. This is where planning comes to the rescue.
If you’re serious about speaking effortlessly, understanding the natives and overcoming the fear of using the language daily, you need to set aside time and write down a clear language plan.
Planning -Ensures that you are working on the right things.
-It brings order and clarity.
-It allows you to discover new ideas and learning methods.
-It forces you to have specific objectives and implement defined
actions that can get you to your goals quicker.
-It establishes accountability.
Following these steps will help you build a concise and straightforward language plan so that you can reach your goal quicker.
1 Block time out
This exercise is not a quick 15 minute one, while you are commuting. You need to set aside at least half a day to dedicate yourself to building a consistent language learning plan.
Ideally choose a time where you are at your best- for most it is in the morning- where your brain is refreshed after a good night sleep and your level of motivation is high.
2 Set aside all the materials you need
A notebook or loose paper will do. I prefer a notebook because it keeps everything together and there is no chance to misplace any document drawn.
Have also handy a pencil, a sharpener and eraser. Remember you are on the drawing board and your plans are not set in stone yet.
Your phone, tablet or laptop with access to the internet, for research.
Looking back to move forward.
3 Look back
It is impossible to move forward if we don’t stop, look back and analyse our former behaviour and the results that we have obtained.
You can’t imagine how important it is to review your language learning in the past year. This will allow you to gather a myriad of information: the time you dedicated to language study a day, and how you studied. Was it on your own, or did you attend a language school and did extra work at home?, the resources you used; how many words and phrases you studied a day/week, what worked, what did not, where you lacked effort, what should be improved and most importantly the results obtained.
I also recommend – if you’re not yet doing it – to keep a record of resources, time of practice, words, phrases and sentences learned, daily so that you will be able to use this information at the end of the year to monitor your progress.
4 Examine your current skills
Analyse what you can do with the new language you are studying.
Answer the following:
What is your reading ability?
Can you read children books, or complex novels or anywhere in between, the newspapers? Can you read about everyday conversations and topics?
What is your listening ability?
Can you listen to a program without subtitles? Do you understand the locals without difficulty? Or do you only understand if people speak slowly?
Are you good at speaking?
Can you have simple conversations in the foreign language? Or can you hold more complex conversations without much effort?
How is your writing?
Can you write anything from scratch? Can you write your opinion about complex information? Or can you only reproduce sentences you see written in texts.
Now that you know where you are, you can start planning for the year ahead.
Visualise what you want to accomplish.
Visualise what you want to have accomplished at the end of the year.
It is said that everything has been created twice: first in somebody’s mind and then in the tangible reality.
Visualisation is an excellent exercise to help you see the outcome you are pursuing. When doing so, you should place yourself in the picture. For example, if you are imagining yourself being able to speak effortlessly with the natives on your next trip to Italy, this is exactly what you should imagine. You are there and you are expressing yourself in Italian effortlessly and everybody understands perfectly what you are saying, and you understand them in return. Feel in real time the joy and satisfaction that you are experiencing and own it as though this scene has already happened, and you are grateful for your achievement. The emotional connection is also very important. This will be the driving force that will propel you towards your vision.
6 keep it simple
You have a starting point (the language level you currently are)
You know where you want to go (your vision), now you just have to figure out the steps you will take to go from A to B.
Write down what you are aiming at, for example ‘I want to speak and understand Italian at a conversational level’. ‘I want to read novels in Italian’.Everything you want to accomplish with the language at the end of the year. Remember to keep it simple.
This will constitute the draft of your learning plan.
Now, how are you going to make these goals you just wrote down happen?
For each goal written on your list, you must find out possible steps that will lead you to achieving them. Write them all down, and when you don’t know about a specific step you should be taking, write down a question. For example, ‘how can I improve my understanding of the language?’ ‘What should I do?’ You’re just brainstorming at this point.
the next questions could be ‘who will I talk to?’ ‘Where will I meet native speakers?’ ‘How will I meet them?’
Be rest assured that the answer will become evident with the help of Google search.
7 Act Now
Now you need to use all your ideas and answered questions to help you identify concrete actions to help you accomplish these last goals.
Let’s take again the example “I need to speak and understand Italian to a conversational level”. Your question was “where will I meet native speakers?”
Your Google research revealed that you can do it on Italki You might decide to do an exchange with an Italian person who wants to learn English or pay for an Italian tutor with whom to practice the language regularly.
You must figure out the available time you have daily for your language study and fill it with a language activity. Regular practice becomes a habit and repetition leads to mastery.
8 Keep your plan handy
It is important that you keep your plan somewhere where you can have easy access to it. You might even want to have an online copy as well. Review it regularly to keep your goals fresh in your mind, especially after a few months where you might be more at risk to go back to your old ways.
9 Create accountability
Share your plan with a friend, family or a language community. Because the initial enthusiasm might fizzle out and your accountability partner will keep you motivated. Here again, regular checking with them is necessary.
This is it. Many people abandon their language studies and never reach their language dreams because of a lack of concrete objectives, an unbreakable schedule and a commitment to learn. Following these steps, you will be one of the few to get to the finish line at the end of the year.
To your success.