When learning a language, it is easy to feel confused and overwhelmed. Thus, the need to establish goals. These are meant to act as a guide to help us ease our path towards achieving our objectives. So, we need to learn how to effectively set these goals so that we can win the race.



Why should you set goals?


Goals help you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve.

To set a goal you must know exactly what you want to get from your language study so that you can work towards accomplishing it. It helps you clear your brain fog and be specific about the results you are after.


Goals help you focus.

Once you establish what your goal is and how to reach it, you become laser focussed and you are more able to get rid of distractions. It allows you to learn what is truly relevant to you and put the rest in the back burner for a later date.


Goals are a time-saver.

You do not waste your time in activities that do not serve your immediate purpose. You will be learning words related to how you want to use the language. For instance, if you want to work for Médecins sans frontières and communicate with foreign patients, you will not invest your time in studying business terms which are not at all related to your objective.



With goals you can measure your progress.

When establishing your goal also assign a deadline. Thus, you will be able to constantly monitor your progress as well as boosting your motivation.


How to create successful goals?


Now that we have established some of the advantages of having a language goal, we can focus on how to create a successful one.


Identify your ‘Why’.


What is the reason why you want to learn this language now?

What advantages that speaking this language will bring?

How speaking this language will shape your future?

These are a few questions that you may ask yourself if you still don’t have a powerful justification. When answering these you get the destination, the ultimate outcome that you are pursuing.


Identify the reason why you want to learn this language



Break your goals into steps.


Then, you should break this into manageable steps. You must identify what it is you should do to get to the result you want. Yes, you want to speak Italian because you’re moving to the country in one year’s time, but What do you have to do to speak fluently within 12 months?

At this time, just list the few important steps that will get you started.

Let’s come back to our example of working with Médecins sans Frontières.

Ultimate outcome: Work in Congo with Médecins sans Frontières.

To communicate with the patients, you need to take these

Specific steps:

  • Learn vocabulary for body parts.
  • Learn vocabulary for common diseases.
  • Learn to ask what hurts and what is wrong.
  • Learn to talk about a patient’s medical history.
  • Learn to express sympathy for pain or loss.


You know what your ultimate goal is, and you identified a few specific steps to lead you to your desired outcome, now you must sit down, take a pen and notebook to start crafting your short-term goals.





Schedule your short-term goals.


Start by choosing one or two of your specific steps and write down your tasks and deadlines. Research shows that when we have our goals in writing it becomes more real for the brain and it establishes connections to make it happen. Similarly, it is paramount to assign a deadline to every task programmed.

Focus on the specific things you want to learn. For example, instead of writing in your weekly calendar 1 hour Language study Monday to Friday, schedule to learn daily 20 words about common diseases in French. The more specific you are, the better. You will be then able to evaluate your progress more precisely.


Set goals that are right for you.


It is good to be ambitious, but when you’re establishing your goals, you must be certain that they are achievable.

Imagine you decided to learn Japanese and your aim is to be able to master the writing system and be fully able to write and understand hiragana, katakana and kanji in 6 months. Despite your best efforts you will not succeed because it’s simply not achievable. Even though it’s exhilarating to aim high, you should always be sure that your goal is not too ambitious.





Set positive goals.


It has been scientifically proven that our brain responds according to the way we think. If you say: “I don’t want to put on weight”, your subconscious only registers “put on weight” and your behaviour towards food and exercise won’t change much. You will lack the internal drive and motivation to succeed. But, if you rephrase your statement to a positive one like “I want to be healthy”, you’re more likely to get results.

The same applies to language learning. Focus on the positive outcomes you want to obtain. For example: “I want to learn ten new words a day” or “by the end of the month, I must be able to have a ten-minute conversation with a native speaker”.


Review your goals periodically.


You must hang your goals in a visible place and review them often so that you’re able to add to them or change them as you progress. You will be aware of what to study next and keep on track. Also don’t be afraid to update your goals if you’ve outgrown them. You might have had a timid outcome goal at the beginning and as you are learning and becoming more confident, being able to have a bigger plan for the use of the language.


When setting goals, the most important thing is to believe that YOU can achieve them. Often visualise yourself at the end point where you have succeeded at breathing life to your project. Be consistent, work hard, be enthusiastic and your outcome goal will become your new reality.


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