Improve your English: Set language goals!

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Yogi Berra

We all know that goals are useful for giving our lives direction and purpose, and this is also true for language learning. So it’s important to create useful goals which will support your language development. Here is an example of an unhelpful language goal:

By the end of this year, I will be able to have a phone conversation in English.

This goal is unhelpful partly because the time frame is too long and it isn’t clear what exactly, in language terms, is meant by ‘phone conversation’. Here is a suggested alternative:

By the end of this month, I will have learned how to use basic telephone phrases such as, “Who are you calling for?” and “Dr. Smith is not available at the moment.”

The time frame here is more manageable and the goal is focused on a specific language area (basic telephone phrases).

A useful pattern to follow when setting your goals is SMART:

Here is another example of a helpful language learning goal:

I want to be able to approach people in Australia in a friendly way, ask them some simple questions about themselves, their families and their lives and talk about and compliment the surroundings. I don’t need to show off, so having two or three ways to talk about each of these things is fine.

I’m not great at remembering things, but if I set aside enough time to practise I can do it. I’ll be talking to local people so I should learn words and phrases that are appropriate to that area. I’m travelling in the summer, so that gives me six months to get ready.

So not only does this goal have a good time frame and specific language areas, it also recognises what is relevant i.e. that she will only need 2 or 3 alternatives and it also begins to address what is achievable by noting the fact that she is not good at remembering things. I will discuss the idea of what is achievable/realistic in language goal setting in more detail next time.

One last thing to note is about whether you should tell others about your goals or not. Some say that it is good to tell other people what your goals are as the social pressure of announcing them make you more likely to work towards them. However, I recently came across this TED talk which suggests that keeping your goals secret is actually better – watch the talk and see what you think!

Do you need help to set your goals or would you like to improve your English? Contact MixTree for a free intake!