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As Told by Polyglots: Setting Your Language-Learning Goals

Setting language-learning goalsA few of us Mangos just returned from a trip to NYC, where we absorbed all of the polyglot and language-related knowledge we could get our hands (err, leaves?) on.  If you saw the previous post, Seven Reasons to Attend the NYC Polyglot Workshops, you’ll know that this was looking to be an incredible event. Not to mention, Mango Languages was able to play a big part in making it happen!

There is way too much information to include in one post, so we’ve decided to split it up to focus on each of the four sessions. We hope you’ll enjoy the amazing language-learning tips and tricks that these expert polyglots have imparted upon the world.

The first session of the day began with Alex Rawlings leading everyone on the topic of goal setting.

He shared his personal motivations for learning one of his languages, Hungarian, and encouraged us to write down our motivations for one of the languages we were learning. Mine happened to be Lithuanian, so I shared a few of my motivations, including that I wanted to speak with family and friends. We then combined all of our most common motivations on a whiteboard so that we could see how other language learners are motivated and even adopt some of these as our own. He had chosen to learn Hungarian, because it presented him with a challenge. Of course, he had other motivations as well, including,

  • He wanted to live there
  • To make friends
  • Inspiration
  • Experience a new world
  • Just because

Alex also talked about the importance of differentiating sustainable and unsustainable motivations. Unsustainable motivations could include “learning X language for the sake of it.” or that it's part of your “plan to become a polyglot”. Although these motivations can be inspiring when you begin a language, they will not be able to sustain long-term language-learning goals. Sustainable motivations could be a genuine interest in the language, such as the culture, a certain aspect of the language, and of course, the need to learn the language.

Alex lead us through his goal-setting (and goal-conquering) process. He turned these motivations into long-term goals, in order to create the “how” of accomplishing the broader goals. His long-term goals were:

  • Order something in a shop
  • Give directions
  • Make a phone call
  • Have a 15-minute conversation
  • Read a book
  • Make a friend

Although these goals may seem to be able to be accomplished in any order, he had us try to guess the order in which they were completed. The biggest surprise was that he only completed the first four. He explained that if he had had more time in the country, he would have hopefully been able to achieve each of his long-term goals. It just goes to show that even the greatest of polyglots can fall short on their goals — so don’t be too hard on yourself. We were then asked to list our long-term goals based on our motivations and share them with those around us. This was a great way to hear how people are motivated and this discussion inspired us to add many of each other’s goals as well. One of my long-term goals was (and is) to learn a song in my target language.

Of course, a goal cannot be fulfilled without taking steps towards its fulfillment. Alex explained that in order to achieve each goal, they must be turned into smaller, achievable steps.

For example, to break down the goal of making a phone call he would:

  • Listen to the language,
  • Learn to use the words, and
  • Contact others.

Therefore, each goal could be achieved by breaking it down into smaller chunks. We’ll go even deeper into how to break these steps into tiny habits in our upcoming post about time management.

After Alex shared his Hungarian-language goals, we broke down our long-term goals into short-term, actionable goals. For example, I broke down “learn a song” into:

  • Listen to chosen song,
  • Learn the vocab, and 
  • Perform.

The fact that we wrote down and shared our goals with others made them feel more concrete and as if we were holding each other accountable.

Lilia (one of our linguists at Mango) sharing her motivations behind learning Japanese. 


The main takeaway from this session is that “there’s no such thing as a language you can’t learn.” With determination, you can accomplish your goals and learn your target language with the right motivation(s).

Stay tuned for our next post, where you’ll learn some great tips about building vocabulary in a language. 

A group photo from the first day of the workshop. 


Thanks for reading! 

P.S. Mango Languages gives you over 70 languages to choose from, so start fulfilling your polyglot dreams by choosing one (or 21!) and conquering the world. Find out if you can get access to Mango Languages free of charge through a public library near you!

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Melanie Moore
Written by Melanie Moore

Melanie speaks German, Lithuanian, and Japanese and has dabbled in several others. She is an aspiring polyglot and enjoys sharing her passions for language learning and music with anyone she meets.

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