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How to set good language learning goals

How-to-set-good-language-learning-goals

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Set yourself up for success with these 6 prompts!

!שָׁלוֹם Dzień dobry! And welcome back, language learners, to Adventures in Language! In this article, we’re talking about how to set good language learning goals. We’re going to walk you through 6 prompts that will set you up for success on your language learning journey. Note that we have an awesome (FREE!) worksheet version of the 6 prompts, which you can access here. Writing out your answers to the prompts will make them feel more ‘real’ to you - and increase your likelihood of achieving them - so go do it! Pues, sin más preámbulos, let’s get to it!

 
#1: Lay out your “When, Where, and How much” plan

1-lay-out-plan-mango

Fill in the blanks on these sentences: 
On a normal week, I can realistically commit ______ hours to my language learning. The best times for me to learn are ______________ and the best places for me to learn are ______________.” Be realistic when filling in these blanks. For example, if you like the idea of yourself studying in a cozy library nook for an hour every morning, but you know you’ll never wake up to make it happen, find another place and time that will actually align with your work and life routines. Consider all your options: early in the morning, lunch breaks, afternoon, evenings, right before bed, an hour a day, a half hour twice a day, four hours a week...etc. 

Pro-tip: If you want to practice speaking and listening but are having trouble fitting it into your day, take advantage of the Mango's app’s Autoplay feature, which allows you to learn in audio-only mode so you are free from the restrictions of having to look at your screen. So, your best place could actually be your car while driving or while taking a walk in the park!

 
#2: Consider your susceptibility to 2 unhelpful mindsets

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The two mindsets identified below hold many language learners back. Consider the likelihood of yourself getting stuck in them and preemptively ask yourself how you’ll stay mindful of them while on your language learning journey.

  • You feel like if you never end up sounding like a native speaker in the language, then you’ll have failed. Psst - if this sounds like you,try to reflect on why you feel you need to sound native. Truth is, unless you’re training to be an international spy, you’ll probably be fine with communicative competence. Oftentimes, perfectionism and ego can derail us from realizing we’re actually en route to meeting our goals.

  • When you consistently make grammatical mistakes and forget vocabulary words in the target language, you beat yourself up about it because you see it as a sign that you’re failing or as evidence that you’re not smart enough. Pro-tip: making mistakes and forgetting are both actually crucial learning landmarks and can facilitate your proficiency game long-term. To read more about this, check out Chapter 2 of Ben Carey’s 2015 book The Surprising Truth about How We Learn, which we’ve for you in the description. And a personal note: it’s really easy to feel stupid when you can’t communicate a reasonably simple thought. Why can’t I tell this barista I was a small coffee?! But just keep in mind - that frustration is a sign that you are on the right road. You’re testing your limits and on the way to breaking through them.

 
#3: Reflect on how you'll avoid these 4 unhelpful patterns

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The four behavioral patterns described below hold a lot of language learners back. Consider the likelihood of yourself getting stuck in them and ask yourself how you’ll stay mindful of them.

  • You overestimate how much time you can actually commit to your learning goal. Then you get frustrated when you haven’t been able to maintain it. You end up feeling guilty about it, and that stalls your momentum. Psst - this is why setting realistic goals is so important.

  • You keep saying “I need to wait to use the language in public or with real people until I’m just a little better.” Before you know it, it’s been a year and you’re stuck in your head, not making any real progress. Friendly reminder: It’s never too early to start producing in your target language. The next one is related…

  • You rely too heavily on passive (instead of active) learning strategies. More context: Passive learning strategies include things like skimming grammar notes in a textbook, listening to vocabulary words on repeat, and reviewing old example sentences. Active learning strategies include tasks like reading a story you’ve never read before or producing your own original sentences aloud. If you rely too heavily on passive study strategies, you can fall prey to the Fluency Illusion. And if you want to learn more about it, check our blog about it!

  • You’re convinced you need to find interruption-free pockets of time to focus fully on language learning. But life keeps coming at you with interruptions. You end up getting frustrated and give up. Pro-tip: “Building routines but embracing disruptions” is the mindset you want for successful language learning. Recent research from cognitive science suggests that interruptions can actually boost your recall of the learning content. It’s called incubation - and you can actually use it to your advantage. If you want to read more about it, check out Chapter 6 of Ben Carey’s 2015 book The Surprising Truth About How We Learn. Pro-tip: If you have 3 minutes until your next meeting, you could work your way through a bit of a Mango lesson on you smart phone and your exact spot will be saved for when you come back. If you find yourself in a checkout line at the grocery store later that day, you may go 2 more minutes into that same lesson. By the end of the day, you will find that you literally squeezed one or more lessons into the "cracks in your day."

 
#4: Describe what "success" and "failure" look like for you

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Imagine yourself exactly 1 year from today. What does success and failure look like for you, for each of the skills shown in the table below? For example, your best case for reading might be “Read a news article and understand 60% of it” and a worst case might be “Read a news article and not be able to get even the main gist.” The Most Likely Case column might be “Read 3 articles/week and understand about 40% of each article on average. Pro-tip: Treat the ‘most likely case’ column as your realistic goal and your ‘best case’ as your stretch goal.

Skill Best case Worst case Most likely case
Reading      
Writing      
Listening      
Speaking      
Cultural competence      
 
 
#5: Keeping yourself motivated and accountable

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What is your main reason for learning this language? With that primary motivator in mind, what is 1 thing you can do to keep yourself motivated and stay accountable to your language learning goals? Pro-tip: In the accompanying (FREE!) worksheet linked here, there’s a spot for you to list out up to 3 accountability action items. And if you’re looking for an action item to get you started, consider downloading the Mango Languages app! The Mango app is a really great way to structure your language learning process. It offers tons of speaking activities that encourage active learning, and it intentionally incorporates critical thinking activities that prompt you to produce sentences (i.e. actually think in) in the target language.

 
#6: Speak your loftiest long-term goals into existence

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Now’s the time to speak your biggest language goals into existence. Describe your ultimate vision for yourself upon achieving your loftiest language learning goals. What will you be able to do? Accomplish? Experience? Communicate? Explore? Dream big. Will you have a group of Japanese friends that you chat with weekly? Will you be able to understand everything in your Spanish-speaking salsa class? Will you plan a trip to Italy? Be sure to narrate in the present tense. Pro-tip: Actually write out your answer and set a reminder to read this aloud once a month to keep it present in your mind. Fun tip: We designed the accompanying worksheet linked in the description, so that you can print out just the last page, which is where you’ll have written in your lofty goals and your accountability action items. So - go print it out and hang it somewhere that’s visible on your wall!

Thanks for reading! 
If you liked this article, let us know! We’re so happy you took this time to invest in your language learning goals. Just by reading through these 6 prompts, you’ve already begun to set yourself up for success. If you haven’t downloaded the FREE worksheet that accompanies the article - do it now. Did we mention it’s FREE!? Want more engaging language content like this? Join the Mango fam and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Or follow us on Instagram @MangoLanguages! Well, language learners - that’s all for now. !יַאלְלָה בַּיי Do widzenia! Happy goal-setting, and thanks for being a part of the Mango fam! We look forward to seeing you back here for our next article. To embark on your next language adventure, visit us at mangolanguages.com!

Wondering what languages were used in this article? !שָׁלוֹם (sha.LOM) and !יַאלְלָה בַּיי (YUH.lah bye!) are ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in Modern Hebrew, which is spoken today by over 8 million Israelis as an L1 (native language) and statutory national language. Fun fact: did you know that when saying ‘hello’ in Hebrew, you’re literally saying ‘peace/harmony’? Dzień dobry (djen dOHbreh) and do widzenia (doh veedzENyah) are ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in Polish, which is spoken today by appriximately 37 million people in Poland as an L1 and statutory national language). Pues, sin más preámbulos means 'Well, without further ado' (lit. 'Well, without further preambles…’') in Spanish, which is an Ibero-Romance language that is the statutory national language of over 20 countries world-wide. Interested in learning Hebrew, Polish, Spanish or one of the other 70+ languages that the Mango app offers? Click here to learn more!

 

Additional language learning resources to help you out

Download your free PDF: How To Set Good Language Learning Goals  

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Emily Rae Sabo
Written by Emily Rae Sabo

Emily, a Pittsburgh native, is a linguist at Mango Languages whose areas of specialization are the social and cognitive factors that impact bilingual language processing and production. Having studied 7 languages and lived in various countries abroad, she sees multilingualism—and the cultural diversity that accompanies it—as the coolest of superpowers. Complementary to her work at Mango, Emily is a Lecturer of Spanish at the University of Tennessee, a Producer of the We Are What We Speak docu-series, and get this...a story-telling standup comedian!

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