Learning a Language – Setting Goals

“In every case, the remedy is to take action. Get clear about exactly what it is that you need to learn and exactly what you need to do to learn it.” – Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), Spanish writer & dramatist, author of Don Quixote.

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How To Set Goals For Language Learning – by Cynthia Blake

indexGood intentions aren’t enough to learn a language. Unfortunately this is an endeavour that will take a bit more planning and commitment. There are so many people that say they “would like” to learn a new language, or that they “want” to learn Spanish. They go out to the store, buy Rosetta Stone, use it a few times, and then never go back to it. Why is that? Why do people fall off so quickly? The language learning industry thrives on failure – they want you to come back and buy more language learning books. The next new language course that promises to learn itself for you.

The real problem is that people do not set concrete goals for themselves when it comes to learning a new language. They have these vague notions of what they’d like to do. However, when it comes to learning a language you have to need to learn it rather than want to learn it. There is a big difference here, although it might seem that there’s not. The reason that most people can learn a language pretty quickly when they are stuck in a country and immersed in it is that they NEED to learn it. They can’t just fall back on their own language all the time.

So how can you do this when you’re learning at home? Well, you have to create artificial needs in the form of small goals with concrete time lengths. Say that you want to be able to order dinner in a restaurant in the language of your choice. That has a pretty concrete endpoint. Also, you should set a time frame. Say that you will complete this goal in a month. Then figure out what steps you need in order to meet that goal. Obviously you’ll have to learn some vocabulary that is specific to food and restaurants, as well as some greetings and other things.

Another thing that tends to set people back is their attitude towards the language that they want to learn. If they see the language that they want to learn as difficult and impossible, with dozens of obstacles, they’re never going to get anywhere. However, if you look at the language as a friend you want to get to know better you’ll have much more success. This is a method promoted by many omniglots.

The basic thing is, you have to take a more proactive approach towards language learning if you really want to get anywhere.

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For more tips and tricks check out our latest blog post on how to learn any language.