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Goals determine how you will personalize your language learning experience, making it as motivating, effective, and successful as possible. All too often language learners set goals that are too aggressive or too general- and that can lead to problems.  


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Having a goal in language learning is critical because it determines how you will form your strategy. Let’s look at how to transform the common goal of “learn Arabic” into something more specific. We can do this by taking a micro and macro perspective.  

The first step is choosing the macro goal. For many people, this is “fluency”. But as mentioned in the fluency entry, we need to get a bit more specific by specifically considering: reading, writing, speaking, comprehension, and special contexts. Combining these attributes with our motivations gives rise to a concrete goal such as: I want to learn Advanced Arabic reading and grammar so that I can understand the Quran in two years. Or, I want to be able to explain my life and ask questions about Italian culture during my trip to Tuscany in five months. This is the goal you put on your wall and be reminded of every day!

The second step is breaking the goal down into achievable sections. If you are not currently an expert with the language learning process, a language coach can help with this. You’ll want to orient these smaller sections towards your goal. So in regards to the first example, maybe your first mini-goal would be to learn the basic components of Arabic grammar by the end of month one, the writing system by month two, and be working through your first text in month three. All of these small sections, added together, should theoretically lead to successfully reaching your macro goal. Once these micro-goals are set, you can design a study schedule and choose activities that will help you reach it.

Having a concrete goal has two major effects on the learning process:

First, you will be able to focus on the aspects of the language that you actually care about learning (personalize your language learning). When you turn to the chapter in your language textbook on “400 important vocabulary terms for the medical industry”, you’ll notice it doesn’t align with your objectives and skip it-saving yourself hours of study time. Languages are extremely complex– don’t waste your time trying to learn things you’ll never use.

Second, goals allow you to clearly see your progress- which is extremely helpful when it comes to maintaining motivation (don’t forget, losing motivation is why most people quit). Relativism is the phenomenon of not noticing your progress, due to its long term nature and your first-person perspective of it. Goals create the trail of bread crumbs or evidence that demonstrate you are indeed improving, and when you see that, it gives you confidence and makes you want to keep going!

Now that you have determined your goals, it’s time to start building the strategy to help you accomplish them optimally!


Related Words

Fluency, Time, Complexity, Motivation, Relativism, Strategy


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