Language Learning Tips

Making Language Learning Goals

One of the best ways to learn a new language is to create a NEED to learn the language.  Creating a need is the reason that many people who become immersed in the language (commonly by living in an area where it is the predominant native language) learn rather quickly: they have to.  People who are learning on their own, whether in class or at home, do not need to learn this new language.  They can fall back on their native language at any time.  Thanks to the rather human quality of laziness, this is usually what people fall into.

So, what can you do to help yourself create a need for the language that you’re learning?

Create Micro Goals

There are a few strategies, but one is to create small goals with a specific timeframe.  For example, you could create the goal to be able to learn how to order a sandwich in the language you’re learning.  You could give yourself a timeframe such as three days.  In those three days, to complete this goal, you would need to learn the specific words for bread, ham, turkey, mustard, mayo, etc.  You would also want to learn phrases that might come up in the conversation with the person taking your order.

Now, these are self-imposed goals so you’re going to need to have a little bit of self-discipline to stick to it.  However, you’ll find that creating micro-goals within a larger goal (such as being able to understand a certain TV show in the language you’re learning) will help give you the positive reinforcement you need to keep going.  It’s exciting to see that you’re making progress rather that wallowing around in a sea of abstract language learning, where you are learning random things that don’t connect together very well.

Another good thing to keep in mind is the main reason you’re learning the language.  Is it for business?  For travel?  To understand a certain comic book (such as Japanese Manga)?  To watch a Spanish TV show?  There are many reasons, and these should give you an idea of certain areas of language you might want to start learning first.

Here are some ideas for micro-goals:

  • Learn to order an ice cream sundae (flavors, sizes, etc)
  • Learn 10 different ways to greet someone
  • Learn 10 different ways to say goodbye
  • Learn how to book a hotel room
  • Learn to order train tickets
  • Be able to read a sports article in the paper (pick a sport, perhaps)
  • Be able to write a short poem on a subject you like

Do you have any other ideas for short micro-goals?  Write them in a comment below!

Liz Blake

Liz Blake is a language enthusiast who takes a special interest in linguistic anthropology and how language affects the way people interact and see the world. In her spare time she likes to read, garden, and most of all: travel!

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