Meaningful Language Learning Goals

The goal of fluency in a foreign language can often seem vague and elusive. It is not always clear what fluency means. Those who have not experienced the feeling of achieving fluency in another language doubt they can get there, and doubt they would know if they did. Learners often feel they are not making progress in the language they are studying. These circumstances can make language learning a frustrating activity.

How To Deal With Frustrations

I deal with these frustrations in two ways. First of all,  I try to focus most of my language learning activity on enjoyable tasks. This means that my time is largely spent listening to and reading content that is of interest to me, learning about  new cultures, and acquiring new information and experience. I know from experience that I will improve my language skills as long as I continue merrily listening and reading, exploring things of interest to me.

Language Learning Goals - Frustration

Image by Andy Blackledge

However there are situations where this is not enough. This occurs when the easy material in the language is now too boring and the interesting, authentic  material is just a little too difficult. There are too many unknown words, the meaning is a little vague or fuzzy, and I have great trouble understanding when I listen. I need to force myself to persevere.

I am at this stage in my Korean learning. What should be enjoyable and interesting content, podcasts that I have found and had transcribed for our library at LingQ, like well-known artists Kim Youngha’s literary podcast,  is still a chore and a challenge for me. The intermediate content in our LingQ library is more accessible, but of little interest. The result is that I sort of start and stop in my Korean learning, and have not achieved my goal of fluency.

That is where I believe measurable short-term goals and targets can be important to keeping  me on task. Let’s look at some examples from other areas of activity.

Reaching Language Learning Goals While Exercising Body And Mind

I like to exercise. When I lift weights or do push-ups, I do a specific number. I do 20 push-ups, or three sets of 10 repetitions of a certain exercise. I do this a specific number of times a week. I don’t just do an indefinite number of exercises whenever I feel like it. If I am swimming in the ocean and want a good workout, I will pick a buoy or something in the distance and swim to it and back, once or several times. I know that these exercises will contribute to maintaining or improving my physical condition.

I don’t think about how much more fit I am becoming. I am not really thinking about my long term goal, which is, in fact, quite vague. I just focus on the immediate tasks. I know that doing these exercises, reaching measurable and immediate goals, will have the desired effect of keeping me fit in the long term.

Language Learning Goals - Exercise
Image by Abd Basith

The same applies to language learning. When we are faced with the vague sense that we’re not sure how proficient we can become in a new language nor if we are improving, it becomes important to carry out short-term and measurable tasks. It is easier to force ourselves to perform these specific tasks, than to just “study the language”.

A Push To Korean Fluency

I am determined to improve my Korean, a language that I have studied off and on for quite some time. I went through a 90 day challenge in Korean a while back. You can check out the youtube videos that I posted during this challenge here.

I have made considerable progress, but I am not yet at the stage where I comfortably understand the kind of material that I want to listen to and read, the kind of material that would really enable me to connect with Korean culture and Korean people.

This is going to change. Starting in the month of September I will embark on a new 90-Day Challenge for Korean, at the end of which I want to be comfortably fluent. In order to do that I will have to significantly increase my vocabulary and my familiarity with the language and my ability to comprehend native speaking Koreans on a wide variety of subjects.

Language Learning Goals - Korea

Image by Republic of Korea

This is an ambitious goal and to some extent a vague onel. To make sure I achieve it,  I am going to set myself very specific targets for the 90 days, using the statistics that we keep at LingQ. I am going to read 450,000 words of Korean or 5,000 words each day. I am going to listen to at least 135 hours of Korean or 90 minutes per day, in my car, exercising, washing the dishes or while reading on my iPad. I will mostly be listening to  the same content as I read, in other words the podcasts with transcripts that we have in our library at LingQ. From these lessons, I am going to save 18,000 words and phrases to my personal database, in other words create 200 LingQs each day. The number of my “known words” in Korean should double, from 30,000 to 60,000. adding an average of more than 300 words a day to the words I know at least passively. At LingQ, knowing the word simply means that you understand its meaning in a given context. I know from experience that I learn most of my vocabulary incidentally, in other words not through deliberate study of them. These are all measurable indicators of my activity that are automatically recorded at LingQ. Let’s see what happens.

Expressing myself

Language Learning Goals - Confidence
Image by Chris & Karen Highland

I will also commit to speaking and writing in Korean, but I will probably not start speaking and writing until the third month. I want to achieve a higher level of comprehension and vocabulary and a greater sense of confidence in the language before I start speaking and writing. But once I do start speaking with native speakers, and writing, I plan to set clear goals for how much time I will spend on  these output activities as well.

Words

This statistics at LingQ are not really  a  measurement of  progress in the language, but rather a measurement of activity level. I will have specific tasks to complete and activity levels to maintain. I am confident that if I stay on track and meet my short term targets, the progress in the language will take care of itself. I know that being active in one’s language learning, spending quality time with the language, is guaranteed to produce results. I am hoping that pursuing these clearly defined tasks will ensure that I don’t slacken off until I achieve my ultimate language learning goals.

How successful I will be, time will tell. I plan to start these activities on September 1. This means that for now I can spend the rest of this glorious summer dabbling in other languages, while maintaining my exercise routine and swimming in the ocean. But come September the first I will buckle down and commit to making a breakthrough in Korean.

 

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12 comments on “Meaningful Language Learning Goals

Benjimino

Good to hear!

Will you be documenting this 90 day challenge with videos? Maybe once a month or something? It’s always great to see it happening!

Anyway, good luck, Steve!

PiNiata

I can totally relate to everything you said in this inspiring article. I will also embark on my “Russian language journey” on the first of September and try to keep at it for 90 days! I’ve been wanting to do that for some time now but never got the motivation going. I have lots of motivation now! We’ll see what happpens 🙂 Thank you.

Judy Tuttle

I am a 77 year old lady who travels to Montreal once a week for dance lessons. Seven months ago I took up French using LingQ so that I can communicate better with other dancers in Quebec. This post on how to set meaningful language goals comes just at the right time for me. I am in that stage described as in the middle. I can speak with many mistakes; I can read your “Alice in Wonderland” in French looking up many words in order to do it, and I can write letters in French to native French speakers, though it takes a very long time to get verb tenses and syntax correct. I was just thinking how bored I am with this reading when along came your advice. It is encouraging to learn that I am not alone in this. Just knowing that better speaking is around the corner (so to speak) gives me the push I need to persevere.

    The only difference I feel between now as I will soon be 70, and 30 or so years ago, is that I have more time to do what I want. All the best to you in your language learning adventures.

HEJones

Dear Steve,

I think your contribution to language learning over the years is phenomenal. I always look forward to your videos – its a great help and encouragement to a language learner. I hope you will document this 90 day challenge and I’ll join you in order to improve my German.

Best wishes,

HEJones

Carol

Hi Steve, Well I guess I will join you in French. I want to achieve an early advanced level in French, so I can then return to Chinese! I will try to come up with at least an hour a day of French. I think I will go for 10,000 known words. Well, good luck, and wish me luck!

Carol

I wonder if Judy would like to join me on my 90 day challenge? How about Lykke on her Spanish? No pressure of course, just looking for company!!

harry

i don’t think you have a strong enough connection with this language

chinese you were paid to do it
french you loved it
spanish there’s the praticality

would you consider a goal of understanding the language?
if you can understand 80% of the language written and listening would you be happy with that

i understand the goal of learning a similar language to those you know
and consider that’s not enough motivation to do it all

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