Three questions to ask yourself.
Let’s start with the assumption that you have a certain level of English but you want to improve it. That’s great! However, I’m here today to try and challenge you to go deeper and think about what exactly you’d like to improve, how will you feel when you achieve it and why is it important to you? What are your goals for your studying English?
Like anything in life, training for a sport, working on a project, trying to lose weight, we feel more motivated if we have clear goals to work towards. Setting goals is not everything, but I do feel it can get you started on the right path.
I can’t possibly calculate how many hours I’ve spent studying and practising Italian or Spanish, lots of grammar exercises, courses, vocabulary apps, random conversations with anyone who will speak to me, scary appointments with various bureaucratic institutions, lots of films (with subtitles because if not, I can’t follow them or I fall asleep) and many attempted emails for various situations. Mastering a language takes time!
We’d like to be able to know everything but let’s face it, we probably won’t be able to in our lifetimes and anyway, do you really want to?! So that’s why I like to get serious with my students and help them to define specific goals for their English learning.
Think about these three questions, can you answer them?
1. What specific situations do you currently feel that your English is not as good as you would like it?
Get really specific. Setting English goals or for any language learning needs to be something you clearly identify.
- I need to speak to customers who come to my restaurant.
- I need to be able to present myself at the next conference.
- I want to be able to have natural conversations when networking.
Then, get even more specific:
- I need to be able to explain the menu, describe how something is cooked and how it tastes.
- I need to be able to communicate exactly what I do and relate that to people I’m speaking with at a conference.
- I need expressions for starting and continuing conversations.
2. How can I actually learn and practice this?
Think of concrete actions that will help you achieve your goals.
- Go through your menu and create a vocabulary list.
- Practice imaginary conversations with restaurant customers.
- Write a personal presentation of yourself.
- Learn powerful expressions for talking about yourself.
- Record yourself on video speaking and ask your teacher to evaluate it.
- Read interesting articles to make yourself a better conversationalist.
- Work with a teacher to help me use more natural-sounding expressions.
This will help you create specific tasks to focus on and give you something to work on day by day. It’s also highly motivating when you don’t have to learn EVERYTHING about English!
3. What mini-goals can I set?
Finally, there is no use having a one-year plan for language learning unless you are super-motivated. Be kind to yourself. Try a monthly goal or a 3-month goal at most and try to think of goals that are clearly measurable but also reflect what you are hoping to achieve.
- Learn and be able to use in sentences, 20 verbs for preparing food.
- Create 5 Instagram posts in English for your restaurant where you describe dishes.
- Create a 2 minute elevator pitch so I will be able to speak confidently and clearly about myself and my work.
- Have 5 conversations with complete strangers at the next work conference.
- Replace 20 common expressions I use all the time with new expressions.
- Write nearly perfect emails to my clients.
All sound too easy? Don’t think it’s possible? Well, let me share with you my personal experience.
At the beginning of last year, I was renovating an apartment and I needed to speak with an architect and builder in Spanish. You can only imagine how many words there were that I didn’t know and even now I can understand the word but I don’t always understand the technical implications!
This is what I planned:
I need to be able to communicate what I want and understand what the builder and architect are talking about.
My commitment to practice and learning:
- Meet once a week with a Spanish friend and practice talking about what was happening in the apartment.
- Learn 5 new words, expressions per week by reading articles on interior design and going to different shops asking questions.
- Have a weekly meeting with my builder and architect and not be afraid to ask questions.
- 20 new words by the end of the month
- After three months, I will be able to create a progress report in Spanish to share with the team.
How did I go? Well, I survived all the meetings and the apartment was renovated as I imagined so as a result, I would say that’s a success! I’m not sure if I understood everything that was going on, but I’m happy regardless. Probably the most important thing was that I really enjoyed improving my Spanish this way, it didn’t feel like studying at all!
So, what about you? What would you like to achieve? What can you see yourself mastering?
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