Do you really need goals if you want to learn a new language? It can seem excessive if you’re just starting out on your path to reach fluency. Why waste time planning out a language learning strategy when you can just download an app and start taking lessons, right? The truth is that setting goals is the first (and most crucial) step to achieving fluency in any foreign language.

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The Difference Between Goals and Dreams

Before defining why goals are important for language learning success, we need to draw a line between goals and dreams. A lot of people “dream” about learning a new language. Usually, someone will mention that they’re fluent, or they’ll imagine travelling to a distant country and speaking like a native, or they’ll think back to their school years and wish they’d “stuck with it.

We’ve all been there.

There’s nothing wrong with dreams. But if you want to materialize your dreams into something, you need goals.

Goals are different. They’re specific targets you want to accomplish in order to make your dreams come true. They also vary in size and complexity, from the mundane (learn 10 new vocabulary words), to the specific, (hold a conversation in French at a cafe with my server). Goals require effort to plan out and create. And they require effort and determination to achieve.

Online lessons is a great way for ESOL students to learn English
For those ESOL learners not yet comfortable in a classroom setting, they may take online English lessons Image by Juraj Varga from Pixabay

Goals Make It Easy to Get Started

Sometimes, all we need in life is a little extra push to get started. Language learning goals can do just that. When you sit down to put those ideas on paper, so to speak, you’re making them real. Tangible. The process of setting up goals, especially S.M.A.R.T. goals, requires you to really think out your language-learning. After working to set up your language goals, you’ll know exactly how to begin and where to begin. And that makes getting started much, much easier.

Goals Help You Take Control

Without language-learning goals, your efforts won’t get you very far. One day you may feel like reading in your target language for 10 minutes, the next day, you may want to try speaking the language. Some days you’ll put in 20 minutes, others an hour, others, not at all. Sadly, these inconsistent efforts won’t lead to much. You’ll just end up spinning your wheels, wasting time.

Having language learning goals puts you in control. They give you something to work towards. And every time you make progress and accomplish one of those goals, you’ll feel successful. That feeling helps you take control and continue to push forward because you’ll feel more responsible for your own success.

Increase Your Focus With Goals

If you imagine that learning a language is kind of like climbing a mountain, then goals function as the path for you to walk on to reach the summit. Do you need a path to reach the top? Not necessarily. But having one keeps you from getting lost, or worse, having to turn back along the way. With goals, you can focus on the steps you need to take to  learn English online because you will reach fluency quickly, saving you time and money in the process while increasing the likelihood of success in the end.

Goals Help You Monitor Your Progress

Goals don’t just function as a path to guide you to fluency in a foreign language, they also serve as goal posts along the way. If you’ve ever gone on a challenging hike, you know that when the terrain gets tough, you pause every so often along the way to catch your breath. In those moments, you gaze back the way you came, seeing how far you’ve progressed.

Language-learning goals allow you to do the same. Each and every day that you spend learning your target language moves you closer to the fluency’s summit. But each day is also a small step forward. These days build on top of each other. And before long, you can stop, look back, and see how far you’ve come.

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ESL classes to support the students to master their English skills
English has a whole host of words that can be very funny. Photo Source: Unsplash
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Goals Maximize Your Results

Successful people tend to have goals. That’s because success feels good. And when you accomplish a goal, you want to recreate that feeling, and so you go after another goal. This continuous process of setting out and achieving to recreate that feeling fuels progress.

The same is true for success in language-learning. With clear goals in mind, you won’t simply stand around waiting for something to happen. You’ll get out there and make it happen. It will feel good. So, you’ll want to keep making that happen, pushing yourself forward to conquer new goals.

Goals Define Your Process

How you learn a new language matters just as much as the tools you use to achieve it. When you have your process clearly lined out: you’ll know what to study, when, and how. This means you won’t be wasting time when you sit down to learn a new language. Instead, you’ll get right to it, achieving results faster.

Goals Protect You From Procrastination

There are a lot of reasons people procrastinate. But you can avoid that mindset with clear goals in mind. When you’re dreaming of learning a new language, you never really take a step forward to make it happen. Instead, it just sits on the back burner of your mind. Waiting. But once you put those goals into writing and define your process, you begin moving towards the goal of eventually achieving fluency. You stop procrastinating and start making it happen.It’s important to note, though, that long-term language-learning goals can lead to procrastination. It’s much easier to push efforts down the road when we think we have more time. If you think you have 1 year to learn a language, for instance, you may be more willing to procrastinate. That’s why it’s important to set both short and long-term goals.

Goals Hold You Accountable

Once you make language-learning goals, you have to deal with the psychological impact of failure. Saying, “I’m going to reach an A2 Level of Spanish in 3 months” means that if 3 months pass and you’re not at A1, you will have failed to reach your goal. People don’t like a failure. We don’t like letting ourselves down.

Having goals in place keep us accountable, driving us to spend time practising our foreign languages. You clearly know when you fail to reach what you set out to do. So, even if you’re not in the mood to study or practice speaking in your target language, your desire to achieve your goals can move you to make those lessons happen. After all, we want to feel good about our progress, not frustrated.

learn and listen to English
Often the way people speak in English is not the same as what is taught in class. Photo Source: Unsplash

Goals Keep You Motivated and Provide Momentum

When you know where you’re heading and what you need to do to get there, it’s easier to sit down and make it happen. Deadlines push people to get work done. And with clearly defined language-learning goals, you’ll know where you need to be and how you’ll plan on getting there.

If you miss a language-learning lesson, you’ll know that you’re behind. That thought will linger in the back of your mind until you make the effort to catch back up. And with each small win, you’ll gain momentum. Momentum builds on momentum. So, with clear language-learning goals in place, you’ll make increasingly greater progress over time.

Goals Minimize Your Frustration

We all have weaknesses. And the longer we have to deal with them, the more difficult it is to move past them. Often, frustrations that linger can tear us down. When you set language-learning goals, however, you can target your weaknesses, rapidly improving your abilities.

Let’s say you have anxiety about speaking a foreign language. You can read and write well, and you listen with decent understanding. But when it comes to speaking, you freeze. As a solution, try creating a goal around it. Each day you start working towards improving that skill, slowly progressing towards your goal. In time, you’ll improve, leaving you feeling less frustrated.

Language-Learning Goals Guide You to Success

Any time we work toward trying to achieve something incredible and challenging, we need goals. When the journey is long and complex, it’s easy to end up floating along without a clear vision of what we want to achieve. Language-learning goals make that happen. They push you forward and keep you on track so you can rapidly achieve fluency in any foreign language.

On a final note, nothing works unless you put the effort into it. Language learning goals will help reach fluency faster. But at the end of the day, you’ll still need to put in the hours to make it happen.


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