Goals are good. We know that.
They turn dreams into reality and all that jazz. But working on goals involves a constant battle against the lazy part of our brains that says “uh… I’m sure it’ll just, you know, uh… get done at some point” (mine sounds like the dude from Big Lebowsky).
As I write, I’m fresh back from a break in the south of Italy and my brain is swimming with exciting language projects. And I want to make sure I actually do them.
So now seems like the perfect time to join the #clearthelist project. Clear the list is a monthly language goal setting project, run by Lindsay from Lindsay does languages and Shannon from Eurolinguiste. It’s a place for language learners to share their goals and cheer each other on.
Sharing goals = Smashing goals
I like clear the list project because it includes a couple of principles that are backed by scientific studies on goal setting:
1. Teamwork: Studies show that people who feel like they’re part of a team (even if they’re not physically collaborating) are more interested in the task at hand and more likely to perform better. Teamwork makes the dream work!
2. Accountability: Sharing your goals makes you more accountable for them. In one study, people who shared their goals with others and gave planned progress updates had higher success rates than people who kept their goals to themselves. When your goals are out there for all to see, you’re more motivated to put the work in to avoid looking silly. There’s a big picture of my face at the end of this post, so I’m feeling pretty accountable right now.
Could this delicate balance of teamwork and fear of public humiliation be the recipe for language learning success? To find out, I’ve decided to share my October language learning goals with you:
My Language Goals for October
I’ve got 5 languages on the go and I’m going to do a little something in all of them this month.
Learning multiple languages can be tricky if you don’t manage it carefully. One strategy that works for me is to choose one language to focus on intensively (sprint language), whilst studying the others in a more relaxed fashion (marathon languages). In the “sprint language”, I immerse myself in the language as much as possible through activities like reading, watching TV and listening to the radio. Like a mad language binge, except it mostly involves reading books and listening to the radio and such. So not that mad really.
My sprint language for October is Italian, while my marathon languages are German, Chinese, French and Spanish.
This month I’m excited about going back to my first language love, Italian, which I learned during my year abroad, back in 2008.
I’ve been living in Italy on and off ever since, and my social life (and love life) has been conducted almost entirely in Italian for the last 5 years. For this reason, Italian usually gets relegated to the “languages I already know” section in my mind and I don’t dedicate much formal study time to it.
But that’s changed recently as I’ve started preparing for my C2 certificate, which I’ll be taking at the beginning of December. If you’re new to the European levels, C2 is the highest. The boss level. The Dr Robotnik of Italian language exams, if you will.
So why do an exam after all this time?
It’s good to have a goal, and I haven’t had a goal in Italian in a while. I can live and work comfortably in Italian, and at this level it’s easy to get lazy and stop making progress.
I want to shake things up, motivate myself to read/listen to new genres and practise expressing ideas in formal and academic contexts. It feels good to keep pushing my Italian.
To help me prepare for the exam, I’ll be doing the following things:
1. Working on exam skills
I’ve been using a workbook which focuses on vocabulary, grammar and exam skills. I’ve got 5 chapters left and I’m aiming to finish it before the month’s up. That means doing one and a bit chapters per week.
I’ll need to write a mini academic essay in the exam (eek!) so I’m going to practice writing at least one each week.
3. Learning some fancy words
In the speaking exam, I’ll need to discuss controversial topics and current affairs. It’ll be useful to know some intellectual expressions and keep up to date with what’s going on in the world. To do this, I’m going to watch “Otto e mezzo“, a daily show in which guests debate Italian politics, and a little news every day.
4. Getting my read on
I’m currently reading Gomorrah, a brilliant book by Roberto Saviano, which exposes details about organised crime in Italy. I’m aiming to finish this book and move onto a new one before the month is up.
German and Chinese
During my holiday I took a whole 2 weeks off from studying German and Chinese, so I’m looking forward to getting back into them. I’d like to improve my speaking skills in these languages, so I’m going to do 2 conversation lessons per week on italki.
German and Chinese are my newest (and weakest languages) so I still need to build up a lot of vocabulary and get to grips with some grammar.
As well as my conversation classes, I’m planning to learn around 40 words per week in each language and do a chapter from my textbook each day (except on weekends – no textbooks allowed at weekends).
That all sounds like a lot of hard work, so I’ve got something fun planned for French and Spanish…
My French mission is to watch some delightfully trashy, so-bad-it’s-good French reality TV. Reality TV is great for boosting your listening skills as speech is more spontaneous compared to films and TV shows, so it helps you get used to how people how people actually talk. Also, you follow people going about their daily lives, which is a good way to learn everyday grammar and vocabulary. But mostly, it’s nice to know I can switch my brain off and learn some French at the same time. I’m going to aim for one 20 minute episode per day.
Just as I was wondering what to do for Spanish this month, the lovely people at Gritty Spanish sent me a copy of their course. It’s a series of funny Spanish dialogues where the characters fight, gossip, get drunk, go to strip clubs, and break the law. And it’s full of naughty Spanish words, so it’ll make a nice change from all the textbooky stuff I’ll be doing with Italian, German and Mandarin.
There are 31 chapters and 31 days in October, so I’m going to try and squeeze in one dialogue per day.
Finally, to get some speaking practice, I’ll be posting one video per week on vidiomas, a Spanish-English video exchange that I set up with my Spanish tutor, Carlos. That reminds me, if you’re a native Spanish speaker learning English, or a native English person learning Spanish, come over and join us! You can post a video of yourself speaking the language you’re learning and get some friendly feedback from native speakers.
Phew! That’s it for October, I’ll let you know how it went in November.
Now over to you: What are your language goals? Share them in the comments below!