The weekend is a great time to spend an hour looking to the week ahead by mapping out goals and intentions.
Many people plan ahead for business goals, upcoming deadlines, events, meetings at work, fitness or meals. But did you know that making a language learning plan can actually help you learn a language faster?
When you plan, set goals, and know what’s coming up, it’s like winding up a little engine so you can hit “GO” and learn in the most effective, productive way.
To celebrate the brand new weekly language planner in the Language Habit Toolkit, here are some steps to help you get the ball rolling.
Step 1: Set Path Goals
To start your plan, focus on what’s right in front of you and answer the question “What should I do next?”. Look for Path Goals: specific, achievable, relevant actions that will help you learn a language right now.
With Path Goals, smaller is better. It’s better to meet all your “not so difficult” goals than to aim high and miss the target.
For example, in a week my Path Goals might include
- Completing 2 pages in my grammar book
- Watching an episode of a TV show in my new language
- Writing 10 texts or sentences in my target language
Don’t overload the week. Keep it simple and focus on your system. If you want to go deeper with goal setting, use the Language Goals and Vision Goals worksheets from the Language Habit Toolkit.
Step 2: Check Your Schedule
After you have set your initial goals, it’s helpful to look ahead at what’s on your schedule every day. Have you been realistic? Will you be able to fit in all the sessions you are hoping to complete?
Sometimes, you may find that your list of goals and tasks feels like it might give you a heart attack. Remember that it is okay to aim for what you know you can do, and move some goals to the “not this week” zone.
When I’m thinking about running, it can be hard to motivate myself because doing less than 5k feels lazy. But then I remember this motivating line:
Even when you run 10 steps, you are still faster than everyone on the couch.
It is ABSOLUTELY OKAY to aim for the minimum, because everything you do builds on each other. In the next step, you’ll learn how to make progress even when you don’t have a massive goal in mind.
Step 3: Ensure Daily Contact with Your Target Language
In the Language Habit method, it is not critical to count how many minutes or hours you spend with your language learning materials each day. The first aim should be contact with your target language on a daily basis.
The Golden Rules of Daily Language Learning:
- You should have contact with your target language on a daily basis
- You have to find a convenient way of finding contact - the easier, the better.
- You should prioritise fun and find something you enjoy in your target language
For example, here are a few easy ways that I incorporate Welsh language into my daily routine:
• Following Welsh language accounts on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, so all I need to do is scroll through my feed
• Watching a new TV series, so I always have a next episode queued up
• Downloading different language learning apps, so I can follow my mood and spend a few minutes doing Duolingo, Clozemaster, Memrise, HelloTalk etc
• Leaving a magazine or book open on my breakfast table or set the Welsh news website as my browser homepage
None of these activities are designed to take many hours of study, but they all do their part and keep my brain engaged with what Welsh looks and sounds like.
Step 4: Choose a Reward
Try writing down how you will reward yourself at the end of the week.
No matter how many minutes or hours you study, you will be working hard (even procrastination is work, right?). For ideas and thoughts on the psychology of rewards, check out my recent Creative Language Learning Podcast episode with Lindsay Williams.
Great rewards can be small and low-cost like borrowing a new book from the library, enjoying a drink with friends, or going to a concert. It’s your call whether you want to make these related to your target language. Just make sure it’s something you’ll enjoy, and that you know you earned it with a great week of study.
Step 5: Raise the Bar with Bigger Sessions
Every day, you have the opportunity to grow your language learning routine through bigger study sessions. These are focused, dedicated times when your focus shifts to improving your language skills.
Take speaking sessions for example: These are usually around an hour long and challenge you to be 100% engaged, think on your feet, speak the language, understand native speakers, and get over the mistakes you’re making. A session like that is an intense learning experience, doing wonders for your level.
Sometimes you may not have a chance to practice speaking, but your big sessions might involve working through a textbook chapter or listening and summarising a piece of audio.
Remember: You are Building a Habit
Habits have to be built over time, little by little. Just like you don’t train for a marathon by running one marathon once a month, your brain will adjust to your new language learning practice and help you get better with time.
Try to banish perfectionism, especially when you are working with the perspective of setting a weekly goal. You don’t have to be the best in order to be good.
For me, it’s rare to find time and focus for more than three big sessions in an average week. When I’m in a phase where I work on more languages, I may vary the contact days or determine that Thursdays are for French, for example. You can read more about learning more than one language in this report.
Finally, remember that you can do this! Every day spent in contact with your target language is helping you learn it.
You can find a new Weekly Language Planner in the Language Habit Toolkit, available in the Fluent Online School.