Defining your goals and motivation for language learning is an important part of success. Here’s a simple way to do it.

Steps to define your learning goals

  1. Identify why you're learning
  2. Imagine where you want to be in six months
  3. Set a goal that's measurable
  4. Be realistic about your goals


1. Identify why you’re learning

While defining your learning goals, it's important to reflect on why you want to learn another language. Try going beyond the broad target of achieving fluency and get specific: Maybe you want to read historical documents to dig into your family’s past or attend a university in another country. Whatever the reason, make a conscious effort to figure out what motivates you.

Understanding your motivation will influence how you approach language study. For example, learning to keep your memory sharp requires a different learning schedule than someone who’s learning to move abroad soon. Identifying this early on will help you determine the aspects of learning that will benefit you the most, whether it’s reading comprehension or pronunciation skills.

Lastly, staying committed to this motivation will keep you engaged and moving forward, especially during periods when progress feels slow.

2. Imagine where you want to be in 6 months

Next, envision where you want your language ability to be in the near future. This can be done by setting short- and long-term goals with deadlines. Start by looking at your current level of proficiency and assessing what you already know. Then, think ahead to six months from now and ask yourself what you want to know by then.

Here it helps to think of specific and attainable achievements, such as finishing an easy book or describing your favorite hobbies. This will help you recognize the learning tools you’ll need and the precise steps you should take to reach a certain point in your language journey.

Having personal deadlines will also help you prioritize the parts of learning you should focus on right now. Maybe your six-month plan includes working on your pronunciation instead of writing skills — that’s perfectly fine. Once you achieve a goal, you can focus on what comes next.

3. Set a measurable goal

After figuring out where you want to be, it’s time for a plan of action. Start by breaking down your bigger objective into concrete, smaller chunks. Set out to learn 20 new vocabulary words a week or try recording yourself each month to hear how your pronunciation has improved over time. It’s practical to have specific, measurable goals that can easily demonstrate how much you’ve progressed.

The “My Activity” module on your Babbel desktop dashboard is a great place to visualize your learning journey and keep track of what you’ve achieved each week. Check in with yourself and regularly to go over what you’ve learned so far to determine what to learn next. Tracking your progress is essential for evaluating your success and setting future goals.

Having measurable goals will also help you assess how effective your study plan is. Keep track of how long it takes you to achieve each goal. That way you’ll have a better idea of how much time you’ll need to reach a certain level of proficiency.

4. Be realistic about your goals

Mastering a language takes time and effort, so it’s important to be transparent with yourself about how much you can learn in a certain timeframe. Take a look at your past progress: What you’ve accomplished so far is a good indicator of how much you can tackle in the future.

It’s equally important to regularly revisit and reassess your goals. Be conscious of whether you’re achieving what you set out to do. If you struggled to fit in an hour of learning every day, try cutting back to 30 minutes. Life happens, so it’s OK to renegotiate your expectations.

Learning is all about finding a balanced plan that works for you. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone, but avoid the unnecessary frustration that comes with setting an unachievable goal. Even if you don’t reach a goal, appreciate the journey — chances are you’ve learned more than you realize.

For further resources, discover more about how to set smart language learning goals

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