What do you dream of doing in your target language?
Lots of people have a goal in mind when they start learning a language. They want to travel to a country where it’s spoken or they want to communicate with someone new. No matter the reason, something pushes them to start learning.
Along the way, they might find other reasons to keep going. They meet new friends for language exchanges and fall for the charm of a new culture.
But what happens to that initial goal? Does it hang around in the distance just waiting to be checked off?
Set a goal…and never change it?
Strangely enough, I’ve found that the journey of learning a language changes you in unexpected ways. So, why is it that we never feel the need to change our language goals as well?
I don’t mean the small things that add up to the big dream of becoming fluent or passing a test. First, master one set of vocabulary. Then, work on your pronunciation. I mean the goal that pushed you to start learning in the first place.
Remember that you can change it. You don’t have to force yourself to perfect your speaking skills if you’ve discovered that you really love reading. You don’t have to spend so much time with flashcards that you keep forgetting if you’ve realized you just want to meet new people or travel.
It can be hard to think about abandoning what you initially set out to do, but you can always decide to come back to it. Plus, switching things up can come with a few extra benefits.
It can remind you of the “easy” stuff.
Deciding to focus on something new or different about your target language can take you back to that initial excitement of starting something new. You might find that it feels easier, like when you learned your first 20 words and felt really accomplished. You’ll probably also find a new burst of motivation.
You can reflect on your progress.
Spending too long doing the same thing, like building up your vocabulary or practicing your pronunciation, can sometimes make you blind to how much progress you’ve actually made.
Switching things up can help you realize how much you’ve improved. Maybe you want to focus more on understanding your target language as it’s spoken instead of spending most of your time with books. You might find out that your active vocabulary is a lot better that you thought.
Plus, you’ll feel recharged if and when you decide to go back to an earlier goal.
You can continue to grow as things change.
Maybe you’ve become invested in a new culture and decided that you’d really like to spend some time in a foreign country. Maybe that trip you’d been looking forward to is over now, but you want to keep learning a language for fun.
Life changes all the time. Make sure you allow your goals to change, too.
You can challenge yourself to do more.
Perhaps your initial goal was simple or focused on the short-term. You may have already achieved it or you will soon enough. If you think you’d rather keep learning, you can certainly add a new goal.
I’m pretty sure you’ll accomplish that one, too.
You might need to allow yourself to accept something less than perfection or fluency.
On the other hand, maybe you started out with lofty ideas of being so fluent that even native speakers wouldn’t be able to guess the truth. After a while, those ideas start to feel further away and more impossible.
In this case, changing your goals means accepting some hard truths. It also means finding a more fulfilling way to add another language into your life.
How do you know if you should switch things up?
When was the last time you thought about your end goal?
If it’s been some time, start by asking yourself what you want to do with your target language. What keeps you learning?
Then, remind yourself that there’s no time limit. We forget that learning is a lifelong process. After all, how many times do you come across a word you don’t know in your native language? I sometimes feel like I’m starting to forget words I used to know!
Even if it hasn’t been that long, ask yourself a few important questions.
- Have you ever found yourself stuck in a pattern of not practicing or not enjoying the time you spend with a language?
- Are you starting to feel discouraged?
- Has it ever made you think about quitting?
If you find yourself nodding vigorously, take some time to think carefully about what you imagined you could do by learning your target language and what you’re currently gaining from the experience. Your answers will be able to give you some new insights on whether you should modify or completely change your current goal.
Even if you find that your initial desire is something you still want to strive for, taking the time to reaffirm that end goal can be a powerful motivator. It might even be the push you need to reach it.
Have you ever taken a time out to switch up your language goals? Share your experiences in the comments!