Believe it or not, one of the reasons people give up learning anything is because, to begin with, they have no clear goal in mind. The human brain is a simple thing – if it sees no point in doing something, it will prevent you from doing it. The same applies to learning English. If you study it without a strong “why”, you might find yourself bored, burnt out and unmotivated. The goal is to prevent that from happening.
On the other hand, you might have had English learning goals set up, but somehow that didn’t work out – you still couldn’t bring yourself to study. It’s not your fault! Goals need to be smart and well-thought to motivate you. Below, you will see what you should keep in mind when setting goals for your English studies. After reading this article, you’ll know how to set goals for learning English better.
1. Start small and easy
The most achievable English learning goals are easy goals, especially if you are a beginner. If this is your first time setting goals, don’t be too ambitious. Instead, start slowly and choose a small, measurable goal. The point is that you want to achieve it. You don’t want it to be just another unfinished task. The first goal, then a second, a third goal – to keep yourself motivated and lift your spirits, you have to start fulfilling each of them. For that, decide wisely and keep it simple. Once you achieve the small goals, you will be ready to move on to more challenging tasks.
2. Aim high but be realistic
You just read about keeping things simple, but in fact, nothing prevents you from setting an ambitious, long-term goal. As long as this keeps you motivated, it’s totally fine. What’s important is that you need to be realistic. As yourself: “Is it even possible for me to achieve it?”, “Can I do this with my busy schedule?”, “Will one year be enough for this?”. If you don’t think this thoroughly, you might end up dissatisfied, discouraged and angry with yourself. And you shouldn’t be! Your English learning goals need to be adjusted to you, not the other way around. This is what the next point is about.
3. Adjust your English learning goals to yourself
To achieve the best results, you should come up with personalized goals. Don’t do something just because someone else is doing it, or has done it. The first aspect to think over is your lifestyle and schedule. If you have a family, kids, a partner, or sick parents to take care of, or/and a super busy schedule – don’t expect yourself to study 2 hours every day or become fluent in a year. Secondly, think of the areas where English will be most beneficial for you. Is it your job, since you work in an international company? Focus on mastering business English vocabulary. Is it your studies, which are all in English? Focus on learning academic words, and the words related to the field of your study. Or do you simply want to make English-speaking friends? Focus on common phrases, learn how to ask questions and talk about the topics you like.
4. Be specific with your English learning goals
Don’t let your English learning goals be too murky. What does it mean? Your goal should be “I will learn that English vocabulary in a week” instead of “I will learn that English vocabulary as soon as possible”. “As soon as possible” isn’t clear enough to be a convincing goal. Another example: to go with “I will learn the following English grammar points: x and y”, not with “I will learn some useful English grammar I don’t know yet”. See? The latter is not clear, it doesn’t really mean anything, and it’s not motivating at all. On the other hand, the former provides you with specific points to master. It also saves your time looking for the grammar points you need to learn, by stating exactly what you need to do. Speaking of that, it’s also very helpful to write down the steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal. This will organize your study plan organized to fit your goal.
5. Keep the pace steady
Last but not least – once you write down your English learning goals and the steps to reach them, be consistent. You can learn every day, or every two days – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you need to keep the pace of your studying steady. Studying English every day for a week, then studying it once a week for two weeks, is not an effective way to reach your goals. Sticking to the routine does wonders.
Another important aspect is to dedicate just the right amount of time for your goal. You don’t want to just go through it too quickly, but you also don’t want to dwell on one goal for too long. How do you know it’s time to move on? There is no easy answer to that. All in all, it is best to you move on once you feel like you have achieved your goal in at least 80% (so, 80% or more). The 80% threshold is useful when you hit the wall – when you go through the same thing over and over with no progress. Preferably, you want to reach 100%. However, sometimes it’s better to learn new things and after a while, go back to review the old stuff, than to study mindlessly the same thing.
Hopefully, our list helped you a bit with choosing your goals, and we’ve answered the question „How to set goals for learning English?”. If you still have trouble with doing it, or if you believe you need guidance with that, don’t hesitate to book a trial class with an italki’s English teacher! It is possible to learn English online – with a professional, experienced teacher to accompany you, it will feel no different to being in a classroom, except you will study in your home sweet home. A teacher will help you adjust your goals to yourself, supervise your progress, and explain what goal could be best for you. In addition, you will be provided with valuable feedback you can use to further improve your English language skills.