How to set New Year’s resolutions to improve your language skills
Published on December 2, 2020 / Updated on January 9, 2024
The New Year’s rush is over and the time has come to begin implementing your New Year’s resolutions. When language learning is your goal, how can you make sure you turn something new into a long-term habit in order to become fluent? Here are the top tips for ensuring you achieve your language learning New Year’s resolution.
No matter what goal you’d like to achieve, it has to be realistic, otherwise you simply won’t complete it. When it comes to language learning, becoming fluent is indeed an extremely realistic goal, but in order for you to become fluent, you need to break the process down into realistic milestones.
One way to do this is combine a certain time period with a specific CEFR level. For example, let’s say that you’re totally new to learning German, which means that your CEFR level is A1.1. While it is fully possible to become fluent in German in 3 months with the Lingoda Sprint programme, that may not be the pace you’d like to learn. Instead, you could opt for bi-weekly German classes that bring to you A2.1 within 2 months.
However you set up your milestones, make sure that they’re doable for you on a long-term basis. It’s better to schedule classes less often that you’re sure to attend rather than scheduling too many classes, becoming overwhelmed, and quitting entirely. When beginning from January, I’d recommend starting off slower and determining what is doable for you, and then ramp up later on if you’d like to learn faster.
This point ties in directly with setting your milestones, because the best way to learn a new language is to wrap it in your routine in a comfortable manner. While Lingoda helps with the online part so that you can learn anywhere, anytime, you still need to decide when is best for you individually to learn. If you’re a morning person, you might want to schedule your classes when you first wake up. Or if you know that Wednesdays are lighter work days, you might want to schedule your classes after work on Wednesdays.
Basically, the idea is that the schedule you set up doesn’t detract from other aspects of your life so that classes become overwhelming.
While you may not necessarily need to attend classes everyday to achieve your New Year’s resolution, it will certainly make reaching your goals easier if you do something small everyday to move them forward. This can be something as simple as watching movies and TV series on Netflix in your target language (even with subtitles in your target language is ok, too). Or maybe you listen to a podcast while cooking or taking a walk. A little goes a long ways. In fact, 15 minutes a day across a year adds up to 91 hours, so you can absolutely bet that makes a clear difference in improving your language skills.
Learning about topics we don’t enjoy is boring. And when something is boring, we quit. So the best way to complete your New Year’s resolution to learn a new language is to make it as fun as possible. Even if you’re learning a language for work and need to focus on business terms, throw in some topics that are also personally interesting for you.
This was actually a method I used when I was teaching English to Germans when I was an English teacher. During our first lesson, I would ask the student what they needed to learn English for and what topics they were interested in (even outside of work). Then I would create our lessons based on those two goals. It worked well, because when you’re interested in a topic, it’s easier to talk about, so it feels less like “learning” and more like a “interesting conversation”.
If you learn with Lingoda, this is easy for you to control, because you always choose the topics you learn about. I’d recommend scheduling a mix of topics depending on your goals. This can include business, grammar, speaking, writing, and even unique topics like mythology and philosophy.
Never forget the power of a good holiday. This is of course true for a healthy work-life balance, but also goes for language learning, particularly if you’re learning a new language rapidly and are trying to understand complex grammar. When I was really struggling with this exact issue in German, I found it helpful to actually put my textbook away for a day or two and stop thinking about it entirely. Then when I went back to the topic with a fresh mind, it was much easier to understand, because I gave myself that chance to relax.
I’ve been on both sides of language learning as the teacher and the student, and it’s clear that you need a careful balance of consistency and long-term effort, but also not to weigh yourself down so much perfecting your knowledge that you lose interest entirely.
Funnily enough, the less that we’re expected to do something, the easier it becomes to actually get it done. To put this into perspective: think of it like your ideal supervisor at work. Very rarely do people work well when they’re put under tons of pressure to follow strict deadlines and are micromanaged. Most of us would rather set our own schedule and work in the manner that we are most comfortable with without someone constantly checking in on us.
My point here is don’t become your own micromanaging supervisor when trying to learn a language. Give yourself the freedom to adapt your schedule, make things fun, take breaks when you need to, and even to make mistakes. Not only is this how we learn, this is your direct path to fulfilling your New Year’s language learning resolution for the upcoming year and every year after that.