Setting Language Learning Goals

According to the questionnaires of new immigrants in Estonia the main reasons for learning the Estonian language is to be able to communicate and get a better paid job in Estonia. However, they often forget their goals as it feels much more comfortable just to read and translate some course book and measure their success by counting chapters in it. As a result, after finishing the course they find that they are still not able to talk and they have still the same lousy jobs.

Whatever goals you may have, it is important to identify your motives for learning the language before you proceed, because different goals demand different strategies. There are many differences in expectations regarding language learning and teaching, for instance, in the way people measure their progress. In Estonia at the beginning of language courses learners' language levels are tested in detail, however nobody asks them, "What are your goals? Why do you learn the language? What do you want to do with it?" Therefore, it is often the case that the original goal to learn a language in order to get a better paid job turns to something like "My goal is to pass the test!" However, these two goals are totally different and a person who is able to pass the test successfully is not necessarily a good communicator, unless the test measures how successfully he communicates in his field which is rarely the case.

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Writing down one's goals is important as it motivates the learner and fosters one's success. The research results in the framework of EU project "Don't Give Up! Motivating adult students to complete language courses" claim that the answer to the question, "Why do you want to study the language?", Is inevitable and key one while choosing the instruction form, designing your curriculum and making up a lesson plan.

It is important to know how exactly you are going to measure your progress and whether you have met your goals. Thus, you should imagine at first in which situations and in which way you would like to improve your language skills, how you would feel and what it would look like after achieving this goal. And finally you should contemplate how you are going to reach this goal and what are the steps you are going to take in order to achieve it. Tony Buzan advises to imagine yourself in the future once the goal was achieved. Then look back in detail and see the steps that you took because it is much easier to stand on the summit and look at the path that you took to the top. Selecting one goal, making a plan and working on it every day will improve your progress in ways that you can't imagine.

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by Ulle Rannut