By Katherine Sandler, contributor and former Berges student
Learning a new language as an adult affords you new and exciting opportunities in your personal and professional live. Aside from your daily schedule, committing the time to study, practice and attend class calls for dedication and a clear strategy to keep you motivated while you learn. Your reasons for learning Spanish will be different than your classmates’, and no matter what your reason is, we have some tips to help you define your language learning goals and create an action plan to keep you on track with your Spanish development.
Set goals based on why you chose to learn Spanish
To define your language goals, it is important to start by writing down why you decided to learn Spanish. Is it for career development, a significant other, or are you a polyglot who would like to add another tongue to the repertoire? Whatever the reason, have this be your “title” goal. The title goal can be lofty, vague or something that feels a little ambitious. All those options are fine as the title goal is the overarching reason you have begun to study Spanish. From that title goal, you will craft realistic and, most importantly, specific actions, which will keep you grounded and serve as the building blocks to reach your title goal.
Define how you plan to use the language
When you have decided on your title goal, the next step is to understand how you plan to use the language. If your title goal was for career development, think about how Spanish will enhance your career. Have you been given Spanish-speaking clients, or do you need to make a speech at some work event? If your title goal was for a significant other, do you plan to talk to your in-laws or plan to say a few words at a wedding? How you intend to use the language starts to tighten up the broader theme of your title goal. When you outline your immediate use of the language, it helps frame what to study and how to measure your progress to keep you recharged and excited, even when other aspects of your life try to deter you from study.
Outline your actions
Creating an action is akin to starting out at the gym doing three reps of 10-pound weights and moving up to three reps of 20-pound weights after two weeks or so. The action should be deliberate, targeted and be set with a timeline in mind. If you are just beginning, consider creating one or two actions to achieve in no more than a month. This way you can gauge and understand how you learn, the time you can commit and what complementary content (audio/podcasts, television, reading) seamlessly fit into your daily routine and changing schedule. You can always outline more specific actions as you achieve them.
Specific actions are not to be bland and immeasurable. For example, “I will learn 50 new vocab words this week”, does not provide direction in terms of achieving your title goal. Though that example emphasizes an actual number of words to learn, it hasn’t defined what type of vocabulary to study. Reusing the title goal of career development, you would want to craft an action that stated you plan to learn 50 new business and office terms by the next class (la computadora, el bufete, etc.). When your actions have specific parameters such as a number, theme and timeline, they will help keep you accountable to your title goal.
Creating time limits for your goals
Setting time frames to accomplish your actions is a useful measurement. Each Berges class runs for 10 weeks, so use this timeframe to schedule your actions within the 10-week schedule to get the most out of classroom and supplemental learning.
Now that you have thought through your title goal, know what scenario you would use the language in and have specific actions created, it is time to think about how each component of the language—reading, writing, listening and speaking—will help you learn. Do you want to be fluent in each of those four areas or would you rather focus and excel at one or two? Maybe you'd like to focus on listening and speaking when you are at a family function and secondary is reading and writing. If this is the case, audio and video supplements will help you understand voice and speech nuances. If reading and/or writing serve you better within the context of your title goal, reading materials such as short stories, poems and children’s books are examples of tools to use to increase reading comprehension and understanding grammar.
You can very well have intentions of being equally proficient in reading, writing, listening and speaking. It is of note to think about these areas to help construct how to enhance your learning process to help you achieve the title goal.
Read over your goals daily and keep assessing them
Everyone struggles with motivation and learning Spanish is no exception. By reviewing your goals and actions for learning Spanish, you have a higher chance to not cram learning into your day, to remember why you began studying and what outcome you want to achieve (your title goal). Plus, reviewing your goals helps keep you on track and motivated!