Goal setting. Image of a dart board and a dart hitting bullseye from FreeImages.com

Goal Setting Or Less Fretting?

With the new year approaching, there’s lots of talk about goal setting and language targets on #langtwt. So what are mine?

Well, let’s start with what were mine? In 2021, for one thing or another (mainly the fact that it was a mad busy year), I didn’t manage to stick rigidly to all my concrete language learning plans. Things like weekend podcast listening and daily reading sometimes slipped though the gaps between uni assignments and work commitments.

Goal Setting – Quick ‘n’ Easy?

Now, I usually talk a lot about quick ‘n’ easy tactics for daily learning – the kind of things that you can do in five or ten minutes every day. The idea is that they take little effort, but have great cumulative effect.

The thing is, sometimes quick ‘n’ easy is too much if you’re already overloaded. It’s so easy to promise to slip in a podcast on a train or while you’re relaxing after work. But it’s equally easy to forget that brains need occasional rest. Sometimes, I was just too tired to do anything but chill to music, rather than podcasts or read novels. And that is absolutely OK.

Quicker ‘n’ Easier : Weave Goals Into the Everyday

That said, where I wove language learning into my daily, often online routine, I had much more consistency. Idling on social media threw lots of target language my way. iTalki lessons were often chances to catch up with teachers I consider friends, so I’d gladly find time for an hour here and there.

And it worked.

For instance, I’m proud of how my Greek has come on over the last twelve months, largely thanks to that simmer on a low heat approach. Somehow, those low stakes, minimum outlay tactics just clicked. I’m already planning how to carry those successes over to my other language projects.

Goal Setting or Less Fretting?

This much more organic approach worked brilliantly for me at a time when time was in short supply. That’s why my 2022 goal setting will be more about everyday immersion strategies like this, rather than concrete levels or progress markers.

All the old favourites will still be there, of course. I’ll be working mainly on Gaelic, Greek, Icelandic, Norwegian and Polish, as well as maintaining my German and Spanish. I’m sure I’ll find time for some dabbling, too, as well as revisiting some of those languages in limbo where I have gone beyond just dabbling, but not quite taken off in (French, Hebrew, Irish, Swahili).

The fact is that I don’t even know where I’d begin if I were calendarising all of those. Better to go with the flow and just enjoy them!

A firework mid-display! Image from freeimages.com

New year, new goals: a language resolutions toolkit

New year, new decade. And time again for lots of New Year language learning resolutions and great intentions.

Twitter is awash with plans, hopes and dreams from language enthusiasts far and wide. We certainly know what we want out of 2020. But how to best go about it?

Arm yourself with the right kit with these top tools for staying on track!

Get your streak on in Anki

One of the most motivating, keep-on-track features of platforms like Duolingo is the streak feature. However, this is not always available in staple, bare bones vocabulary drill tools like Anki.

That is, until Review Heatmap came along!

This desktop Anki add-on helps you keep daily momentum by offering stats like streak and past performance. The heatmap graph allows you to glance forward and gauge how many card reviews are coming your way in future. An excellent way for language geeks to stick to daily vocabulary resolutions.

Review Heatmap in lovely magenta.

Review Heatmap in lovely magenta.

Resolutions reminders

Establishing a new routine and changing ways can be tough as a typical creature-of-habit human being. Thankfully, there are plenty of to-do list apps to help organise our resolutions, and Wunderlist has been one of the best (not to mention free).

You can organise goals and subgoals using the rich, tiered reminders in the app. Personally, I like to take a weekly tactics approach, with regular repeated tasks. This is a piece of pie to set up on Wunderlist, with phone notifications to remind you when items are due to be ticked off.

Creating a regular language routine with Wunderlist

Creating a regular language routine with Wunderlist

Now, since I first began proselytising about the app, it seems to have caught the attention and imagination of the bigwigs. The upshot is that the company and app will morph into Microsoft To-Do by May 2020. So somebody was clearly listening!

Luckily, everything that made Wunderlist so great looks set to stay. So, jump straight into Microsoft To-Do if you want to give to-do organising a go with your languages. Existing Wunderlist users can easily import their data into the new app, too.

Evernote for ever-ready resolutions

Talking of list-writing applications, cross-platform Evernote allows for to-do tick lists as well, amongst a geeksome cascade of other features.

Evernote is as much a place to plan as it is to collect, study, write and do just about anything else you need language-wise. Clip a web article into it to translate and create a vocabulary list from. Create your weekly plan in it, and let the app notify you when a review is due. Email yourself a list of words while you’re at work to pick up and work with later. Or snap a page of exercises from a textbook, and complete your answers in the note rather than deface your book. You can even share that note with your tutor for marking.

However you use it – and there are as many ways as there are users – Evernote can be a real workhorse for language learning.

And it’s free to use on a basic plan!

Write to remember with apps and reusable pads

My love of lists and notes betrays my true colours. I am a big proponent of good, old-fashioned writing to remember (as no doubt many of us are!).

I just love a scribble. And one of my all-time favourite techniques to take advantage of this for language learning is the brain dump. Regularly recycle what you’ve learnt by letting it all flow, as creatively as possible, onto a single page. Incidentally, this makes for a great weekly tactic in your resolutions to-do list above!

Now, for the sake of saving paper, I enjoy using sketch apps on my tablet to splurge:

A brain dump of elementary Irish

A brain dump of elementary Irish

However, nothing quite beats traditional pen and paper. Thankfully, there is a tech-savvy way to work traditional media into your 2020 resolutions without working through a forest:

Rocket Pad - stick to your writing resolutions without wasting trees! Image from Amazon.com.

Rocket Pad – stick to your writing resolutions without wasting trees!

The best of resolutions

As a good rule of thumb, the very best resolutions are both well-defined and measurable. So, as you prepare to work with these fabulous support tools, ensure that you know what you are aiming for. Threshing out the detail of what your realised ambition looks like really helps you see the path to get there.

That said, before you set off, keep in mind the best of all language learning resolutions: have fun. Language learning should never be a chore, but always a joy. Explore, dabble, and never feel guilty for doing what you love.

Just revel in that love of words.

Good luck with all your language learning goals and resolutions for 2020. Happy New Year – and happy learning!