A Few Tips for Reworking Your Language Learning New Year’s Resolutions

We’re just about to the new year, and with that comes New Year’s Resolutions. Some people make resolutions for their health; others do it for different areas of self improvement. Some of us go a bit geekier, and make language learning resolutions. If you’re planning on doing that, here are a few tips I’d like to share with you:

Be Realistic

Just as people are advised to not make a New Year’s Resolution of losing 100 pounds and becoming a supermodel, you should keep your language resolutions in check. Don’t set out on January 1st with the resolution of “become fluent in Russian, Italian, and Chinese.” Not only is fluency a tricky subject to nail down, it’s just not overly realistic if you’re just starting out. Keep yourself grounded so you don’t get discouraged. The least effective resolution is the one you abandon out of frustration.

Be Specific

This is always important with New Year’s resolutions, and that goes for language learning resolutions, too. Don’t make your resolution nebulous or vague, to the point where you can’t really track it. For example, if you’re intermediate with a language, don’t make your resolution to be “improve my Spanish.” How do you track that, exactly? Sometimes progress is slow, almost to the point where you can’t see it. That doesn’t mean you aren’t making any! Things that you can say for sure, yes or no, I did or didn’t do that – that’s what you should be looking for. For example, instead of “improve my Spanish,” say, “I will read 10 Spanish books this year.” Reading 10 books (or even 1) will surely help you improve your Spanish, and that’s something you can track. And, every time you mark off a book, you know you’re working towards your goal.

Go Easy On Yourself

This one might seem a little peculiar, but let me explain. I liken it to having a choice: you’re at the top of a mountain, and you want to start an avalanche. You can either throw some fist-sized stones down the mountain, and let them gain momentum, knocking more rocks and snow loose as they go; or you can try and push a giant boulder off the mountain. The end result for both will be similar, but doing one is a lot easier than the other. When it comes to resolutions, try to go easy on yourself; after all, the idea here is to improve yourself, not beat yourself into the ground with a bunch of stress. Instead of saying, “I’m going to finish these 6 Italian courses this year,” why not say, “I’m going to do one Assimil lesson a day.” And when you’re done with that lesson, if you want to keep working on your Italian, great; do so. But if you set out saying, “Every single day, I have to study Italian for 4 hours,” do you know how many hours you’re going to study Italian during a lot of those days? 0. You won’t do it. It’s much better to commit and regularly do half an hour or an hour, on a specific task, than it is to cram for 6 hours once every week.

So, in short:

  1. Think about the goals you want to achieve
  2. Make sure your goals are realistic
  3. Figure out actions that will lead to the result you want
  4. Commit to doing those actions, and consider tracking them, to note your progress

I wish you all the best in your language endeavors in the coming year!



By |2012-12-28T15:12:58+00:00December 28th, 2012|Language Learning|4 Comments


  1. Beth @ Teenagers Abroad February 6, 2013 at 10:13 am - Reply

    It’s really important to be specific with goals otherwise, like you say, there is no way of telling when you have reached them. So many people claim they want to “learn ____ language this year” but the vagueness of it usually leads to them giving up pretty soon after having started. Being realistic is similar – there’s no point claiming you’ll be fluent by the end of the year because this is very unlikely to happen and you’ll just end up feeling bad about it and quit. Setting small, easy to visualise steps is the way to go!

  2. J. Mitchell May 23, 2013 at 10:15 am - Reply

    I realise that the time for new years resolutions has long since past but the ideas for setting goals for your language learning that you describe in your post are good for any time of the year. Setting language learning goals is something I had not really considered before but the idea of being specific and realistic and setting measurable goals for my own language learning (intermediate German, beginner Spanish) has certainly given me some food for thought!


    • Josh May 23, 2013 at 10:18 am - Reply

      J.: True, it’s applicable year-round. And yeah, I do find it very helpful. Otherwise, as Beth said, you fall into just saying things like “I want to learn X this year,” which isn’t all that helpful. 🙂

  3. LivingBilingual September 6, 2013 at 1:37 am - Reply

    I fully agree! Goal setting is paramount in language learning. I’ve recently been experimenting with mini goals and it’s pretty fun! Great post… I loved it.


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