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Setting Realistic Goals

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Setting goals is a crucial step in the language learning process. However, goals must be specific and realistic, and the more specific/realistic they are, the more likely they will be achieved. Setting a New Year's resolution like "Learn to speak Spanish" or even "Learn to speak Spanish fluently" is not going to get you anywhere. Work your way through the following steps to formulate an achievable goal.

1. Dream big and decide what your ultimate objective is. Maybe you do want to "learn to speak Spanish". That's a good starting point, it's just not specific enough.

2. Define your terms. What do you mean by "speak"? "fluent"? "understand"? Do you want to be able to order a meal in a restaurant, chat with a stranger on the bus, or have an intellectual discussion with a native speaker? Do you dream of reading War and Peace in Russian, or just the back of your cereal box in French?

3. Start at the beginning. Now that you have an end goal in mind, figure out what you'll have to do to get there. Invest in a language course, a private tutor, some native material, whatever it takes. Or, get resourceful and see what you can find for free online. 

4. Set mini-goals to keep yourself motivated. Break the journey down into some concrete steps. For example, "by the end of this afternoon, I will be able to introduce myself/ask for directions/check into a hotel". "This week, I will watch 3 episodes of a TV series in my target language and then write/talk about my impression of it". "By the end of the month, I will schedule a half-hour skype session to practice speaking with a native". It's fine if your goals are tiny. At least that way you are sure to achieve them!

5. Once you've set a goal, reflect quickly: do I have the time/energy/interest/money to do this? This will help you keep things realistic. 

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