Don’t worry anymore, I’m here to help you focus and step up your game. Soon you will be doing your daily language gymnastics and improving your English without even being aware of it. Together, we will find you the perfect balance between language training, work, social life and all other duties pending on your to-do-list. In the next 6 steps, we will find out why you want to learn English, how to keep the learning process interesting for you and how to incorporate it into your day-to-day life. These few steps may at first seem superfluous, but trust me, they actually are the secret to taking your language learning to the next level. Do no longer wander around hazardously, it’s time to put pen to paper and get ready for action.
1. Set a Clear Goal
It’s crucial to know why you want to learn English and what you will be using it for. Determining a or several clear goals is the first step forward, even if they may evolve over time. It’s all the more important to write them down to maintain a real scale application, and monitor the progress you are making. This simple but very efficient trick may appear unnecessary, since you think that there is nothing simpler than knowing the answer to why you are learning English. All to often, however, we think to know why we do the things we do, and likewise know where it’s taking us. Truth is, this only holds true for very few of us. Most of the time, we don’t allow ourselves to ask us this question, because we think it’s obvious. The very thought of it may already appear as a waste of time, but it’s not. Quite on the contrary, since everyone has different objectives; for instance, not everyone will want to talk about the same topics nor learn the same vocabulary. But believe me – and this may come as a surprise for you – the power of goal setting can be a game changer. Knowing where you want to go, keeps you focused on what you really want. It helps you to achieve your goals with greater efficiency and go beyond your expectations. Thus, what is your goal? What will you be using English for, with whom and where?
2. Subdivide Your Goal Into Several Small Goals
Once you have set your main goal(s), it’s time to divide it/them into several small goals. If you set the bar too high from the beginning on, your motivation will automatically decrease, which goes against everything you are striving for. Instead, if you take little baby steps, progress becomes more perceivable, and your motivation works as an ongoing support to help you move forward faster and more efficiently.
Let us speak in more practical terms. You need to understand what your goal implies that is if, for example, your goal is to learn English to better communicate with your business colleagues or partners, your target vocabulary and syntactical structure will vary drastically to someone, who wishes to use English on holiday. Once you understood this distinction, you need to determine the kind of environment in which you are speaking in English (e.g. at lunch, networking events, during meetings, on coffee breaks, etc.). Who is your public (colleagues, international business partners, superiors) ? Is it a purely professional setting or can you also touch upon personal topics? What type of language is appropriate (formal vs. informal)? Should the language be hands-on or are idiomatic expressions or complicated sentences more beneficial? This will depend on the kind of business you are facing (think of engineering vs. marketing) and your personality (e.g. do you usually speak metaphorically or do you prefer to go straight to the point), of course. All these elements are crucial to understand what you need to learn in order to achieve your goal(s). However, you cannot just acquire all this information at once. You need to break down the content into bite-sized chunks, small enough to fit onto flash cards that you can carry with you everywhere, at any time. You can also use digital aps, if you are more the technological type. On that account, I recommend you to read Ben Siekmeier’s blog post on micro learning content. There you will find useful advice on how to create micro learning content to keep it simple, but interesting.
3. Visualize Yourself At the Goal
Now, for whatever reason, if you were to learn English without any real goal(s) in mind, you can easily loose track, and ultimately loose interest, too. As Lawrence J. Peter once said, „If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else“ – and we absolutely want to avoid this. Thus, don’t only set a goal, but also have a clear vision of where you are going, and visualize yourself achieving your goal, over and over again. Visualization will trigger the feeling of joy and satisfaction, produce more motivation and become the driving force for your learning process. Create a trigger card to make it part of your daily routine, and your chances of actually reaching your goal(s) are thereby increased. You will be amazed by the improvements this one little detail can have on your life.
Not sure how visualization works? Find a step-by-step guide by clicking on the following link: visualization techniques.
3. Make it Personal
Make connections with your personal interests. For instance, if you enjoy taking photographs, sign up for a (online) photograph magazine in English. The Internet – as scary it may sometimes seem – it’s also a wonderful tool to be used for your advantage. Browse it and look for blogs, company websites, newspapers and so forth, in your area of interest. Or, if you are more the social type and enjoy having a drink after work every now and then, check out the next English/Irish pub down the road. It’s the place to be for English speakers.
Don’t forget, learning is a non-linear process, and you should be able to pick and choose the units that matter most to you. As long as you link the content to your interests and tie up the information in a compelling, emotionally-charged story, you will reach a maximum impact. Thereby bear in mind, whatever your interests are, the more personal connections you make, the more narrative it becomes, and the better is your language output.
4. Make It Part of Your Daily Routine
Once you have connected your language learning with your personal interests, you need to turn it into an activity that can become a habit. This step is crucial, since this will allow you to practice English and guarantee improvements. What time of the day you should pick, entirely depends on the activity you have chosen. Reading the sports section in English may be a morning warm-up exercise while sipping your tea or coffee. Listening to an English radio station may be a good activity to do on your way to work (in the car/train or on foot). Singing your favourite English song may be perfect after a hard day of work to relax your mind and let your creativity flow. Allow yourself to take a brief moment of your time to dedicate your full attention to your personalized English activity, because this is an essential stepping stone towards your goal.
Whatever activity you choose, make sure that it doesn’t take up too much of your time to avoid unnecessary exhaustion. You want it to fit into your daily routine, and not the other way around where you have to work your way around it. Don’t overwhelm yourself; too much too quickly can kill off the good spirit, even with the best of intentions. Thus, keep it simple and realistic.
5. Use the Power of Consistency
The goal that you are visualizing and striving for, what are you doing to attain it? Do you work on it every single day, even if it’s only 5 minutes? Or do you only work on it once in a while, when you feel inspired by someone or something else? It is important to find your source of inspiration within yourself, and this you can only achieve if you apply all previous steps. Avoid short spurts of fast growth. Stick to a consistent pace, and take action every single day towards your goal. No ifs ands or buts; consistency is key.
6. Own It
Learning a new language is not a simple task. Don’t overlook what you have achieved so far, nor belittle yourself, even if you may not have affirmed your desired outcome (yet). It is time to honor yourself and take pride in your achievements and improvements. You have earned every part of it. The goal is yours, own your progress, too.
Feel it, live it, own it.
Remember, it’s all a matter of finding the right balance. You don’t need to sacrifice an hour daily, 5 to 10 minutes will do the job. The importance, however, is to remain consistent. And this, you can only achieve by keeping the focus on your ultimate goal and making a personal connection to stay motivated and move forward.