2010 New Year Resolution: Learn a language

In recessionary times, it’s even more important to keep improving and to consider learning a second language. Now is the time to be upskilling to future proof yourself. The ability to speak

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a second language puts your business or your job prospects one step ahead of the competition. You are also demonstrating to future employers that you have what it takes to stick to something. Employers realise that people who embark on language learning have some key characteristics that are highly valued in such times: commitment and dedication being some key ones. Part of what makes knowing a language a great skill to have is simply because it’s not that easy for someone to acquire fluency. If it was, it would quickly lose it’s value and won’t be treasured as much. Some of you would already have mastering a second language set as a 2010 New Year resolution.

How do you ensure you achieve your 2010 New Year resolution? Your goals have to be SMART. The reasons people give for not learning a language include lack of time, the cost involved and the difficulty of the subject area. The good news is you can craft a SMART plan to overcome the obstacles mentioned, to achieve your goal of speaking a foreign language by the end of 2010.

1) Specific

What does “speaking a foreign language” mean? Should your goal be to know enough French in order to survive in a remote town in France without relying on interpreters?

We have a specific learning outcomes for people who enrol for courses at Euroasia. For example, at the end of the Level 1 French course with Euroasia, you should know enough to “get by” in French: you will be able to cope with the most common everyday situations by asking and answering simple questions, and you will be able to understand people when they speak to you about the situations covered.

2) Measurable

How do you know you’re on track with your goal? You need some objective measure of your progress. This is the main reason why self-help language courses don’t work. This is because learning a language is not like studying history. You need constant feedback from experienced teachers who know how to provide constructive suggestions and correct you when you make mistakes. CDs and software programs can’t do that as well as humans. You need to be regularly “tested” either formally or informally so that you know you’re making progress. Language schools follow lesson plans that introduce progression over time. As long as you keep on top of the coursework, you will keep improving.

3) Attainable

Your goals have to be realistic. Sometimes we get calls from people who need to master a language within a matter of weeks because of an impending transfer offshore, or because they have to meet the future-in-laws who don’t speak any English. Learning a language, like everything else, takes time. There are certainly people out there who promise the world, and will tell you that you do not have to put in the hard yards and yet will emerge fluent within a short timeframe, simply by spending an hour a week listening to CDs or playing some games on your laptop or iphone. This is obviously appealing, in the same way that expensive infomercial weight-loss programmes are. The real secret to learning a language (and weight loss, saving money etc) is having a realistic plan and keeping to it. At Euroasia, we follow a language learning programme that allows people to realistically gain fluency over time. If we did have magic pills that make clients instantly fluent in Spanish, we would be selling them at a thousand-a-pop and not bother investing so much money in establishing and running a school.

4) Relevant

Why are you wanting to learn a foreign language? If you’re just wanting to learn Italian for fun so that you can order a beer and have a simple chat with hot locals as you roam around Rome, then your goal should be to complete Level 1 or Level 2 with Euroasia. A Level 1 course can be completed within 2 weeks, 5 weeks or 10 weeks, depending on how intense you want it to be. If on the other hand, you wish to conduct business negotiations with your suppliers in China, then a Level 1 course is not sufficient, and realistically it would take a year or two to get a point where you can engage in everyday conversation, comparing your life in New Zealand with other people’s lives overseas; discussing matters of interest, including politics and economics. The more solid your reason for learning a language, the longer the staying power. Visualise your end-goal. When the going gets tough, keep reminding yourself of how it feels to be able to ultimately converse freely with locals. What would also help is if you have career-oriented language goals such as planning to gain a foreign language qualification. If your goal is to pass a formal certification exam like DELE (Spanish), DELF (French) or HSK (Chinese), then you are also more likely to have stronger motivation.

5) Time-bound

What’s your plan in order to achieve your goal? Where do you want to be in 3 months? 6 months? An ineffective resolution is “I will be rich someday”. An effective resolution is “I will save $20K

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by December 2010″. You then break this down further into quarterly and monthly targets. In the same way, you would set targets for yourself in learning a language. You may wish to complete the Euroasia Gold Package (4 courses) by the end of 2010.

We wish you all the best in setting SMART goals for 2010!

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About The Author

Kenneth is Director of Euroasia. He is passionate about languages and cultures.

2 Comments

  1. Mara says:

    You know a good place to learn a language online — and have fun in the process — is Babbel.com. Check it out here

  2. […] Every January, we see a surge in interest from people wanting to learn a language, and I’m sure 2011 will be no different. It’s worth checking out my blog entry from last year, on how to make a SMART plan to ensure you meet your language learning goals. […]

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