In language learning, it is in my experience very important to set goals. Specific goals. I think that if we set too broad of a goal such as “I will be fluent in Hebrew in one year”, we may be setting ourselves up for failure. It’s not because we are not capable of reaching that goal. It’s because along the way toward this goal we may get lost. We may get frustrated. This can lead to our losing interest in the language that we had set out so earnestly to learn.
I believe that we need to be highly realistic about our goals. For example, almost two weeks ago, I began studying Korean. For English speakers, Korean can be a difficult language to learn because of the great differences in culture (like honorifics), grammar, sentence structure, not to mention a whole distinct writing system, Hangul.
There are many types of goals you will have to set, but right now I’ll concentrate on talking about time goals.
Hangul script is fairly easy, so the first day I spent about 30 minutes learning the script. (Of course, I cheated a bit because I had learned the Korean alphabet about 17 years ago, but hey, that was 17 years ago.) I set a goal that I would be able to hold a very basic conversation with a native speaker at the end of 3 months – without having to rely on English too much. I set another goal that entails being able to speak at an intermediate level and quite comfortably by the end of 6 months. At this point I would continue to read, write, listen and speak, constantly improving my Korean.
During all this I will be maintaining my Spanish so that I don’t push it to the rear of my mind and start forgetting what I had learned. This happened to me with Italian. I had studied Italian for several years. About 7 months ago, I started studying Spanish, but I didn’t do much to maintain my Italian, and it slowly disappeared. This morning, I stumbled upon a video that I made last year in which I was speaking Italian. I quickly remembered that I had reached a pretty decent level in Italian and I wondered, “How was I able to speak like that?”. …Because now, I struggle to conjure up anything Italian at will. I plan to fix this problem with my Italian by setting yet another goal. My Spanish is pretty decent, but I’ll review Spanish for another 3 months (aside from learning Korean, yep, I’m a busy guy) then at that point I’ll start reviewing Italian again. From that point, it’s basically learning Korean while maintaining Spanish and Italian.
Once hit my six month Korean mark, I will be looking at what language to study next, which reminds me of another goal – to be able to speak six languages by 2020. Once I’m doing pretty well in Korean, I’ll start that new language. I’m thinking of Hebrew, but I’m not sure yet. We’ll see. If you have any suggestions on what to study next, and why, please leave a comment and let me know!