SMART Goals

smart-goals

As you can see in my posts (for example: 1, 2, 3, 4), I have mixed success in achieving my goals. Pretty much like everyone else. And over the course of 2016, I came to two insights. Two things that I have actually always known but which I have come to appreciate with a greater clarity and keenness.

  1. You have to START AT THE END. Determine what your ultimate goal really is, and then work backwards from it to work out what steps will get you there.
  2. You have to MAKE YOUR GOAL “SMART”. This means goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

So don’t just say, “I wanna get into shape and be fit”. Rather, figure out exactly what “into shape and fit” means. Be specific and measureable, e.g., run X miles in Y time, get down to a BMI of 22. The goal has to be attainable: so running 100 metres in 10 seconds or less might not happen. It has to be relevant to what you want generally. And it has to be time-bound: so work out how long those goals realistically will take, and work to that timeline, with various short, middle, and long-term deadlines.

Here’s a great bit of an article from Tim Ferriss and Benny Lewis about using SMART Goals to learn a foreign language. Enjoy!

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://plantbaseddietitian.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/SMART-Goals.jpg

12 Rules for Learning Foreign Languages in Record Time — The Only Post You’ll Ever Need

#9 – Create SMART goals.

Another failing of most learning approaches is a poorly defined end-goal.

We tend to have New Year’s Resolutions along the lines of “Learn Spanish,” but how do you know when you’ve succeeded? If this is your goal, how can you know when you’ve reached it?

Vague end goals like this are endless pits (e.g. “I’m not ready yet, because I haven’t learned the entire language”).

S.M.A.R.T. goals on the other hand are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

To start developing your SMART goal in a language, I highly recommend you become somewhat familiar with the European Common Framework that defines language levels. This framework provides you with a way of setting specific language goals and measuring your own progress.

In brief, A means beginner, B means intermediate, and C means advanced, and each level is broken up into lower (1) and upper (2) categories. So an upper beginner speaker is A2, and a lower advanced speaker is C1. As well as being Specific, these levels are absolutely Measurable because officially recognized institutions can test you on them and provide diplomas (no course enrollment necessary) in German, French, Spanish, Irish, and each other official European language. While the same scale is not used, you can also get tested in a similar way in Chinese and Japanese.

So what do you aim for? And what do words like “fluency” and “mastery” mean on a practical level?

I’ve talked to many people to try to pinpoint the never-agreed-upon understanding of “fluency,” and I’ve found that it tends to average out around the B2 level (upper intermediate). This effectively means that you have “social equivalency” with your native language, which means that you can live in your target language in social situations in much the same way that you would in your native language, such as casual chats with friends in a bar, asking what people did over the weekend, sharing your aspirations and relating to people.

Since we are being specific, it’s also important to point out that this does not require that you can work professionally in a language (in my case, as an engineer or public speaker, for instance). That would be mastery level (generally C2).

Though I’ve reached the C2 stage myself in French, Spanish and am close to it in other languages, realistically I only really need to be socially equivalent in a language I want to communicate in. I don’t need to work in other languages. It’s essential that you keep your priorities clear to avoid frustration. Most of the time, just target B2.

To make your specific goal Attainable, you can break it down further. For example, I’ve found that the fluency (B2) level can be achieved in a matter of months, as long as you are focused on the spoken aspect.

In phonetic languages (like most European ones), you can actually learn to read along with speaking, so you get this effectively for free. But realistically, we tend to write emails and text messages—not essays—on a day-to-day basis (unless you are a writer by trade, and you may not have those goals with your L2). Focusing on speaking and listening (and maybe reading) makes fluency in a few months much more realistic.

Finally, to make your project Time-bound, I highly recommend a short end-point of a few months.

Keeping it a year or more away is far too distant, and your plans may as well be unbound at that point. Three months has worked great for me, but 6 weeks or 4 months could be your ideal point. Pick a definite point in the not too distant future (summer vacation, your birthday, when a family member will visit), aim to reach your target by this time, and work your ass off to make it happen.

To help you be smarter with your goals, make sure to track your progress and use an app like Lift to track completing daily essential tasks.

You can join the Lift plan for language learning that I wrote for their users here.

 

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Project Polyglot Parry V: September 2016 Update @irishpolyglot #newyearsresolution @resolutions @duolingo #duoling

 

I’m learning two main languages, Spanish and Swedish. I’ve been using Duolingo to learn them of late (in fact, I’m more-or-less relying on Duolingo at the moment, which isn’t good; you should use more than one resource to give you good variation). I’ve been doing around 30 minutes a day for each language, which is the bare minimum you should do.

If you know how Duolingo works, I’ve just managed to fully regild my completed Spanish tree. Which is great news. Next steps:

  1. Keep the tree gold.
  2. Work on and complete the “reverse tree”; that is, the English for Spanish speakers course (which is a learnsome challenge). Then keep that gold.
  3. Start the online virtual Spanish classroom from the Cervantes Institute, probably at B1 level.
  4. Go and sit a B1 level DELE.

This will make me firmly intermediate in level. I should have started step 3 by Summer 2017, and maybe completed step 4 by the following summer. When Finish step 4, I’ll work out the best way to keep that level and build on it. The ultimate goal is to be C2, of course.

I was stuck on Swedish for a long time. I kept mucking up infinitives and this sapped my energy. But I’ve been powering on lately. Moving onto new topics has got me pretty excited. In particular, I have loved getting to grips with the kommer att future form and the håller på present continuous. There’s a lesson for you: don’t get bogged down on troublesome topics, as it will kill it for you. Just keep moving.

I hope to have finished the tree by 30th November. So my middle-term plan is thus:

  1. Finish and keep the Swedish for English speakers tree golden.
  2. There is no English for Swedish speakers course, so I need to start a distance / online / self-learning course at B1 level (I am, more-or-less A2 right now).

2016 actually marks ten years of learning Swedish(!) I’m pretty sure I should be fluent right now. Cambridge recommends 1000-1200 hours to be fluent (C2); so, studying an hour a day, I should have been at C2 level by 2010. But more on that next time!

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

The Greatest Frustration Duolingo Can Give… @duolingo #duolingo

… is when you get a sentence wrong because you idiotically made a mistake on the ENGLISH!! 😀

DuolingoFail

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

Project Polyglot Parry IV: Reborn! / New Year’s Resolutions 2016 @irishpolyglot #newyearsresolution @resolutions

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New Year’s Resolution 2016: An Update

Project Polyglot Parry: my personal quest to turn myself into a multilingual maestro. But I haven’t really applied myself to the task well of late. So one of my major new year’s resolutions for 2016 is to get back on track with my language learning. Part one of which is to start regularly doing Duolingo in Spanish and Swedish again. Well, I have now started.

One of the best ways of sticking to personal goals is to tell everyone. This way, social stigma forces you to see it through. Consider yourselves told.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

 

 

Project Polyglot Parry III: January 2016 Update @irishpolyglot

ProjectPolyglotParry_face

Project Polyglot Parry is me turning myself into a multilingual maestro. Unfortunately, despite being pretty regular on Duolingo, the graphic below(PROJECT Polyglot Parry March 2014) is still an accurate reflection of my language levels. How can that be possible? I’m where I was 22 months ago! Ah yes; a combo of not enough practice and not pushing myself enough when I do practice. Well, learning languages is on my 2016 New Year’s Resolutions, so I’ve got to get a grip. Enrolling on a class might be the way to force myself forward.

I don’t want to make excuses or put things off, but I am actually in the middle of several really important life things right now. I physically don’t have that much time. But I’m going to force myself to Duolingo again, effective immediate; I can do it on the bog (half an hour per language per day). Then I reckon in a couple of weeks or so, I can think about enrolling on classes and so on.

My ultimate goals for 2016 are to get myself the certificates and/or level of:

  • B1 TISUS level in Swedish,
  • B1 DELE in Spanish,
  • refresh my ancient Greek by successfully re-finishing Duff and then starting on Taylor’s GCSE to Greek I again,
  • Doing Portuguese Duolingo half an hour / two “disks” per day for the whole year.

As much as I’m keen on Basque — I’ve always loved the language, my wife is Basque, we have a house in the Basque Country –, I decided to only focus on learning that when I am certified C1 in Spanish.

ProjectPolyglotParry_2014March

Polyglot Parry I
Polyglot Parry II

© 2015 – 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

 

Project Polyglot Parry

ProjectPolyglotParry_face

I speak British, American, Australian, and Fajita Restaurant

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I’m an English teacher, linguist, and language nerd. However, I can’t speak any foreign languages; well, not properly anyway. I really do get turned on by reading about grammar and how different languages have differing strategies in how to approach any given area of communication. It thrills and delights me. People see my interest in languages and assume I’ve reached a pretty decent level in several. So they’re always disappointed to find out I only know English. “So, you’re not really a linguist then, are you?” they aggressively assert, apparently angered by being swindled out of what they thought was a genuine encounter with that most impressive and rare of beasts, a polyglot, an English polyglot to boot! I always retort that the greatest living linguist, Chomsky, only speaks English. Well, that’s nothing more than a grown-up version of the child’s comeback that,”I am rubber, you are glue…” Doesn’t convince me, doesn’t convince them, barely saves face. And Chomsky’s getting on, so I won’t even have that lame retort for much longer.

My problem is that I’m such a procrastinator and I always find an excuse to get distracted before I achieve my goals. I genuinely think I’ve got some kind of climax fear; I’m a bit of a perfectionist and this often holds me back. It manifests itself in all areas of my life; for example, chess: I always set up my pieces into a solid defensive formation, a real fortress, and then what? I just sit back and wait for my opponent to make a mistake. I get a kind of performance presure paralysis when it comes to me taking the first move. I think, when you get down to it, I’m generally scared to take the initiative because then it opens me up to possibly failing. It’s like I’d almost rather do nothing, and blame my crummy circumstances on everything else, than take the jump and put myself out there to get knocked down. My Dad was highly competitive, too, and would always say, “If you come second, you’re still a loser”. Nothing was good enough but perfection. Combine that with shyness and my Mum’s procrastinatory skills, and bam! Thanks, Mum and Dad! Reminds me of the Larkin poem This Be The verse.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad./
They may not mean to, but they do./
They fill you with the faults they had/
And add some extra, just for you.

But I’m tired of dreams filling my head, dreams I never come close to accomplishing or even acting on at all.

And so, in the year in which I’ll hit the big three-oh, I’ve decided to get a grip, at long last, and achieve my goals. And this time I’m for real; I’ve even bought a plastic ringbinder. I have moved beyond, ‘failure is not an option’, to, ‘even failing is a sign I am moving’. And moving is the first step towards moving forwards. So let’s start failing forwards instead of failing through inaction.

There’s several languages that I’ve had a desire to learn for a long time now. But let’s just limit myself to languages I’ve already got some real knowledge of. Currently I know:

  • Spanish to GCSE Foundation level / A2 (Common European Framework)
  • Swedish to A2
  • Ancient Koine Greek (well enough to read the New Testament mostly unhelped)

In order to keep me on track, I’m going to spell out my goals and have a yearly update on my progress. My five year plan (language-wise, at least), so to speak, is to:

  • Carry on with Spanish, course after back-to-back course, until I have achieved DELE (Diploma en Espanol como una lengua extranjera) C1.
  • Do one Swedex Swedish qualification a year starting with A2 this year. I will then achieve a TISUS (C1 level) in four/five years.
  • Successfully complete, again, (1) Duff’s Elements of New Testament Greek, and go on to do, (2) Taylor’s Greek to GCSE part 1, (3) Greek to GCSE part 2, (4) Taylor’s Greek Beyond GCSE, (5) a Classical Greek GCSE, (6) a Classical Greek A-Level.
  • Start to learn Modern Greek: do GCSEs and A-Levels in it.
  • Start to formally learn Basque (I already know some basic stuff). But I won’t start this for maybe three years until I have boosted up my Spanish, Swedish, and Greek.

So, I’ve written it down, now: the Internet Gods will not be best pleased if I give up. Check back in a year to see how well I am failing forwards.

© 2014 Bryan A. J. Parry

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