Unlike some learners who love to schedule a set routine, my study approach is a little more flexible. I have a variety of resources on the go and work with them all on a regular basis, but my routine currently doesn't contain large daily sessions or check-ins at a specific time.
In today’s article, I am going to show you how I make progress in my target language even without committing to daily routines. You’ll learn about my goals for April 2017, and how I fit in learning 2 languages at the same time.
I use the Language Habit Toolkit, a study system I created for learners like me who are self-guided and want to track flexibly.
Planning My Goals (But Not My Schedule)
I'm not the best with schedules and don't stick to them unless I must. This flexibility is a part of my habits personality, so it really shows up in almost anything I do. For example, I struggle take medicines at a set time each day and often forget the time once I am immersed in a task. Don’t get me wrong…I do schedule things a lot. I just don’t always keep my own appointments.
But even so, I don't want that to stop me from finding focus and progress in language learning. In the Toolkit, my focus is on the content of what I'm learning rather than how regular I am or how many sessions I complete each week.
If I know what I want to get done, I find that I automatically start finding the time to work on it. So rather than thinking "I will complete 4 hours of study this week", I focus on my goals and set myself many very small goals that I want to get done throughout the month.
The daily check-ins in the Language Habit Toolkit are very small. I have seen some learners create their own tracking systems like colour codes and legends, but personally I keep to noting "big session" or "small session. Since I started using the Language Habit Toolkit myself, I definitely have been better about checking in with languages every day and I've finally managed to organise myself enough to learn two languages: Welsh and French.
Example: My Welsh Learning Goals for April 2017
In my routine, I use the Language Habit Toolkit worksheet for setting path goals and getting a quick overview of what I want to achieve in the next month. Here’s what I wrote at the start of April:
“Right Now, I’m Working On…”
- Finishing Level 1 of Say Something in Welsh
- Regular language exchanges on Skype with Gareth from How to Get Fluent, which are increasing the length of time I feel comfortable holding a Welsh conversation
- Getting better at using pronouns and speaking/writing in the past tense
In 30 Days, I want to…
- Be done with Say Something in Welsh Level 1 (I actually wrote challenge 26 - turns out there are only 25! Bonus!)
- Be able to watch 5-10 minutes of TV in Welsh without subtitles
- Grow my vocabulary
- Understand how the one word past tense works
My theme for the month was to become more comfortable listening to Welsh even when I don’t understand everything. These were my larger goals, which I broke down into the four core skills.
My Language Learning Goals and Progress in Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing
Since we’re already through the month of April, I’ll tell you what the goals were and how it went:
- Listen to the Pigion podcast when it comes out (I’d been avoiding this one because it is still a little difficult for me, and as of April 30th I’ve listened to 3 out of 5)
- Watch 4 shows on S4C (I was procrastinating on this until my moment of joy…the show Ffasiwn Mecanic is back and I love it and today I’ll watch 3 and 4)
I even switched the subtitles off on Ffasiwn Mecanic and set a timer for 5 minutes, and I was able to understand 40% of what was said.
- Do a reading prep session from BBC Bitesize (this was a red herring - there aren’t any!)
- Review the hand-written vocabulary in my notebook and add more words (done! I did this in 2 sessions and added 20-30 new words for my vocabulary routine)
I actually read more outside of these goals, mostly Lingo Newydd magazine and news articles on the BBC Wales website, so for next month’s goals I can be more ambitious here.
- Have 3 meetings with language exchange partners (not. a. single. one…we were both very busy, but next month we’re back to it)
- Record myself reading a poem (done)
Even though I didn’t meet any exchange partners, I started sending more voice messages in Tandem so I wasn’t entirely quiet.
- Put up a larger piece of writing on Reddit or Lang-8 (Reddit has writing prompts every week, and still I didn’t reply to them. Time to kick into gear.)
- Email my tutor and ask her to give me writing feedback (again, I neglected this over the month)
I did actually write in Welsh in April through text messages in Tandem, but I’ve been shy about sharing longer pieces. Another way to write more was to transcribe Say Something in Welsh’s levels, which really helps!
In terms of grammar, I did look up those confusing past tenses and found explanations that really helped in Wikibooks.
My Secondary Language: French
In French, my level is a passive B2/C1 and my main aim is to reactivate all those tired brain cells and speak French with less hesitation. I didn’t set myself any specific goals but scheduled in every Thursday as jour français. I read the French edition of Flow magazine, chatted to a new colleague in French, and followed Glossika Fluency 123 French. While I love the Glossika, I find its level a little low so I’m looking forward to more challenging Glossika content in the future.
It helps me to know that French is currently my “secondary” language, so I don’t scold myself for allocating less time to it. Perhaps in half a year, the languages I focus on are going to change as my Welsh skills become more solid, and I still have a lot of time for focusing on other languages in the future.
Overall, How am I Feeling After 18 Months of Welsh?
I’ve not really checked in in detail with my Welsh language skills for 6 months, but overall it’s feeling pretty great. I’m nearly starting Level 2 of Say Something in Welsh, and my conversation skills are improving a lot! Being at this more advanced level seems to mean that the structured resources are becoming more scarce.
Funnily, I worked so hard on creating the Language Habit Toolkit’s Review worksheet that I had not actually been able to use it myself yet! I’m really looking forward to working through all review questions and getting the next set of goals onto the road.
I’m looking forward to the next awesome events that are coming up, all of which are great chances to speak more in Welsh and French at the Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava, at Langfest in Montréal, and of course at the National Eisteddfod in Wales this year!
How Was Your Language Month?
What about you? What were your language goals in April? Are you tracking with the Language Habit Toolkit, or with your own systems? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.