As I have been studying Spanish I have learned that there are many things you need to define for yourself. One of those things is what are you going to do to reach your goal of learning a new language. In other words you need to define your system. I have created a system and I am continuing to refine it. Is it perfect? No. What it does do is it keeps me going and helps me know what to do next. Your system needs to be rigid enough that you don’t really have to think about what you are going to do next. At the same time it needs to be flexible enough that you can adjust it to your life and the changes that undoubtably will occur. I believe my system does just that, when I find free moments in my day I study, otherwise I don’t. What I study is defined in two of my posts. Essentially I try to fill my free moments with both structured and unstructured, or Yin and Yang activities. These activities are defined by if they emphasize Input or Output. Then every other day I work on either Input or Output. It is rigid. When I find a free moment, I don’t have to think about what I should do. I know the moment it happens what I should be doing.
What else do you need to define then?
The other thing, I believe, you need to define is what is the end goal. If you don’t know what you are working for, then how do you know you have arrived? It just makes sense that you can get anywhere if you don’t know where you are going.
The problem is that many times we think we have defined what the end goal is, but we really haven’t. One way is we give it a definition that is too broad, like to speak spanish or to be fluent in spanish. This is too general of a definition that how do you know you have arrived. Technically, if you learn one spanish word you can then speak spanish and so many people define fluent so differently that how do you know when you are fluent.
What one needs to do is to be able to define what you want to be able to do. For me my goal is to be fluent in spanish by the end of June 2012. I then define fluent as being able to speak and understand spanish in its natural rhythm. I should be able to understand almost all words, either directly or by context. I should also be able to talk about most topics generally and use circumlocutions for those words or phrases I am not familiar with.
You will also notice that I do not have any specific goals set for Reading and writing. This is not that I don’t think they are important or that I wont read and write spanish, but my current goal just does not include them so I do not need to worry about my reading and writing skills at this point.
What’s the other way we incorrectly define our goals?
The other way we incorrectly define our goals is by confusing the system with the goal. One could say “I want to complete course X by this date” or they may not even set a goal, because they misunderstand that learning 30 mins a day does not define your goal. Essentially they confuse the means with the end.
I have been critiqued on my system by some, because they feel I am trying to do too much. If you look at My System page, I think I have 8 or 9 activities in there. Some will say, “you are going to burn your self out, you will think that you are not getting anything accomplished and you will give up.” And they probably would be right if I defined my goal by completing a course. The thing is, I don’t care if I complete a course. No one course is going to get me to my goal.
As I said in my PspanishX post, you look at an activity like you would an exercise routine. I could do pull ups all day long, but all that means is that I would have stronger arms. Yes, other parts of my health will improve, but I many specific things would not like my abs or my endurance. If I was to define my goal as completing a course, then I will really get demotivated, because then I would have finished a course or two and feel like I wasn’t any closer to my goal of speaking spanish fluently.
So how am I doing?
I am probably not the best judge, one seems to always think you are better than you really are. What I do think is that Spanish is almost ready to burst out and take a dramatic lunge forward. When I learned Thai, looking back now, it seemed like I would work and work and see very little results, but then everything took off like the pressure had finally been released. Then it would happen again that same way. Right now I feel like that is what is going to happen soon. I don’t know when, but it just “feels” like I am going to make a jump in my fluency level. Do I worry much about if it will happen or not? No, because I am just going to keep on keepin on and follow my system day in and day out.