How to Set Smart Language-Learning Goals So You Actually Become Fluent

Fluency seems to be every English learner’s end-goal. However, most people struggle to reach this goal, despite all their hard work.

This happens because most people do not clearly define their goals. They just want to “be fluent.” 

The problem is that fluency includes anything from ordering food at a restaurant to negotiating multi-million dollar contracts.

In other words, saying that your goal is “to be fluent” is like saying that you want to go “somewhere in Antarctica.” If you don’t know exactly where you’re going, you don’t know how to get there.

So, before downloading your next language-learning app, take a moment to narrow down your goals for learning English so you actually become fluent!

Types of Goals

First, it helps to be familiar with the two different types of goals: outcome- and process-based goals.

In simpler terms, an outcome-based goal might be climbing up Mount Everest, while a process-based goal might be climbing a small mountain every weekend to boost your stamina. 

Here are some examples of outcome-based language-learning goals:

  • Being able to ask for directions on the street in English.
  • Passing TOEFL, IELTS, or some other exam.
  • Being able to sustain a conversation in English.

On the other hand, here are some process-based goals:

  • Memorizing 70 new words every week.
  • Taking a practice exam every month.
  • Having a ten-minute conversation with a friend every day.

Now that we know how to distinguish between different types of goals, let’s talk about what those goals should look like.

If you need help figuring out your goals, your strengths and weaknesses, or learning strategies that work best for you, we recommend you book a session with one of our tutors for some coaching. Many have studied English or other languages and your first session is free.

Setting SMART Goals

A good way to set goals is to use the SMART framework, which says that your goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Regularly Reviewed
  • Time-bound

1. Specific

Goals need to be specific. After all, how can you have a roadmap to success if you don’t know what success looks like?

Start by brainstorming specific things you want to do with English. Here are some examples:

  1. I want to be able to pass job interviews in English.
  2. I want to be able to communicate in English when I travel abroad.
  3. I want to make friends from around the world.

When you’ve set specific outcome-based goals like these, you’ll have a better idea of how you can achieve them. 

For example, if you need to learn English to travel abroad, you’ll probably want to sign up for a survival English course instead of buying a textbook that teaches sentences like “There is a peanut under the rosebush.”

2. Measurable

Now that you have specific goals, it’s time to make them measurable. But what does that mean? 

Well, when you’re working towards a goal, it’s motivating to know when you’re 25%, 50% or — even better — 99% there! Unfortunately, it’s not this easy to measure your progress with language learning. 

That’s why it’s helpful to pair your outcome-based goals with process-based ones. If you bought a travel English book, you could set a process-based goal of studying a chapter every week until your trip.

3. Achievable

When we achieve a goal, we feel a sense of achievement. And on our long journey to fluency, we need a lot of this to keep going!

The tricky part is that we won’t always know what goals are achievable until we try. For example, if you set a goal of memorizing 300 new words every week, you’ll probably soon realize you have to adjust it to 100 or 50 words a week instead.

If you can’t achieve a goal you originally set, don’t get discouraged. Be mindful of the fact that your goals are a work in progress. So don’t worry if you have to try out several goals in the beginning until you figure out what works best for you!

4. Regularly Reviewed

Goals don’t achieve themselves. They need to be regularly reviewed so they don’t end up like most New Years’ resolutions: forgotten within a month.

“Review” can literally mean “re-viewing” your goals: seeing them over and over again so you can’t forget them. This could mean simply writing them down and putting them on your fridge.

Or if your goal is to read one chapter of a book every week, you can keep the book near your bed. That way you’re much more likely to read it every night before bed. 

In addition, you’ll also want to review your goals in the sense of regularly checking your progress. Here are some ways you can do this, depending on your goals:

  • Find a partner and regularly share your progress with each other. That way, you’re more likely to succeed.
  • Keep track of your mistakes each time you practice. For example, note how many mistakes you make in Listening exercises, and see how the number reduces over time as you get better.
  • Regularly test your mastery of new material. For example, every two weeks, you might want to challenge yourself to make sentences with the new words you learned without looking at their definition.

5. Time-Bound

Finally, make sure your goals have deadlines like “In 3 months, I want to be able to have a half-hour conversation with a native speaker.”

Ideally, the earlier the deadline, the better. When your deadline is one or two years away, it’s easy to put it off (“I’ll start tomorrow!”). If you set a deadline of a year, break it down into actionable steps for each week and month.

Good Luck!

If the tips above seem overwhelming, just remember that the main point of setting goals is to think carefully about what fluency means to you … so you actually become fluent. 

So set some SMART goals today! 

And if you need help carrying them out, remember that Engoo is here to help. As an online English platform that has served hundreds of thousands of learners, we understand that becoming fluent is easier said than done, so we try our best to make your learning experience:

  • Measurable: Each lesson you take is a step towards fluency. To keep you motivated, we show you how many lessons you’ve taken so far and what new words you learned in each lesson.
  • Achievable: Not everyone can commit to hour-long classes. That’s why we offer lessons in chunks of 25-minutes! The end is always in sight.
  • Regularly Reviewed: Tutors always give you feedback at the end of each lesson, so you know how well you’re doing.

With your SMART goals and our lessons, becoming fluent is just a matter of time!