Streamlining Language Learning

In two previous posts (1, 2), I briefly mentioned that it was important to assess whether learning goals (Lernziele) have been achieved. But what are these goals? How do you make them?


This is your BIG GOAL, your main goal, what you are striving forward, and why you are learning. Kevin Morehouse (2020) puts it this way: “If I were fluent in [my target language] today, what would I do with it?”

One key word here is “today.” This puts things into perspective, because you aren’t listing your wishes for the distant, abstract future. You’re talking about today. What are some things you could do with your target language?

  • Watch a movie / TV series.
  • Read a novel.
  • Read a comic book.
  • Listen to music.
  • Play a video game.
  • Study in university.
  • Work.
  • Make new friends.
  • Write a song.
  • etc.

There is a multitude of goals one could have. You could have more than one goal, but you should have a main goal. What is it that drives you to learn a new language?

Skill Assessment

After you’ve figured out what you’re working toward, you need to figure out what you can do and what you need (or want) to be able to do. This helps you figure out what you need to work on to achieve your big goal.

If you’ve decided you would spend all your time watching movies in your target language, then you need to build up your listening skills. Reading subtitles in the target language could also help you toward this.

If you’ve decided you would spend your time reading novels, then you’d need to build your reading comprehension. To do this, you may have to relearn the reading skills you do automatically / unknowingly in your native language. You would also need to build vocabulary in the specific genre you favor.

If you’re a complete beginner (no background in the language at all) and all that sounds complicated, don’t worry. There are easy to understand TV series and books (graded readers) made especially for beginners. Extr@ is one series for language beginners, and it is has German, French and Spanish versions! And there are inexpensive graded readers one could purchase on Amazon Kindle.

Learning Goals

So far we’ve answered two key questions:

  • What am I striving toward? (The Big Goal)
  • What can I do and what should I be able to do?

Now we can formulate our learning goals. These are the small goals that bring you closer to your big goal.

For complete beginners, this could be as simple as:

  • being able to greet another person “Good morning!”
  • being able to talk about one’s own family.

For more advanced learners, they could be:

  • the ability to read and understand a news article.
  • the ability to summarize said news article.

In short, break down your BIG GOAL into small goals. Make them as small as possible (so you won’t be overwhelmed). And work on them consistently.


Morehouse, K. (2020, May 08). This One Question Will Help You Set Better Language Learning Goals. Retrieved May 24, 2020, from

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