Setting Big Goals In Language Learning: 5 Reasons Why You Should Try To Take On Crazy Learning Tasks
Setting big goals in language learning doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, right?
Especially learning, say, over 85o words per day!
After all, common sense tells you to do things step by step. Set small goals which are perfectly achievable. And learn systematically.
And I agree, at least at the beginning of the learning process.
But in past two years, I have begun appreciating tasks which are so demanding that they require all my focus and energy.
I believe that you have to go through your own baptism of fire to understand yourself and your learning strategies better.
Such tasks are part of my personal learning project – Impossible Tuesdays.
Every Tuesday I am trying to choose tasks which I feel really uncomfortable with and which take me to the limits of my mental abilities and endurance.
Setting Big Goals In Language Learning – What Are “Crazy” Tasks?
When I come up with a new crazy task I would like to take on, I use the following rule of thumb:
I multiply my usual learning tasks by at least 8-10 (I will get to “why” in a minute).
Your goals should be big enough to scare you.
For example, some of my previous challenges included:
- Learning over 850 words during one day
- Talking to myself for 6 hours in Russian
Of course, we all start from different levels so you have to take it into consideration.
If you learn 5 words per day right now, go for 40 or 50.
Ok, so what is the logic behind becoming certifiably nuts?
5 Reasons Why You Should Take On Crazy Learning Tasks
1) They make you come up with new ideas/strategies
Coming up with original ideas is very difficult.
No. Scratch that.
Here is a novel idea – you should write a diary in a foreign language using a cucumber.
Effective? Not really.
So…coming up with GOOD original ideas is very difficult.
Cognitive resources are limited so it makes sense to use them wisely.
In everyday situations, there is no necessity to stimulate our brain to be “original”.
Let’s be honest – how challenging is learning 5 new words per day?
You can use any learning method and you will still succeed.
However, the situation changes when you don’t have much of a choice and you have to go beyond your comfort zone.
When you have to learn more than you have ever done before.
Interestingly, even if you fail, you can still learn a lot by analyzing what went wrong.
2) They make you reevaluate strategies you have used so far
When the push comes to shove, it shows which strategies suck and should be replaced.
If you are used to cramming vocabulary, such a number of words might seem overwhelming.
You might hear your inner voice saying, “I can’t do it this way!”
You’re right. You can’t.
Not by cramming anyway.
And only then you truly realize that you have to change your learning strategy.
Let’s take a look at the first of my challenges – learning over 850 words during one day,
If you had to learn just 20 or 30 words on a given day, would it change the way you approach learning vocabulary?
I highly doubt it.
It would be just another task which you can squeeze between checking your e-mail and watching a movie on Netflix.
However, learning 800 words is an absolutely different beast.
It poses a series of very interesting questions.
- 1) Where should I take vocabulary from?
- 2) How will I review the vocabulary over time?
- 3) How will I find time to do it?
- 4) How can I energize myself to stay focused?
- 5) How should I break down the learning time?
Such questions can really make your brain sweat and question the effectiveness of strategies you’ve been using so far.
3) They make you use the strategies you have heard of but couldn’t be bothered to use
Be honest with yourself. How many articles about productivity and learning strategies have you read so far?
20, 50, 100?
And how many pieces of advice have you used practically? I guess that this ratio doesn’t look favorably, right? I know it all too well. I tend to hoard hundreds of articles about different learning strategies. And then I struggle to use even just a few of them.
Because why bother?
After all, we are all set in our ways.
That’s why the period of preparation for such tasks gives me the opportunity to dust off the long list of mental tools I have gathered throughout the years.
Tools which I haven’t had the motivation to use before or simply didn’t need at the time.
4) They push the borders of what you previously thought is possible
Challenge breeds inspiration.
If you force yourself to do things which are seemingly impossible or you have no skills for, you give yourself an opportunity to push the boundaries of your comfort zone.
And more often than not, you will find the way to accomplish your goals
Choose one thing you´d like to try but are afraid to do wrong, and go for it!
5) They Boost Your General Life Satisfaction And Confidence
It’s time to be frank here. I didn’t enjoy these challenges. Want to know what was the result of learning over 850 during one day? A terrible headache. I have never had a migraine in my life but I assume that it’s exactly what it feels like.
Just the slightest sound at the end of this day was sending surges of pain throughout my head and made me feel as if my brain was screwed by a nail-pawed hedgehog.
Did I hate it? You betcha.
Did I feel damn proud the next day? Hell yeah!
You see, normally I am very self-conscious and critical about myself.
But I doubt that I’ll ever forget the pride I felt the next day after “over-850- words-per-day challenge”.
It was verging on unhealthy Johny Bravo-style self-love.
But I’ll be damned if I didn’t deserve it.
As weird as setting big goals in language learning might seem, I have found them time and time again to be one of the most reliable catalysts for self-improvement.
Sure, it´s comfy to do the same ol’, same ol’ day in and day out.
But if you don´t challenge yourself and try new things, how will you realize your true potential?
Now I would love to get to know your thought on this subject.
What do you think about using big goals as a way to optimize your learning strategies?
Is it a “hell yeah” or “a little bit over-the-top”?
I really liked the text and want to give an example, I used to say shadowing trick is amazing, u should just do it and you’ll be great. I then, decided doing a 7 days German learning challange for YouTube, I had to push myself yeah? After sometime I realized Shadowing trick is so slow and I quit it. I them started talking with people on the internet and learning vocab from them. I type the vocab that I learned and put an emoji right near it. I memorize the words just like that and I feel it’s super efficient.
Great example! Thank you for sharing! 🙂
Good idea! I need to ask you for some advice. I really feel that I’m not making any progress lately. My end goal is to reach native-like fluency, so I came up with a plan to move to an English-speaking country in the next 9 months. I can dedicate around 3 to 4 hours of learning (the rest is reserved for my work and increasing my programming competency). I scheduled one hour a day with a native speaker, but honestly, I don’t see any improvement (I’m doing it for the last 6 months). Today I was practicing jumbled words, and I incredibly suck at it. So I’m wondering, even though I perfectly know this word using it often and still being unable to find it in unordered strings of characters, mean I still suck at vocabulary, or I’m bad at scrabble? Do you have any piece of advice on how effectively use 3 hours a day to increase as much as possible? Thanks in advance
“Do you have any piece of advice on how effectively use 3 hours a day to increase as much as possible?”
Plenty but this is what articles on this website are for. Please go ahead and give them a read. Almost each one of them tackles learning in detail 🙂
You can start with this one: https://universeofmemory.com/german-from-the-scratch-b2-5-months/ . It tackles a case study where I taught Mateusz German from scratch to a B2/C1 level in 5 months.
I still suck at vocabulary, or I’m bad at scrabble?
If you use this word actively then, of course, your vocabulary doesn’t suck. Playing scrabble can be considered a skill in its own right, so my guess is that you will get much better if you practice it more.
Keep in mind that you’re doing it in a foreign language which drastically increases the level of difficulty. Don’t be so hard on yourself 🙂
Thanks for the reply. I’m wondering when you started learning English? At what age?
“Keep in mind that you’re doing it in a foreign language which drastically increases the level of difficulty. Don’t be so hard on yourself”
Yeah, but here is the case, I want it to be less strenuous and rather the same(natural) as my native one
When I was about 14. If you want it to bless strenuous than practice it (way) more. You can’t expect that putting little to no effort will suddenly turn a challenging task into an easy one.
This is my, plan, giving myself 10 years (leaving in English speaking country) and deliberately practicing for at least 2h daily (besides pure exposition) being there. Thanks for the advice!
No problem! Let me know how it goes after some time! 🙂
Okay, I plan to try this…just after my migraine is cured.
Ok, hope it happens fast!
Couldn’t agree more)
During college I challenged myself to graduate earlier and took on so many classes that most of them were overlapping each other on the schedule. As it started I had time for nothing and had to optimise just about everything in my day. During this hell of a semester I learnt: how to wake up, how to get shit done within a time span, how to cook fast (and healthy still), how to take a break that’s effectively giving you a rest (otherwise I’d burn out), how to look for the info (couldn’t attend most classes so had to get the knowledge somehow), how to segment my day and think about one thing at a time. How to keep a decent workout routine and social life. How to live in the present and enjoy the little things (the pleasant future was so far away anyway). How to speak with my houseplant. How to stay mentally sane.
And the best thing about it is that, I nailed it and got the best results I ever had in comparision to all my previous achievements (those from when I had time).
Since then I never challenged myself as hard..writing this makes me kinda sad actually. Your impossible Tuesday idea is a fresh breeze in my routine which is getting comfortably dusty.
Always a pleasure to read you)
What you did sounds amazing! You definitely pushed yourself to your limits! I hope that from now on it will only get better 🙂
that’s what I call enthusiasm!