Smart Goals for Language Learning

At the beginning of a new semester or quarter, it is always a good idea to reflect on your language learning goals and set some new goals.  Goals motivate us to study and have discipline.  Many times, we set goals that aren’t specific enough. Other times, we don’t set a deadline to complete them by. I am going to give you some examples of SMART goals for the language classroom in different skills: Reading, Fluency, Listening, and Writing.  

Honestly, I recommend focusing on one of these areas at a time so that you don’t get overwhelmed.  Setting 1 language learning SMART goal per month is reasonable and realistic.  If you try to set goals in all areas, you will easily abandon them.  Also, think about how your primary activity could also transform into a fluency activity by speaking about it with a friend or into a writing activity by writing a summary about what you learned.  That way, you can kill two birds with one stone.   


  • Read a short story every week and complete comprehension questions with 70% accuracy.

  • Read a page of a novel per week and make three predictions on post-it notes while reading.

  • Read one article each week, import it into LingQ, and complete vocabulary exercises with the words from the article I don’t know.

  • Increase my reading fluency from 150 words per minute to 200 words per minute by November.


  • Participate in a conversation class once a week and use at least two new phrases in my conversations.

  • Record myself saying one sentence 3 times a week using the shadowing technique. Transcribe my response. Reflect and improve my vocabulary.

  • Call ____ via zoom 2 times a month and have a conversation about a video we watched. Listen to the recording, take notes, and improve.

  • Improve my pronunciation by watching Youglish and recording myself shadowing the speaker.



  • Actively listen to a 20 minute podcast once a week in my target language while driving to work. 

  • Listen to a TED Talks video every Monday and take notes using abbreviations. Then, write a one-paragraph summary of what I learned. Share my thoughts about it with a friend in a 5 minute video chat.

  • Listen to a Crash Course Youtube video at lunch 2x a week.  Write a one-sentence comment under the video about what I learned from it.  

  • Listen to a conversation between native speakers of my target language. Listen again while reading the transcript.  Highlight any new words as I listen.


  • Write one sentence in my target language M-F at my computer before I check my email. Share my sentence in a language learning forum such as HelloTalk or with a teacher.  

  • Write a paragraph in my target language per week for 3 months about a topic I am interested in such as: climate change, travel, music, or dance. Share my paragraph in the italki language forum. 

  • Write an essay to prepare for the TOEFL IBT on a weekly basis until December 30th.  Submit my essay for feedback in a language learning forum or to my teacher.   

Atomic Habits and Goal Setting


In his groundbreaking book, Atomic Habits, James clear talks about how making small changes in your daily routine can make a huge difference over time.  You can do a challenge on his website that is very helpful.  


One of the key takeaways from reading his book is the idea of setting up the environment in advance so you are ready to go when the time comes to carry out the new habit.  For example, I put my Spanish book on my desk with a language notebook right beside it the night before. Then, the next morning, when I go to my desk, I am reminded of what I need to do before checking my email.  


I set a reminder on my phone every Thursday right before lunch so that I watch one video on Crash Course to improve my understanding of a variety of topics in English.  


Another great idea I got from his book is the idea of making things accessible and visible in your space.  So, if you want to improve your reading comprehension, then put out a box of post-it notes beside your novel with a pen.  Then, when it comes time to read, you can write down questions and new words on the post-it notes to help you read more actively.  


A few of his tips are to: 

  • Think of yourself as being a fluent English/Spanish/French speaker and let the identity motivate you rather than the goal itself. 

  • Record and track your habits so you are conscious of them and aware of them.

  • Always note down when and where you are going to be working on your new habits.

  • After you finish a habit that you customarily do, then start a new habit, so you can easily fit it into your schedule.  

  • Make sure you take special care to make your space and environment conducive to carrying out the new habit.  

  • Create small rewards for yourself by doing something that you want to do after you carry out your new habit.