Learning Korean Journey

The importance of goals in language learning

Mug with "begin" on it
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

To me, learning Korean is a hobby. I’m not learning it in the hopes that it will help me land a job and I don’t intend to pursue long-term residency in Korea (short-term, why not, but that’s a different story). I didn’t learn it as part of my university curriculum. It’s a hobby, just like my mom has recently took up crocheting as a hobby! But that doesn’t mean that I’m going into it with no goals whatsoever — on the contrary, I think that having goals when learning a language as a hobby is as important as when it’s not a hobby. To come back on the crocheting analogy, my mom also sets herself goals for crocheting: finish this rabbit tonight, learn how to make bigger pieces, etc. It doesn’t mean she’s intending to pursue crocheting as a full-time career, though.

Setting goals for yourself doesn’t mean it needs to become anything else or “more” than a hobby! 

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Language learning can stay fun even with some gentle goal setting. Goals are helpful in many ways:

  • avoiding learning plateaus
  • pursuing more difficult materials and getting out of your comfort zone
  • incentivizing you to sit down and learn at a somewhat regular pace
  • simply: making progress

When I was learning English, I had several goals: a pipe dream of living and/or studying abroad and a wish to understand all the media I was consuming! But with other languages I’ve learned, this wasn’t the case and it shows in my current proficiency. With Spanish, I never had goals, I stuck with it because I had to but the moment it was out of my mandatory classes I never practiced it again. With Japanese, I took it up as a hobby because it seemed fun but that was just it, I didn’t have anything else in mind and after a year of weekly classes, I promptly forgot it all. It had occupied my Saturday afternoons for a year and yet I didn’t retain anything or make any substantial progress throughout that year as I barely studied in-between classes, let’s be honest.

With Korean I never really had goals for many, many years (I started learning it in 2012). It’s only recently that I have realized the importance of setting goals for yourself. My recent renewed motivation for learning (and making progress!) in Korean in 2020 now comes with an added bonus: goals. Soft goals, no pressure on myself, just checkpoints along the way to make sure I’m going forward and not standing still.

Here they are:

  • 2 italki tutoring sessions per week (1 structured session, 1 conversation session) – this might be scaled down to 1 per week once I start working again, we shall see
  • finish reading 피터래빗이야기 (yes it’s a children’s book but it’s honestly at the perfect level for me, and doesn’t have all the convoluted grammar Korean novels sometimes have!)
  • maybe (big maybe!) take TOPIK II in October 2020 (sign-ups are opened until June, so I’ve chosen to revisit this goal in June and see if I’m still up for the challenge — if I still am it will imply a lot more goals and a structured study plan)
  • track self-studying sessions with a habit tracking app and separate into reading, grammar, and flashcards review
  • watch more low-qual, dubious scenario webdramas to practice listening (+ fast reading of those Korean subtitles) — yes the storylines are often bad, but it’s studying wrapped in fun, light-hearted and easy to digest 5 minutes bite sizes!

And maybe more, I’m still working and adjusting what works for me because that’s another thing: goals aren’t set in stone. Because this is, once again, a hobby for me, there is no pressure or repercussion if I decide to drop a goal, add a new one, etc. What’s important is making it work for yourself and seeing the progress you make thanks to following these goals!

Happy language learning and goal setting! 🙂