When you set a goal for a new project, you’re bound to wonder if you’ll achieve it.
And what it will look like when you do.
Today, I had the odd feeling of achieving a goal in my project to learn Italian this summer.
It’s because I’ve achieved something without really feeling like I’ve earned it!
Confused? Yeah. Me too.
Let me explain…
When I started this project to learn Italian, I decided on a timeframe of 3 months.
It wasn’t because I thought I’d need 3 months to learn Italian, but because I only wanted to dedicate the summer (around 3 months) to the project.
I had no idea how good my Italian would be after 3 months…
Not least because I was using a method I’d never used before:
I had no idea whether my “input only” method would work, or how long it would take.
At the same time, and actually because of the uncertainty around the method, I knew I had to work to some kind of study plan.
Without a plan, it risked ending up as a “free-for-all” where I just wandered aimlessly towards a vague notion of “fluent Italian” over 3 long months.
Simply put, I wanted to be able to have some kind of concrete outcome after 3 months of learning Italian.
Partly for myself.
But also, honestly speaking, because I wanted to be able to show you guys something interesting.
(People are watching after all… it’s the nature of writing a blog!)
Since I didn’t know how the method itself was going to work out, I instead opted for “outcomes” or “can-do”s.
What would it be cool to be able to do at different stages of the project?
I broke the project down into three sections:
I asked myself: “What would month 3 look like if it were a big success?”
(This is a powerful question you can use to get yourself in the right frame of mind for any project.)
So, what would it look like?
Well, when preparing for the project, I looked at some of the podcasters, bloggers and YouTubers who teach Italian online.
The so-called “influencers”!
As someone who inhabits an online world myself, these influencers were the most visible and tangible signs of Italian life to me.
Here are the guys and girls teaching Italian online, so if I could end my project by speaking Italian with them, that would really be awesome!
So I had that aim in the back of my mind.
Sure enough, that desire only strengthened when I got into my project and found myself using these influencers’ resources and channels to actually learn Italian!
(I kept a list of everything I used to learn Italian here.)
One of the resources I found myself coming back to over and over was Italiano Automatico, which I really enjoyed due to Alberto’s focus on sviluppo personale (personal development).
As my method was based squarely on 2-3 hours a day of content in Italian (as opposed to tuition or textbooks), I badly needed a library of interesting content to consume.
Indeed, the whole success of the project was going to ride on the availability of interesting material at the right level.
And since I’m really interested in personal development, finding a resource like Alberto’s podcasts in Italian was a goldmine.
Take a second to soak up that last bit. It’s really important.
Here it is again, in more technical language:
The success of my Italian project would come down to the availability of comprehensible, compelling input.
It’s easy to consider the “availability of material” as a side-issue, but I started to think more about the centrality of this after watching Steve’s recent video:
(And as you watch, consider just how different this way of thinking is from traditional approaches to language learning, where the focus is not on content, but on learning grammar.)
I spent hours and hours listening to Alberto talk about everything from why he wakes up at 4am, to the reason he quit university. (Mostly on LingQ.com where I could listen and read the transcripts)
I also used Alberto’s fantastic products, such as his Conversazioni Reali In Italiano (Real Conversations In Italian), where I learnt lots of cool colloquial Italian expressions.
Before long, I knew what I had to do…
By the end of my 3-month project, I knew I had to record a conversation in Italian with Alberto himself.
Being able to talk about the topics that interest us both so much, and to do it in Italian, would really be a sign that I’d learnt to speak the language — for real.
And so I was thrilled to be able to record the conversation in this week’s video – grazie Alberto!
So here’s where we get to the weird bit.
You see, I’m even more aware than ever of all the shortcomings in my Italian.
The vocabulary I don’t know. The grammar that’s a bit dodgy. The phraseology I’m borrowing from Spanish.
I still only see myself at the start of the path to becoming really fluent. (If that’s what I choose to pursue. Not sure yet.)
I’ve achieved one of the big aims of the project, by having a long conversation in Italian with one of the people I learnt from in the first place!
The funny thing is, I didn’t realise it right away.
I was too busy thinking about all the work I still had to do on my Italian!
It only dawned on my a few days after recording the conversation with Alberto that I’d achieved one of my big goals!
After noticing this, I did actually pause and allow myself a pat on the back! (The Olly of the past wouldn’t have done this. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s important to congratulate yourself sometimes!)
But it just goes to show how fluency in a language is a moving target.
You’ll never really feel that you’ve “arrived”. That you’re “fluent”.
And if you do, it’s probably 5-10 years late!
So, having previously been a bit critical of goal-setting in language learning, I’m now thinking that goal-setting of some kind can be helpful.
Not in terms of “proficiency goals” or “fluency goals”…
But in terms of what you’re able to do with the language. Which is good, because it then links quite nicely with your purpose for learning in the first place.
So that’s it for today.
I’m actually writing this on the plane… en route to Italy!
You’ll remember that my other goal for the project was to travel to Italy and put my newly-learned Italian to use!
Curious how I do? Or where I’m going?
That video will be hitting your YouTube feed next week.
But there’s a way to see behind the scenes if you want.
Simply follow me on Instagram and I’ll show you everything I’m up to 🙂
Ci vediamo la settimana prossima!
Got any comments or questions about the project? What are your experiences with goal setting in language learning? Leave me a comment below.
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