How to learn English in 2021

You have decided that this year you are going to become more confident in English. Have you made a plan yet? One of the best ways of reaching your goals is to break them down into manageable pieces. Here is how to apply the SMART approach to your short-term and long-term learning goals for 2021. 

SMART is an acronym which stands for: 

  • Specific 
  • Measurable 
  • Achievable 
  • Realistic 
  • Time-bound 

Choose something SPECIFIC 

First, start by choosing an area you want to improve. Instead of saying ‘I want to learn English’, decide if you want to learn English for work, business, travel, university, research, etc.  Then, think of a goal that specifically targets your objective. For example:  

  • I want to give a presentation in English 
  • I want to write better emails 
  • I want to learn vocabulary related to my field of work 
  • I want to negotiate more effectively in English 

Make it MEASURABLE 

You need to be able to measure your goals. For example: 

  • I am going to read 2 news articles every day 
  • I am going to learn 5 new words every week 

Make it ACHIEVABLE 

Keep up your motivation by choosing a goal that you will be able to achieve. You know yourself better than anybody, so if you have a busy lifestyle you may not be able to learn 20 new words every day, for example. It is better to learn just one or two new words a day, and have a really good understanding of how to use them. For example: 

  • What does the word mean? 
  • In which contexts is it used?  
  • What part of speech it is – is it a verb, a noun or an adjective? 
  • How is it pronounced? 
  • Is this word used as part of an idiom, or is it used to form a phrasal verb? 
  • Look at example sentences 
  • Write a short piece of text using the new word 

Be REALISTIC  

Give yourself enough time to complete your goal. For example, going from level A2 to C1 in 6 months is probably not realistic.  

The goal is TIME-BOUND 

Don’t forget to set a date by which you want to achieve this goal. For example, your long-term goal could be a work presentation in August.  The short-term goal could be learning two new business words each week. 

Keep motivated 

You can motivate yourself to reach your SMART goals by adapting your habits. Here are some suggestions taken from a book by James Clear titled Atomic Habits:  

  • Make the habit obvious. If you want to read more, put your book in a place where you will see it often.  
  • Make the habit attractive. Choose a book or a film to watch that you find interesting.   
  • Make the habit easy and convenient. Choose a book that isn’t too difficult to read or too heavy to fit into your bag when you go out.   
  • Make the habit satisfying by rewarding yourself afterwards. Give yourself a treat, for example, a coffee, a piece of cake, or a relaxing bath.  

Here are some more ideas on how to keep on track with your learning goals using SMART strategies:  

  • Listen to a podcast and set a time limit of 10 minutes per day 
  • Change your phone or computer settings to English 
  • Try to speak English to your friends, or on online platforms  
  • Join an online course  
  • Read something in English for 10 minutes every day  
  • Write an email to a friend in English 
  • Write a review on a website in English 
  • Write and answer comments on social media platforms  

Don’t forget to write your long-term and short-term goals so that you can remind yourself from time to time and adjust them if your routine changes.  

Why not make a start now? 

Glossary

Acronym: a word made from the first letters of other words

Specific: used to refer to a particular thing  

Measurable: something large enough to be noticed and measured 

Achievable: a task that can be done  

Objective: something that you are trying to achieve

Adapt: to change, for example your behaviour or a goal, so that it is suitable for a new situation

Habit: something that you do regularly

Adjust: to change something so that it works or fits better

This blog has been written at level B1. Practise your reading and listening by reading the blogs below.

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