I believe that the secret of successful language learning lies in setting clear learning objectives at first. And with clear learning objectives I do not mean ‘learning ambitions’ like “I would like to improve my speaking skills”, which is simply too vague. However, it could be considered as the basis for a clear learning objective that results after a process of answering these six questions:
- Why would you like to improve your speaking skills?
- Where would you like use your speaking skills?
- How often would you like to use your speaking skills?
- In which situations would you like to use your speaking skills?
- To whom would you like to be able to speak?
- What would you like to be able to speak about?
Why would you like to improve your speaking skills?
Suppose that “improving my Dutch speaking skills” is your ‘learning ambition’. The first step towards transforming this into a clear learning objective is by asking yourself “Why?”. Your answer might be something like “in order to feel confident enough to have informal conversations with Dutch people”. Now, you still need to know where to find these ‘Dutch people’, when you will meet them, who they are exactly and what your ‘informal conversations’ will be about.
Where would you like to use your speaking skills?
If your inability to speak Dutch is the only reason why your Dutch colleagues speak English at work, you may – at some point – want to start speaking Dutch there. My advice would be to take this step by step, starting with one or two days per week for ten minutes and gradually expand that. Next, determine when you would like to speak Dutch to your colleagues.
In which situations would you like to use your speaking skills?
The best situations to build your confidence in speaking, in my view, are those in which the stakes are not very high and where ‘trial-and-error’ is allowed. Coffee and lunch breaks seem like a good start. And this automatically leads us to the colleagues that you would like to have ‘informal conversations’ with.
To whom would you like to be able to speak?
In order to go easy on yourself, you may want to start your ‘informal talks’ with one or two colleagues that you really like and trust. Are these perhaps the same people that you like to spend your coffee and lunch breaks with? If so, then it will probably not be a big problem finding interesting topics to discuss.
What would you like to be able to speak about?
The best way to build your confidence in speaking is to discuss topics that are close to you and that you find really interesting. Doing this, you will most certainly also learn and remember many new words and phrases very fast.
Your first clear learning objective
By asking yourself the above mentioned six key questions about your ‘learning ambition’, you have managed to determine your first clear learning objective: “I would like to feel confident enough to have informal conversations about my topics of interest with my colleagues during lunch breaks one to two times per week for ten minutes .” Do this for everything that you would like to be able to do in Dutch and success is guaranteed!
What are your learning objectives? Do you have questions about setting clear learning objectives? Please share it in the comments below!