SMART Goals to Improve Your English Learning


Hi, I’m Oli. Welcome to Oxford Online English! In this lesson, you’re going to learn about
setting goals for yourself in your English studies, and how it can help you to learn
English faster. Setting goals? What’s that got to do with English? Actually, it’s incredibly important. Mistakes with goal setting are a big reason
why English learners don’t reach their goals. When we meet new students at OOE, the first
thing we do is talk about goals and help students set clear study targets. We often hear students say things like: “I want to be fluent in English.” “I want to speak English like a native speaker.” “I want to speak without making pronunciation
or grammar mistakes.” Here’s the thing: these goals are no good. If you say things like this, you’ll create
problems for yourself. Let’s think about why that is. Firstly, these goals are too big, and too
unclear. What does ‘fluent’ mean? How will you know when you’re fluent in
English? Ask ten different people what ‘fluent’
means, and you’ll get ten different answers. Because you have this goal which is huge and
unclear, you don’t know where to start. You know you want to do something, but you
don’t know what. Even if you do make some progress, you don’t
feel like you’re getting closer to what you want. Then, you feel discouraged. “Why can’t I learn English?” “Why is my English still so bad?” “Why am I spending all this time studying
if my English isn’t getting better?” At this point, many people give up. But, it doesn’t have to be like this. There’s a better way: SMART goal setting. SMART is an acronym; it stands for specific,
measurable, achievable, relevant, timebound. To make progress in English, you need to think
about your goals. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to set
SMART goals, and how this can help you to learn English faster. First, let’s look at SMART goals in more
detail. The ‘s’ in SMART stands for ‘specific’. Your goals need to be specific. “I want to speak English like a native”
is not specific; “I want to be able to talk about everyday topics without hesitating”,
is better. “I want to improve my English grammar”—not
specific enough. “I want to learn how to use past verb forms
accurately” is better. Sometimes, you might need to talk to a teacher
or an expert to help you make your goals specific. Alternatively, you might need to do some research
to set specific goals. ‘M’ stands for ‘measurable’. There needs to be a way you can check your
progress. So, here’s a better goal: “I want to be
able to talk about five everyday topics for one minute without hesitating.” ‘A’ stands for ‘achievable’. Your goal shouldn’t be too easy, but it
also shouldn’t be too hard. If you say something like, “I want to speak
perfect English,” that isn’t achievable. That doesn’t mean you can never do it, but
it’s a goal which will take years—or decades—to reach. You need a goal you can achieve in a relatively
short time period. So, if you have a bigger goal, like “I want
to speak English fluently,” you need to break that goal into smaller, more achievable
steps, like, “I want to be able to talk about five everyday topics for one minute
without hesitating.” Next is ‘R’, which stands for ‘relevant’. This means that your English-learning goals
need to connect with other parts of your life. If you want to improve your pronunciation,
think about why you need this. What will it help you to do? What will change in other areas of your life
if your English pronunciation is better? You need an answer to this, because it’s
almost impossible to stay motivated if your studies don’t make a difference in other
parts of your life. Finally, the ‘T’ stands for ‘timebound’. This means you need a time limit on your goal. You need to set a date where you can say,
“I did this!” or “I didn’t do this…” Hopefully, because your goals are specific,
achievable and relevant, you’ll be able to say, “I did this!” more often than
not! So, let’s add a time limit to our goal:
Now you know what SMART goals are. Let’s look at how you can set yourself SMART
goals to improve different areas of your English. Do you want to improve your English speaking? Of course you do! Everyone we meet wants to speak English better. Here’s something we often hear from students: “I want to express myself better. I feel like I don’t have enough vocabulary
when I speak English.” Let’s make some SMART goals from this idea. First of all, what do you want to talk about? Everyday topics, like your home, your family,
or your hobbies? Or, do you want to talk about more abstract
or poetic, like history, psychology, or love? Choose something. Everyone’s different, so we can’t choose
a topic for you, but choose one for yourself. Next, make your goal measurable. Adding a time element is a good way to do
this; for example: “I want to be able to talk about Van Gogh’s
life and paintings in detail for three minutes without running out of words.” Next, you need to ask yourself: is this achievable
and relevant? Is this realistic for you, and does it connect
to other areas of your life? Looking at our example goal—talking about
Van Gogh’s life and paintings—the answers will probably be ‘no’! That’s because it’s an example which we
gave you. But, when you make your own goals, you should
ask yourself the same questions: is it realistic, and does it connect to other areas of your
life? If you don’t do this, you’ll waste time
working towards goals which are unrealistic or irrelevant. This will hurt your motivation. Finally, you need to make your goal timebound;
for example: “By the end of this month, I want to be
able to talk about Van Gogh’s life and paintings in detail for three minutes without running
out of words.” To reach your goal, you may need to set yourself
additional, minor goals, such as: “By the end of this week, I will learn the
English names of ten of Van Gogh’s paintings.” “By the end of next week, I will be able
to describe ‘Sunflowers’ in detail, without forgetting any words.” “By tomorrow, I will have read this English
article about Van Gogh’s life, and I‘ll underline twenty words and phrases to learn.” In this way, a big, vague goal becomes specific,
and you have clear steps which you can follow to make progress and improve. Let’s do another example to see how you
can use SMART goals to improve your English pronunciation. Here’s something we often hear from students: “I want to sound more natural when I speak
English.” Let’s see how you can take this goal and
make it SMART. Especially with pronunciation and other linguistic
knowledge, you might need some help to make your goal specific. Often, when we teach people pronunciation,
they need our help because they don’t really know where to start. If this is your situation, then you either
need help from a teacher, or you need to do your own research. You need to do something, because a goal like,
“I want to sound more natural when I speak English,” isn’t enough. Let’s see how you could make this more specific: “I want to improve my intonation and stress
in English, so that I sound more natural.” Maybe, for you, this will be different. Maybe you need to learn more about consonant
sounds, or long versus short vowels, or syllable stress, or something else. Whatever your goal, you still need to make
it measurable. This is more difficult with pronunciation
goals, but you still need to try. You could add something like: “I want to study these five units from this
pronunciation book on intonation and stress, and practice with the audio until it feels
easy.” Then, you need to ask yourself if your goal
is achievable and relevant, like you do with every goal. Finally, set a time limit: “Within two weeks, I want to study these
five units from this pronunciation book on intonation and stress, and practice with the
audio until it feels easy.” Your time limits should always be as short
as possible. Can you see why? You know what happens if you have a deadline
far in the future? You won’t do anything until the deadline
is close. You need to feel that you don’t have enough
time, so that you start working towards your goal sooner. Let’s do one more example together, to see
how SMART goals can help you to improve your English grammar. Again, let’s start with something we often
hear from students: “I want to be more accurate in English,
and make fewer mistakes when I speak or write.” What should I do first? We hope you know the answer by now. Hopefully, you’re thinking, “That goal
needs to be more specific!” So, you need to know: what mistakes do you
make now? And, what exactly do you want to learn to
improve your grammar? Again, maybe you need some help at this point;
you might need to find a teacher to show you where you make mistakes, and what you need
to study. Or, you can do your own research to find exactly
what to focus on. However you do it, you need to set a specific
goal, like this: “I want to understand the difference between
the present perfect and the past simple.” “I want to learn how to write complex sentences,
using relative clauses, conjunctions, and adverbials.” “I want to make fewer mistakes with grammar
I’ve known for years, like forgetting to add ‘s’ to a verb in the 3rd person present
simple.” Next, you need to make your goals measurable. The best way to do this is in writing. For example, if you write something for your
teacher, and your teacher shows you ten mistakes with the present perfect and past simple,
your goal could be: “I want to write a 300-word essay with fewer
than three mistakes involving the present perfect and past simple verb tenses.” What’s next? You should know the answer to this question,
too! Hopefully, you remember that you need to ask
yourself if your goal is achievable and relevant. These are questions that only you can answer! Finally, set a time limit: “By the end of next week, I want to write
a 300-word essay with fewer than three mistakes involving the present perfect and past simple
verb tenses.” Again, you might need to set minor goals to
help you reach your major goal; for example: “Today, I will study this unit on the present
perfect tense, and repeat the exercises until I can get every answer correct.” “Tomorrow, I’ll review the mistakes I
made in the last three things I wrote, and make the mistakes into Quizlet cards, so that
I can remember them.” This might seem like a lot of effort at the
beginning, but it’s worth it. Once you get used to setting SMART goals,
it’ll become more instinctive. The clearer your goals, the more chance you’ll
have to reach them and get what you want. If you get better at setting goals, you’ll
feel a sense of progress. This will give you motivation and confidence,
which will make it easier to continue learning and improving. Now, we have a question for you: what’s
your first SMART goal? Share it in the comments, and tell us if you
made it or not! Remember that you can find many more of our
free English lessons on our website: Oxford Online English dot com. Thanks for watching! See you next time!

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