Back when I decided I wanted to learn Polish, I came up with this idea that “I just want to be fluent.” I assumed that because I was pretty confident in my German, that it would only be a matter of time before my Polish reached the same level. Wow, was I wrong! I really underestimated how much time I had actually spent on German before I was able to get it to a useful level–so this is why I’ve become so frustrated; it takes many hours to reach fluency.
In my road to fluency in Polish, I’ve come to think smaller: one goal at a time. Instead of thinking to myself, “by 2015 I want to be fluent,” I think “in one month I want to improve my listening” or something similar. I’ve come to find a great benefit in having smaller short-term goals: because I’m focusing on one skill at a time, I can more easily see my progress. This visible progress helps me keep my motivation to study.
The way I’ve started to focus on these “short term goals” is to choose one skill that I want to improve–either listening, reading, speaking, or writing. Right now, my focus is more on listening and reading comprehension. Then I decide to focus mostly on that skill for the next 30 days. For me, thirty days is short enough to not become overwhelming, but long enough to notice progress. The great thing about short-term goals is that in languages, there is so much to learn, whether its speaking quickly, listening easily, using difficult tenses, etc.
If you’re starting to reach a frustrating point in your learning where everything seems hard, perhaps a change of strategy and focusing on one goal at a time can help to keep the motivation!