How to Help Your Child Set SMART Goals for Learning a Language
Want to see some examples of BAD language learning goals for kids? Here are a few that we’ve come across while talking to parents interested in our online language classes for kids:
- “Become conversational in Spanish in one month.”
- “Speak like a native speaker within a year.”
- “Learn 100 new words in Mandarin Chinese every week.”
- “Study French for 2 hours a day every day.”
Now, you may wonder, “What makes those language goals bad?” Well, those goals are likely to provoke the very thing that will make your child unlikely to ever enjoy learning foreign languages: resistance.
Your child’s resistance to learning languages may be subtle. But you’ll notice it in behaviors like exclusively responding in the native language or showing reluctance to participate in language-related activities.
Over time, these behaviors can leave you frustrated, questioning whether your efforts are in vain. You may begin to wonder if it’s just easier to accept that your child will be monolingual. After all, that’s likely the easiest option.
Luckily, though, there’s a solution to make learning a new language much more enjoyable and effective for kids. How so? By helping your child set effective language learning goals.
And that’s exactly what we will show you how to do in this blog post! We’ll also share 11 tips to help you ensure your child can achieve any language learning goal they desire.
This blog post is packed full of value, so let’s begin!
The basics of setting language learning goals for kids
Have you ever heard of SMART goals? They are the type of goals that individuals and organizations worldwide use to set and achieve big goals. SMART goals can also provide a framework for your child’s language learning journey that can help combat pesky resistance.
Let’s break down each letter of the SMART goals acronym and see examples of how it applies to language goals.
Specific: When setting language learning goals, making them as clear and precise as possible is crucial. Instead of a vague goal like “improve Spanish,” a specific goal might be “learn 50 Spanish vocabulary words related to daily activities.”
Measurable: Measurable goals enable kids and parents to see how far they’ve come in language learning. For instance, “score 90% on a French quiz” is a measurable goal because it provides a clear target and allows you to monitor your child’s achievements.
Achievable: Achievable goals are realistic and attainable. Consider your child’s age, current language proficiency, and available resources. Setting unattainable goals can lead to frustration, while achievable goals ensure a sense of accomplishment. For example, if your child is just starting to learn a new language, an achievable goal might be to “hold a basic conversation with a native speaker.”
Relevant: Goals should be meaningful to your child’s language learning journey. They should align with their interests and objectives. If your child is passionate about travel, a relevant goal could be “be able to navigate and communicate effectively during our family trip to France.”
Time-bound: Time-bound goals have a set deadline. This aspect adds a sense of urgency and helps kids stay focused. For example, “be able to introduce yourself in Chinese before the end of the school semester” is a time-bound goal.
SMART goals for language learning examples
Now, let’s see how each letter of the SMART acronym works together to create effective language learning goals for kids. Here are two SMART goal examples related to learning Chinese and learning French.
Chinese language learning SMART goal
- Specific: “Learn 50 commonly used Mandarin Chinese phrases for daily conversations.”
- Measurable: “Hold a 5-minute conversation in Mandarin with a language exchange partner using the learned phrases.”
- Achievable: “Practice these phrases with a language tutor twice a week for the next three months.”
- Relevant: “Prepare to communicate effectively during our family’s upcoming trip to Beijing.”
- Time-bound: “Achieve this goal within three months, in time for our trip.”
French language learning SMART goal
- Specific: “Expand French vocabulary by learning 100 new words related to daily life and family.”
- Measurable: “Successfully use at least 80% of these words in written and spoken French.”
- Achievable: “Study French vocabulary for 20 minutes daily, with periodic reviews, for the next six months.”
- Relevant: “Enhance language skills to comfortably navigate our family reunion in Paris.”
- Time-bound: “Accomplish this goal within six months to coincide with our travel plans.”
11 tips for helping children achieve language learning goals
Language learning can be fun for children, but it’s not always a smooth ride. Consider these practical tips to ensure your child’s success in achieving their language learning goals.
1. Enroll your child in language classes
Interacting with native speakers can significantly improve pronunciation and fluency while providing cultural insights. So, consider enrolling your child in language learning classes focusing on speaking and engaging with native speakers.
At LingoCircle, we offer online language classes for kids ages 3-15 in French, Spanish, English, Chinese, Korean, and Arabic. With the support of native-speaking teachers, each of our students gets to practice their target language at least once per week with a group of peers across the world.
Whether your child is a beginner in a foreign language or already has some proficiency, we have a class for them! For example, students learning French can enroll in dual immersion (English and French) or full immersion (only French) classes, lessons that follow the French preschool and elementary school curriculums, or French as a foreign language classes. Explore our website to learn more!
2. Encourage ownership and intrinsic motivation
Want your child to stay motivated to learn a language? Allow them to choose their own language learning goals. Encourage your child to pursue language learning goals because they genuinely want to achieve them, not solely for external rewards or praise.
When they have a say in what they’re working toward, they have a better chance of becoming active learners, enthusiastically embracing the process of achieving their goals.
4. Celebrate milestones
Recognize and celebrate your child’s achievements along the way, regardless of how small they may seem. Positive reinforcement can boost your child’s motivation and confidence to reach their language goals. So, if they achieve a SMART goal, show them your support with a special treat, words of encouragement, or publicly bragging about their success to friends and family.
5. Be a role model
Are you a language learner yourself? If so, you have the perfect opportunity to model best practices for learning a language. According to research, children learn best through observational learning, in which they model the behaviors of those around them.
6. Promote a growth mindset
Achieving fluency in a foreign language is undoubtedly a long-term goal. This makes having a growth mindset essential. A growth mindset means seeing setbacks and failures as part of the language learning process. It also means encouraging them to learn from these experiences, adapt, and persevere.
7. Encourage flexibility
Things won’t always go as planned. For example, your child may need more time to achieve one of their language learning goals. So, help your child understand that modifying or changing their language learning goals is okay if their interests or circumstances evolve.
8. Provide support
Kids need supportive surroundings to inspire confidence and a positive attitude toward learning. Offer encouragement, resources, and assistance when needed. Also, cultivate an environment at home and school that values effort, perseverance, and personal growth.
9. Create a positive learning environment
Taking the time to set up the right learning environment can enhance your child’s concentration and motivation. You can do this by minimizing distractions and providing access to language-related resources, such as books, language learning apps, and educational games.
It also helps if the space has visual reminders of your child’s language learning goals. Whether it’s a vision board, a checklist, or a colorful poster, visual reminders serve as daily motivators and reinforce commitment.
10. Teach time management
Your child will likely have to balance language learning with school work, extracurricular activities, leisure time with family and friends, and much more. Without time management skills, your child may struggle to put enough effort into language learning to see results. So, it’s crucial to help them develop time management techniques, such as using visual timers and breaking down larger tasks.
11. Schedule regular check-ins
Schedule regular progress check-ins with your child. Review their goals together, discuss their achievements, and make any necessary adjustments. What worked well? What didn’t? What can they do differently next time? Reflection encourages self-awareness and continuous improvement.
Effective goal setting is essential if you want to help your child become bilingual or multilingual. Why? It’s one of the best ways to combat the resistance many children feel to learning something new, like a foreign language.
We hope you’ll apply what you’ve learned in this blog post and help your child create their first SMART goal for learning a new language!
Want to help your child accelerate their French, Spanish, English, Chinese, Korean, or Arabic language skills? Sign up for one of our online language classes for kids at LingoCircle!
In each class, your child will learn from one of our certified native-speaking teachers, practice core language skills with interactive activities, and make new friends with similar language learning goals and proficiency levels. Click here to get the first lesson for free!
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