Setting goals

August 28, 2015 by Leave your thoughts

The summer is coming to an end in the northern hemisphere and it’s time to go back to school. This time of year feels like a lot of new starts for us. Over the summer I had a number of goals I set myself on my travels. I took on the Add1Challenge for Latvian over the summer for three months and also did Norwegian for the italki challenge for one month in June.

As I leave Latin America, my latest one month challenge of learning Brazilian Portuguese also draws to a close. How did I get on with it? For me it was a success and thoroughly enjoyable too. But what is important is how I did it and I’d like to share that with you in this post.

Picking the language – WWW

For me this is the most important thing to get right. We need solid reasons to learn a new language. A whim of learning something because it is “cool” does not always carry us through to success. We really need to give this more thought. I always ask myself the WWW questions:

1. When can I use it?
2. Where can I use it?
3. With whom can I use it?

I need to be able to answer these questions whenever I learn a new language. It keeps me focused and motivated to succeed.

For Brazilian Portuguese, the answers were:

1. August 2015
2. Brazil
3. People in Brazil

These answers to these questions helped me to realise the level I needed and how long I should spend on my studies too.

Setting goals

I took a month to study Brazilian Portuguese. Working backwards from the time I knew I’d leave for Brazil, I could easily plan my studies.

My goal was to go to Brazil, convert my European Portuguese from university into Brazilian Portuguese. I wanted to be able to get around the cities I visited and communicate clearly, using the local pronunciation of the language. For this challenge there was not a great increase in level I required, simply a conversion and a refresher of the language itself.

Steps to success

For Portuguese, I could already speak the language, so my focus needed to be on pronunciation and reviving what I had studied at university over 15 years ago!

My steps were:

1. Find a Brazilian Portuguese teacher on italki
2. Agree times for lessons and put them into my schedule every week
3. Talk about varied topics in the language each time
4. Read aloud articles from the BBC in Portuguese and get pronunciation correction from my teacher
5. Note down differences in vocab, grammar and pronunciation
6. Continue making mistakes and getting corrected until it stuck!

This process is an almost endless cycle, but it is really great when you notice things sticking in your mind. You begin to notice improvements in your ability to communicate and feel the rush from your sense of achievement.


At the end of my lessons with me teacher on italki, she said, “now you are speaking Brazilian Portuguese”. For me that was a great success. In Brazil people could understand me fine and I found myself learning more and more of the nuances of this beautiful language. That was rewarding as I knew my language worked for me.

Here I am speaking with Jimmy Mello, who hosted the Polyglot Workshops in Belo Horizonte at his language school “Cidade do Inglês” in Belo Horizonte. Let me know what you think of my Brazilian Portuguese:



Want to find out more about how I learn languages?

Come to one of my live events! Along with Alex Rawlings and Olly Richards, we will teach you:

  • the fundamental techniques required for learning any language
  • how to take your languages to an advanced level
  • how to understand the real language native speakers read in books, watch on TV, and use in conversations
  • how to deal with motivation issues and set realistic goals for your success

Our next events will be in:

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Brno, Czech Republic | 25th October 2015
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Can’t make any of those events? Don’t worry, we’ll be planning a new one near you very soon!


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This post was written by Richard

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