Setting S.M.A.R.T.T. Goals for Language Learning

“We aim above the mark to hit the mark”.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

S.M.A.R.T.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely and Tangible. I love the acronym as it is a smart idea to make goals specific and with focus if you want to achieve them. The way I work is to have one big goal such as ‘To have a basic conversation with a native speaker in 3 months time‘. Then I break this bigger goal down into 3 -6 mini goals and these are the foundations that the bigger goal will sit upon. I like to think of these as tiny seeds that I sow. I need to nurture them daily in order for them to grow and bloom. When these seeds bloom that main goal will be complete!
I like to review my goals either weekly or monthly basis. So a smaller goal for me would be ‘10 minutes, 6 days a week using Flash Academy to build vocabulary’ or ‘X2 60 minute Italki sessions per week focusing on a specific topic‘  You may have noticed the extra T I have added in. I believe goals also need to be tangible in order to be achievable.

Recommended Additional Reading:

Breaking Down S.M.A.R.T.T. Goals


A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To help you set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions:

  • Who:     Who is involved?
  • When:   Set a realistic time frame.
  • Where:  Identify a study location.
  • What:    What do you want to accomplish?
  • Which:  Identify requirements and any potential obstacles or barriers.
  • Why:      Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

A general goal would be, “Learn a Foreign Language .” But a specific goal would be, “Learn German for 45 minutes per day 6 days a week so I can have a basic conversation with a native speaker in 3 months time.


Establish criteria for measuring progress towards the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you are more likely to stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience a sense of achievement that will motivate you to continue.
To determine if your goal is measurable, you need to ask questions such as…
How much? How many?
How will I know when it is accomplished?
A measurable goal would be to, “Record monthly or weekly videos in German to track process or maybe even simple tick boxes within a journal


When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out the ways you can make them become a reality. You develop the right attitudes and abilities to reach them. You can attain almost any goal you set your mind to providing you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that will allow you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed out of reach eventually get closer and become attainable especially if you break them down into smaller manageable chunks. To make goals attainable I would highly encourage you to think about accountability. I am part of this fabulous super supportive language goal setting network called #CleartheList (external link). We share our goals on a monthly basis and this has really helped me to stay on track of my language learning and if I do start to fall off track I know they have my back just like I have their backs.


“Aim for the sky and you’ll reach the ceiling.
Aim for the ceiling and you’ll stay on the floor.”

- Bill Shankly

To be realistic, a goal must represent something that you are really willing to work towards and want to achieve.  A goal can be set high enough to push boundaries whilst still being realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high to set your goal. A high goal is actually easier to reach than a low one because a low goals require less motivation. To know if your goal is truly realistic you need to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past. Ask yourself what requirements and support are needed to help you achieve this goal.


A goal should always be grounded within a set time frame. No time frame means there’s no sense of urgency or focus. If you want to learn a foreign language, when do you want to learn it by?  Anchor it within a timeframe, “by December 31st”, then you’ve set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal ahead.


I have added this one in as I feel SMART is an awesome model for setting goals, but it was missing a really important segment. A goal that is tangible has a higher chance of being more specific, measurable and achievable.
Being tangible means experiencing it with one or more of your senses, i.e. sight, hearing, touch, taste or smell. Check out the article by Angel from on how using your senses can actually enhance language learning… How to learn French using 5 Senses (External Link).

Recommended Additional Reading:

What are your language learning goals or do you have any obstacles getting in your way? Let me know in the comments section below…

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