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February 13, 2009

Happy New Year!

All around the world we have just celebrated the coming of a new year. In the Chinese calender, we have just entered the year of the ox. This is a perfect metaphor for the language learning experience. The ox does its work slowly but steadily.

This is the time of year to reflect and look forward. Where have we been? And where are we....


For several years now, my wife and I, instead of New Year's resolutions, have set goals for the New Year. We set it up like this; we ask ourselves a few basic questions like; what do we want our lives to look like a year from now? What do we want to be different? What direction are we moving or growing? We consider these questions in a variety of areas - careers, finances, travel, relationships or creative expression. Or anything else that comes to mind or seems to fit our lives that particular year.

As we have done this over the years, we have expanded our views to consider longer term goals - two years, five years even longer for some goals.

We have learned that it is crucial to keep goals manageable and measurable. It feels wonderful at each New Year's Eve, to reflect on goals accomplished or perhaps refocused and reframed for the coming year. Some goals are recurring - or cumulative - while others are temporary whims that are quickly forgotten.

A manageable goal I would recommend for a language learner is the simple goal of mastering two words a day. Anyone, on almost any schedule, could do this. It might not seem very ambitious, but consider that two words a day is about sixty words a month, and over three hundred words in six months, and over seven hundred words in a year.

If two words a day seems too easy, try three.

I would suggest that students do this in addition to their study program. Or over breaks from school. Or even to become familiar with yet another language.

There’s an old saying, “By the inch, it’s a cinch, by the yard, it’s hard”.

Another old proverb is “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is, you eat an elephant the way you eat anything else, one bite at a time.

That is also how all of us have learned any language – one word at a time.

Don’t stress, just keep learning. Your language journey is just beginning.

About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf spent about six years working for a Native American Tribal College, a few years teaching various humanities, English, writing and ESL courses with the community college system in Washington State (including one year as part of a faculty exchange program with The Beijing Foreign Language University). While in China, Morf was briefly a radio host for CRI (China Radio International) and did recordings for the "English can be enjoyable" book and tape series. Morf currently teaches English and writing for a local technical/vocational college with many international students. Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else likes, unlikely situations and meandering bicycle rides.

Morf is also quietly anticipating that unexpected, but lucrative job offer.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

Posted by mmorf at February 13, 2009 11:05 AM

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