Goals Goals Goals!
One of the big motivating factors in learning Latin is clear goal-setting. It’s all too easy to have vague, intangible ideas of what we want out of a language, that we can wake up one morning and find that we’ve spent the last five years ‘learning Latin’, and yet we’re still not able to read a single page of a book by Seneca (for example).
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry. I’ve been there too… and let’s be honest, I probably will be again with something! The problem isn’t an inability to learn, or a lack of time, or any of those other problesm you can have. NOTEL I’m not saying those other problems don’t matter, but I’m saying that even if you have none of those problems, this doesn’t mean you won’t wake up wondering why it’s been a decade since you started learning and you barely seem any better.
The real problem is…
Without ‘em you’re climbing a ladder to nowhere…
Without a clear goal it’s pretty hard to make progress, because you have no real markers of achievement, nothing to aim for, nothing to motivate you in those moments you never want to see another word of Latin. But when you have a goal, this all changes pretty quickly. You get that great feeling of ‘itcking' the box’ and saying ‘yep, I’ve achieved what I set out to do’. And in doing so you’ll find that big, overarching goal of ‘being fluent in Latin’ stops being a pipe-dream and starts to become a reality.
Now, I’m not suggesting you go all super intense about your goals and be really precise and specific and picky. That’s a waste of time and an even bigger waste of energy. It’s also unproductive, because the goals become the main focus, rather than the language itself. Remember, if you want to learn Latin, you should be focusing on Latin, not on something extraneous to that. Goals should be there to help you with the language, not to take over.
So don’t go overboard.
Instead, the sort of goals I’m suggesting are of two kinds: practice goals and milestone goals. Let me explain each of them.
Practice Goals. A practice goal , which you could also call a 'procedure or habit goal, is all about setting goals for ongoing connection with the language. These can be time goals (I’m trying to brush up my Italian at the moment and have a goal for a minimum of 20 minutes reading and 15 minutes listening a day), or they could be items; you might have a goal to do Goldlisting three times a week, for example, or do spoken grammar each morning, or whatever it might be. The point is that practice goals are all about trying to help you get into a routine for learning Latin. That way, you can always do more if you want, but as long as you reach the goal, you' know you’re good.
Milestone goals, on the other hand, are particular achievements which, when reached, aren’t repeated. They might be finishing your first book in Latin, for example. With these goals they can be as big or as small as you like. So it might be finishing a book in two weeks, or it might be just finishing the book at all. It might be reading a letter by Seneca without looking up any words, or it might be being able to construct a Latin sentence without pausing to translate it. Whatever the goal, it’s up to you.
So, how do I suggest working with these goals? Well, a sin most things in life, I suggest a mix. Look at your schedule and see what you can fit in in terms of practice goals. Be honest with yourself about this: if you can' only guarantee 10 minutes’ reading a day, don’t set your goal for 15 minutes. Remember, having a goal for 10 minutes doesn’t mean you can’t read for longer, it just means its okay if you only do 10. I
I strongly suggest a combination of reading and listening, of course, so maybe you could have a goal of 20 minutes of reading 5 days a week, and 10 minutes of listening. If you read and listen the decoding way (i.e. extensive reading rather than intensive reading coupled with intensive listening) you’ll find that 30 minutes total five days a week is HUGE. More is great, less is great - it’s about the goals, not the numbers.
Once you’ve got your practice goals, this should help you pick reasonable milestone goals. Again, I’d suggest you have a mix of large and small goals here. Try and find a milestone goal you can reach in the next two weeks to a month; any more is just too far away to be motivating. But if you already have a goal for 2-4 weeks, then a larger goal (like ‘I want to read Tacitus’s Agricola after 6 months without reading a word of it beforehand’) can really build on those smaller goals, and can also be a great place from which to work backwards to know what you need to achieve in order to reach that milestone.
So that’s the power of goals. But remember: never let the goal become the ruler. Goals are only there to help you enjoy the language, and if that’s not happening find another way to enjoy it.
Hope this helps!