According to the questionnaires of new immigrants in Estonia the main reasons for learning the Estonian language is to be able to communicate and get a better paid job in Estonia. However, they often forget their goals as it feels much more comfortable just to read and translate some coursebook and measure their success by counting chapters in it. As a result, after passing the coursebook they find that they are still not able to talk and they have still the same lousy jobs.
The results of the empirical study conducted by Edward Locke and and Gary Latham in 1990 showed that specific, difficult goals consistently led to higher performance than urging people to do their best. The effect sizes in meta-analyses ranged from .42 to .80 (Locke & Latham, 1990).
According to Locke and Latham goals have an energizing function. Setting a specific goal leads to better performance compared to setting an abstract goal (e.g., “I’m going to get a 95% on my next exam” vs. “I try to do my best on my next exam”). The effect sizes in meta-analyses ranged from .42 to .80 (Locke & Latham, 1990).
It is important to identify your objectives for learning the language before you start, because different goals demand different strategies. There are many differences in expectations concerning language learning and teaching, for instance, in the way people measure their progress. In Estonia at the beginning of language courses learners’ language levels are tested in detail, however nobody asks them, "What are your goals? Why do you learn the language? What do you want to do with it?“ Thus, it is often the case that the original goal to learn a language in order to get a better paid job turns to something like "My goal is to pass the coursebook or test!“ However, these two goals are totally different and a person who is able to pass the test successfully is not necessarily a good communicator, unless the test measures how successfully he communicates in his field which is rarely the case. Thus, writing down one’s goals is important as it motivates the learner and fosters one’s success. The research results in the framework of EU project “Don't Give Up! Motivating adult students to complete language courses” (http://dontgiveup.eu) claim that the answer to the question, “Why do you want to study the language?“, is inevitable and key one while choosing the instruction form, designing your curriculum and making up a lesson plan.
Dr. Philip E. Humbert says that high achievers always know precisely what they want, because they have written it down. Often, they write a short description of their goals every single morning, as a personal reminder of their priorities and their objectives. He claims that the act of writing your goals down vastly increases your chance of success.
__Another thing to bear in mind when visualising future success is to make the scene in your mind vivid and compelling, involving all the senses. You should imagine at first in which situations and in which way you would like to improve your language skills, how you would feel and what it would look like after achieving this goal. And finally you should contemplate how you are going to reach this goal and what are the steps you are going to take in order to achieve it. You have to set for yourself very specific, measurable, and realistic language goals. You should aim at a specific proficiency level and determine when you want to achieve it. You may set goals like “being able to understand and communicate in a grocery store without asking my wife’s help“ or „being able to find information about good job opportunities in internet in Estonian” or „having smooth conversation in Estonian with someone who makes a compliment concerning your perfect Estonian skills and offers you a well-paid job“.
Psychologists have found a variety of interactions between self-efficacy and goal-setting. When goals are selfset, people with high self-efficacy set higher goals than do people with lower self-efficacy. However, the research results (Lock & Latham, 1990) reveal that high goals lead to greater effort than low goals. People with high goals are more committed to assigned goals, find and use better task strategies to achieve their goals, and respond more positively to negative feedback than do people with low self-efficacy and low goals.
Ülle Rannut, PhD
Integration Research Institute
Information about Estonia