Day 2: Setting Up Goals Related to Language Mechanics

Welcome to the second episode of the 3-day challenge to help you gain clarity on your goals and propel you to finally succeed at learning the French language. I am your host Marie-Eve Brideau, Language Coach extraordinaire, and today we are talking about setting up goals related to the mechanics of the French language. If you haven’t listened to the first episode yet, stop right now and go look in your email for the first email in the series.

In the first episode, we talked about S.M.A.R.T . goals. Let’s take some time to recap what that means. A goal needs to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic or relevant to your situation and time-based. Our final example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal was “I want to be able to order dinner at a restaurant during my next road trip in Quebec City. To do so, I will dedicate 30 minutes every night from 8:30 to 9:00pm after the kids go to bed for a period of 4 weeks, starting next Monday”. So that’s crystal clear, isn’t it? Now we just need to plan out what those sessions will look like and we are ready to start. As you can see, the planning stage is really what is going to turn this goal into success. Antoine de St-Exupéry said that a goal without a plan is just a wish. Very thoughtful isn’t it?

Working by projects and learning the language units related to that project alone will help you achieve success without feeling overwhelmed. In most language training classes, we tend to study verb and vocabulary lists, but why learn every verb and vocabulary word by heart if you are never going to use them? Learn them when you need to and you’ll see you will never forget them. A project can look like making a French menu with your kids to play restaurant, understanding the lyrics of a song, filling out a government form to apply on a program, preparing for a business meeting etc… Our main goal from last episode can be considered a project. We now need to choose what mechanical and mastery goals we want to achieve in order to make our project a successful endeavour.

If you are a beginner, it may be difficult to find a project to work on. Think about things that are closer to you, in your everyday life and part of your routine. Maybe you’d like to have a short conversation with your kids about their favorite toy. Or maybe you‘d like to give directions to your office to a French-speaker. Possibilities are endless but remember to keep it S.M.A.R.T.

Now let’s look at today’s topic: goals related to the mechanics of the French language. What does that mean? It’s how the language works. Before you have an anxiety attack at the thought of grammar, remember that your goals need to be specific and attainable. Referring back to your main project might be a good way to find what grammatical elements you may need to learn. Learning grammar rules without a project is rather counterproductive. The verbs, the adjectives, feminine/masculine, prepositions, etc… all come to play to help you communicate your message. You also have prior knowledge from school that you shouldn’t discard as well. The brain never forgets anything, it’s just tucked away deep inside and we’ll work at bringing it out.

Alright, back to my project to order dinner at a restaurant. How am I going to go about this? What do I need to know in terms of mechanics to be able to get to that point? If you are working by yourself, writing out a little script in English can give you the tools you need. You can also listen to YouTube videos and observe how they do it. It doesn’t mean you will have to read from your script when your project is done, but it gives you a good idea of what aspects of the language you do not currently possess and that you need to improve. Questions like “how do I say, I would like” or “how do I say no mushrooms please” could arise and write them down. Once you have your script and you’ve brainstormed everything you would need during that exchange with the host, the waiter.

Using an online translator to make the French for you may give you an easy way out but will not help you improve your skills. By learning and understand each unit, you will be able to reuse that knowledge to multiple other situations and project. It will allow you to become autonomous and rely on that tool less and less.

Maybe you are confused with the masculine and feminine in French since it is quite different from English and are not sure if you should say un ou une champignon? That’s goal number one. Learn about feminine and masculine, that’s fairly specific. How can I measure that? Do I need to find exercises online on feminine and masculine? Is it by going through the dictionary and translating 10 nouns? How can I achieve this in a realistic way? How long am I going to spend on this? Probably just 1 session is enough. Sounds good, my first session will be about feminine and masculine.

Verbs are a big one of course because it is the action of the sentence. But let’s narrow it down to what we need. We don’t need to learn all the verbs at all the verb tenses. In this example, I may have to use the present tense to ask questions about the menu and conditional to make a polite request. If I need it, I can learn about the present tense for an affirmative sentence (I like apples/J’aime les pommes), negative sentence (I don’t like apples/Je n’aime pas les pommes) or an interrogative sentence (Does he like apples?/Est-ce qu’il aime les pommes?). Just with this, I have 3 more nights booked, no need to overload my brain with stuff. The 2nd night, I can read about the present tense and do exercises online about affirmative sentences, the 3rd night, the negative sentences, and so on. Keep it small and don’t overdo it. I like to keep this in order so I will spend 5 days on verb tenses just to make sure I understand well.

What other goals can I create? I’m sure you know what the English looks like but you are not sure how the French will, right? Once you understand each individual part in a sentence, for example “I would like a pizza with mushrooms, onions and peppers”, you can piece them together in a chart. That does require prior knowledge of parts of speech so if you are unsure even in English what that means, maybe it’s a good time for a refresher. Look on your workbook for a visual example of what this chart looks like. I think I would like to spend 3 days charting my sentences so I know how the language works.

Now it’s your turn. I’ve talked a lot today. On your workbook, the top part is dedicated to your project or overall goal. Remember it has to be S.M.A.R.T. Then, each sub-goals should also be S.M.A.R.T. and help you achieve your big project. Then come up with the actions you need to do to be able to reach that sub-goals. Do this for as many sub-goals as you need for all the mechanical aspects of the language you would like to work on.

I know it’s a lot of info, so if you want to send me your goals or have any questions about this, don’t hesitate to reply to the email I sent you. I will be happy to help you out. I never said learning a language was easy but with determination and efforts, you can do it. Once your planning is done, you just need to execute so the big thinking is happening now and I know you can do it!

Alright go finish up and rest your brain for tonight. In the next episode, we will talk about goals that are related to the fluency of the language, so all the vocabulary and pronunciation we need to work on in order to finish our project.

Talk to you soon!

A bit confused? Need additional help?