38. New Year’s Resolutions! (English Vocabulary Lesson)

2020 is almost over! What a strange and unforgettable year it has been! In this episode, we are going to look at New Year’s resolutions. And if you listen until the end, I will give you some suggestions for English learning related New Year’s resolutions that you can try yourself!

(If you can’t see the podcast player CLICK HERE to listen!!)

Vocabulary List

To alter (v) – to change something, usually slightly, or to cause the characteristics of something to change

We’ve had to alter some of our plans

To socialise (v) – To spend time when you are not working with friends or with other people in order to enjoy yourself

I tend to not socialise with my colleagues

resolution (n) – a promise to yourself to do or to not do something

I made a resolution to give up chocolate 

trait (n) – a particular characteristic that can produce a particular type of behaviour

His sense of humour is one of his better traits

Cliché (n) – a saying or remark that is very often made and is therefore not original and not interesting 

People always use cliches in job interviews

unachievable (adj) – an unachievable task, ambition, etc. is one that is impossible to achieve

It may be an unachievable goal, but you set your targets as high as you possibly can

spontaneously (adv) – in a way that is natural, often sudden, and not planned or forced

Hundred of people spontaneously appeared at the house for a party

satisfied (adj) – pleased because you have got what you wanted, or because something has happened in the way that you wanted 

Some people are never satisfied!


2020 has been an unforgettable and unprecedented year. The pandemic has altered the way we live, work, and socialise, and it remains to be seen how permanent these changes will become. Will shaking hands become a thing of the past? Will wearing masks on public transport become the new normal? Will remote work replace the traditional office? I have no answers for these questions, but by the end of next year maybe we will know better about the impact of Covid-19! Hopefully 2021 will be a year of optimism and positive changes, compared to the distress of 2020. 

This episode is being released on New Year’s Eve for many of my listeners. I want you to reflect on 2020 for a few seconds. As i already mentioned it has been an unforgettable and unprecedented year. For many people, including myself, so much has happened in both their personal lives and professional lives. In addition, the amount of news in 2020 has been overwhelming! How about you? What happened to you in 2020? How did your professional life change in 2020? How did your personal life change? What goals did you hope to achieve in 2020? Were you successful in achieving these goals? And if you weren’t, why weren’t you? Is there anything you wished you had done differently? What did you learn in 2020? What did you try for the first time? How different was 2020 to what you expected? I think it is important to reflect on the past years experiences!

After reflecting on the past year, I think it’s a good time to consider the future: 2021! Societies around the world celebrate the new year with various unique traditions. What traditions are common in your country, religion, or culture? In western countries, it is very common for people to set New Year’s resolutions! A New Year’s resolution is a tradition that involves a person promising to themselves to continue good practices, to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal, or otherwise improve their life. ‘New year, new me’ is a frequently used cliche, but sums up the idea behind a New Year’s resolution quite simply. January 1st represents a starting point for change or improvement; essentially, it is an annual opportunity for self improvement! 

What are some of the most common New Year’s resolutions? According to a Yougov poll conducted in the UK, the top five New Year’s resolutions included doing more exercise or getting fitter, improving your diet, and losing weight! In fact, it is well known that January is the number one month of the year for gym memberships and sign ups; probably connected to New Year’s resolutions and health! Other top New Year’s resolutions include saving more money, taking up a new hobby, as well as quitting smoking or drinking alcohol. New Year’s resolutions are about improving yourself, continuing good habits, and changing things you want to change!

Nevertheless, just because you set a New Year’s resolution, it doesn’t mean you will actually complete or achieve your goal! A 2007 study from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail. There are quite a few reasons for this! One reason is setting unachievable or unrealistic resolutions, and another reason is setting too vague goals!  Let’s take the goal of losing weight. You don’t really have a defined target (do you want to lose 1 kg or 50kg?), and losing weight is actually a combination of lots of smaller related goals. A more achievable goal would be recording your eating habits, or working out twice a week! People often forget about their resolutions and fail to keep track of their progress. 

So now, i’m going to give you all a few tips on how to keep your resolutions and achieve your goal, then i’ll suggest a few language learning based resolutions that you can try for 2021! The number 1 tip is to be realistic! Don’t set a resolution that is impossible or unlikely, because it is a certain way to fail. You should also plan your resolution. Many people spontaneously decide on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day a resolution, but you are more likely to be committed if you carefully consider your options! Plan early, and plan well! The next tip is don’t keep your resolution secret. Tell people about it! Tell your family, tell your friends, tell your coworkers! This way, they can support you, motivate you, and even join in trying to improve themselves. Another way to keep high motivation is to reward yourself. Celebrate your successes by treating yourself to something you enjoy – this can be anything from chocolate, to a beer, to a trip to the movies! The bigger the success, the bigger the reward. The next tip was already briefly mentioned earlier in the podcast – track your progress! It can be difficult to recognise changes in yourself over time, but keeping a record and assessing your performance is essential!

Here are 10 possible New Year’s resolutions for everyone listening! Choose one or two you like, or make your own! But make sure you follow the tips I mentioned earlier!

  1. Start a learning journal! Record you progress, write down your thoughts, and plan out your studying!
  2. Stop saying that I don’t speak English or my English isn’t good. I really dislike when my students say things like this. Your English is great and you can speak. The more you believe in yourself and your ability, the more progress you will make!
  3. Remember that there isn’t just one ‘correct’ accent in English. I often get asked about ‘correct’ pronunciation… but often it’s not that simple. There are so many different accents, ways of speaking, and dialects related to the English language! So make sure you listen to a variety of different English accents
  4. Practice doing something in English for 10 minutes everyday – speaking, listening, reading, or writing!
  5. Make a list of your common grammar errors, keep updating and reviewing the items, and cross them off as you master them
  6. Find time to read English for pleasure. English shouldn’t just be a subject to you, but also something you enjoy. 
  7. Try using at least five new items of vocabulary every week
  8. Take an online English class! (If you are interested send me a message!)
  9. Enjoy learning some slang and idiomatic expressions
  10. Create an English language social media account! Follow English teachers and learning organisations, podcasts like thinkinginenglish, and fellow students!

Final Thought

As I have been planning this episode, I have also taken the opportunity to reflect on my past year and make some resolutions for 2021. This year has certainly been a year of ups and downs. I began the year incredibly satisfied and enjoying my life in Taiwan, until Covid forced me to return to the UK and postponed everything else I had planned! After making this podcast, however, the last few months have been much more encouraging. So what are my resolutions? Let’s start with language learning. I was recently given a notebook and pen for christmas, and decided that i will write something in Japanese everyday! I will also use a language learning app on my phone everyday as well. For this podcast, I want to keep improving the content I’m producing for you! I have plans to start bringing on guests, and maybe even get some of you listeners involved! What are your New Year’s resolutions? Let me know in the comments!


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