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Today I want to discuss the benefits of long-term thinking and planning when it comes to language learning!

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I was a politics student for many years. And, like many politics’ students, studying the subject made me very pessimistic about how the world works and decisions are made.

Politicians are only elected for a short period. A Senator in the US is elected for 6 years, a President for 4 years, and a House of Representative member for just 2 years. After being elected, politicians need to start campaigning in elections again quite soon.

This is great for accountability – we can make sure our politicians are working and vote for change if it is needed.

However, it is bad for tackling long term problems. Solving things like system wide economic problems, the environment, and social issues will take years of slow and gradual progress. But for politicians, long term policies are not going to get them re-elected – the voters won’t be able to notice the difference in just a few years.

Instead, politicians like to focus on short term issues – things they can change and get the results right now! While long term planning and thinking may be really beneficial, politicians tend to focus on short term planning so they can get the results right now.

In fact, this tendency for short-term thinking instead of long-term planning is widespread across all elements of society – including English learning. Today I want to make the case for why you should all be planning and thinking long term when studying English!

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Short-term vs. Long-term Thinking

In language learning, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the difference between short-term thinking and long-term thinking. Short-term thinking is when you focus only on immediate results, without considering the long-term consequences. On the other hand, long-term thinking involves considering the future outcomes and planning accordingly.

In the context of language learning, short-term thinking can have several drawbacks. For example, English learners who focus only on immediate results may prioritize memorization of vocabulary and grammar rules for a specific test or exam. However, this approach can be counterproductive in the long run as it may lead to limited language proficiency and difficulty in retaining information.

In contrast, long-term thinking can bring numerous benefits to language learning. When you consider your long-term goals, you can focus on developing a comprehensive understanding of the language and creating a strong foundation for further learning. This can lead to better overall proficiency, greater ease in communication, and a deeper appreciation of the language and culture.

Setting long-term language learning goals is an essential aspect of long-term thinking. These goals should be realistic and achievable, while also providing a clear direction for you to follow. Examples of long-term language learning goals might include achieving fluency in the language, becoming proficient in reading and writing, or being able to converse with native speakers on various topics.


Long-term planning in English learning

How to create a long-term English learning plan

Creating a long-term language learning plan is a critical aspect of achieving success and proficiency in English. A comprehensive and well-designed plan can help you establish clear goals, develop a structured approach to learning, and stay motivated and accountable along the way.

The first step in creating a long-term language learning plan is to establish clear and achievable goals. This might include goals related to proficiency level, such as achieving intermediate or advanced proficiency within a specific timeframe. It could also include more specific goals related to language skills, such as improving pronunciation, expanding vocabulary, or mastering complex grammatical structures. Your goals should be realistic, achievable, and aligned with your overall learning objectives.

Once goals have been established, the next step is to develop a structured approach to learning. You could create a study plan that breaks down the learning journey into manageable steps, incorporating a range of language learning activities such as reading, writing, speaking, and listening practice.

To keep the learning process engaging and enjoyable, you should incorporate a range of diverse learning strategies into your long-term language learning plan. Try online resources, attending language exchange events, listening to podcasts or audiobooks in English, and working with a language tutor or conversation partner.

Finally, stay accountable and motivated throughout your long-term language learning journey. Set regular checkpoints to assess progress towards language learning goals, track study time and productivity, and keep a language learning journal to reflect on successes and challenges.

Examples of long-term English learning goals and how to achieve them

One common long-term learning goal is to achieve proficiency in English. Proficiency refers to the ability to use the language in a range of situations and contexts, with a high level of accuracy and fluency.

To achieve this goal, you might consider enrolling in a comprehensive language course that covers all language skills, including reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Additionally, you might focus on practicing language skills through regular immersion experiences, such as attending cultural events, reading books or articles in the target language, and engaging in conversation with native speakers.

Another common long-term language learning goal is to improve fluency. Fluency refers to the ability to use the language smoothly and efficiently, with a high degree of ease. To achieve this goal, you might try to develop your speaking and listening skills by practicing with a language tutor or conversation partner, watching movies or TV shows in the target language, and participating in language exchange programs.

Another long-term language learning goal is to expand English vocabulary and grammar knowledge. To achieve this goal, you might consider using vocabulary and grammar building resources, such as flashcards, language apps, and grammar books. You might focus on reading extensively in the target language, particularly texts that are at or slightly above your current proficiency level. Or writing regularly in the target language, seeking feedback from a tutor or language partner to improve accuracy and clarity.

Some of you may want to develop specialized language skills, such as the ability to conduct business in English, or to navigate medical or legal terminology. To achieve this goal, taking specialized language courses or working with a language tutor or coach who specializes in the relevant field are good ideas. You might focus on developing a deep understanding of the cultural context in which the language is used, particularly in situations where specialized language skills are necessary.

The benefits of long-term thinking in language learning

When you take a long-term approach, you are more likely to experience a range of benefits that can help you achieve greater success, proficiency, and enjoyment in your language learning journey.

One of the primary benefits of long-term thinking is that it can help you to stay motivated and persistent in your language learning efforts. By focusing on long-term goals, you can avoid the frustration and disappointment that often comes with short-term thinking. Instead, you can remain committed to their language learning journey, even when progress is slow or challenging.

Long-term thinking can also improve memory retention and recall. When you take a comprehensive and sustained approach to English learning, you are more likely to retain the vocabulary, grammar, and other language skills you learn over time.

Another benefit of long-term thinking is that it can improve overall proficiency in the language. Taking the time to develop a strong foundation and build upon it consistently over time, makes it more likely you will achieve greater mastery of English.

Finally, long-term thinking can help to develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of English and culture associated with it. You will be more likely to understand the nuances and complexities of English, as well as the cultural context in which it is used.


When to think short-term in language learning

I’ve just spent 10 minutes explain why long-term thinking and planning is beneficial for English learners. Does this mean you should never think in the short term? No… not necessarily. There are also situations in which short-term thinking may be necessary or beneficial.

If you are preparing for a specific event or situation, such as a job interview, presentation, or exam, it may be necessary to focus on short-term goals and strategies. In this case, prioritize specific language skills, such as speaking, writing, or vocabulary, and practice them intensively to achieve your desired outcome.

If you are struggling with a specific language barrier, such as understanding a particular grammar rule or pronunciation challenge, short-term thinking can be beneficial too. A good approach is to focus on identifying the specific issue, seeking targeted feedback or support from a language tutor or coach, and practicing with specific exercises or drills until you overcome the barrier.

Long-term language learning goals can sometimes feel overwhelming or abstract, especially for beginners or learners who have experienced setbacks or plateaus in their progress. In these situations, short-term thinking can be useful for maintaining motivation and momentum. For example, you might set short-term goals, such as learning a set number of new vocabulary words per week or practicing speaking for a certain amount of time each day, to help you stay focused and motivated.

And short-term thinking can be beneficial when you need to adjust your goals or strategies in response to changing circumstances. For example, if your schedule or resources change, you may need to adapt your learning plan to fit your new circumstances.

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Final Thought

Adopting a long-term mindset in language learning is key to achieving meaningful and sustainable progress. By creating a clear and realistic long-term language learning plan, focusing on specific learning goals, and incorporating strategies to maintain motivation and momentum, English learners like you listening can increase your chances of success.

However, there are also situations in which short-term thinking may be necessary or beneficial, such as preparing for a specific event or overcoming a specific language barrier. Ultimately, finding the right balance between short-term and long-term thinking is crucial for language learners to stay motivated, adaptable, and on track towards their language learning goals.

With dedication, persistence, and a strategic approach, language learners can make steady progress and achieve fluency in their target language.

What do you think? Do you prefer long-term thinking or short-term planning?

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

2 thoughts on “229. Thinking Long-Term: The Key to Successful Language Learning?”
  1. Tom, Thanks for your continuous motivation to us English learners. It’s definitely crucial for us to consistently receive your encouragement like this article…It means a lot. I have to admit that I am frustrated by English learning from time to time, as though I won’t be able to progress any further…Replying to your blog is thrusting me away from the pessimistic misconception about the result of my English learning…

    Particularly, English doesn’t bias anyone, by contrast, it is in favor of persistence…As for me, setbacks are unavoidable…The sense of achievement fluctuates, up and down. For example, on some topics, I could consume vocabulary and grammar better than on other topics, and compared to today, I might be more likely to be fluent yesterday…There is not a single day that is identical to another day. Yet, I can not say I am falling behind with me of yesterday…

    Speaking of short-term thinking, it’s more feasible for where you are currently…I have my plan for weekly activities, like noting down new vocabulary and sentences that might be frequently used and making use of them as I get a chance, listening to podcasts or watching documentaries in which I am interested, researching conversation topics, and taking tutor lectures…

    When it comes to long-term thinking, it’s an avid vision for the future as we need direction and motivation…For instance, leveling up from intermediate to advanced, presumably…Everyone can have their own visions.

    Necessarily, I try to miniaturize my vision into months, in some way, then measure it with a variety of approaches such as writing vocabulary, speaking accuracy, and listening comprehension…As ever, We deliberately process and output what we learned just like an active volcano needs to erupt to imply it is alive more than spell disaster…

    Last but not least, my approach to keeping up is to see myself as the only rival of mine in this competition…I am just keen on surpassing the guy of yesterday…For sure, I am better than I was early on when I joined Thinking in English…though, seemingly, I am still inadequate and far from whom I am trying to be as to the vision…Consequently, we don’t have any excuse to quit…

    Let’s inhabit in this English…

    1. Keep working, studying, and persevering Leo. If you are only concerned with your progress day to day, you will never be satisfied. But if you consider your progress weekly, monthly, or even yearly, you will see how far you have come!

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