JLPT BC 64 | Be SMART about your goals for 2012

SMART goals for Japanese learning

So, I drink this and I get smarter?

I had an incredibly busy week teaching an intensive that I do twice a year (12 hour days of teaching). This is usually a good opportunity because I have a lot of choice in how to teach the class and how the material is presented.

I get to experiment with multiple ways of helping students remember the phrases that they have to memorize for the test that is at the end. Yes, I know memorizing phrases is bad, but that’s what they want me to do, so that’s what I teach.

Other than that, I’ve started up my regular chat again with my wife everyday in Japanese. This has really helped me to be able to talk about daily activities and practice some vocabulary. I usually set a goal or task for myself every day. For example, try to explain how to do something at work, or try to tell a story or just relay a news article that I read in English.

I’ve also been continuing to do my reading and adding words to my memrise word list. I’ve almost finished the first book I was going through and I hope to tackle one more before the N2 results come back.

In case anyone was wondering December test results should be back somewhere in mid-February. I think last year they were printed on Jan 31st and then sent out a week later around Feb 7th or so. That’s for here in Japan. In my experience, other countries with the July test will get a week later than that and countries without a July test (like the States) will get it in mid-March. Be sure to check the organization’s website that conducts it in your area for more info.

Be SMART about your New Years Resolutions

I hesitated for a few weeks to write up a blog post about setting or making resolutions. I feel like this sometimes gets a bit overdone. Some people get so focused on setting goals that they forget to actually do something to achieve those goals, so I almost skipped the topic entirely.

I personally think that you need to be thinking about your goals on a regular basis and adjusting them from time to time to fit your needs as well as your strengths and weaknesses. However, this does seem like a pretty good time to set some goals considering we will be getting our test results back here in a few weeks.


So I used to be a lot of people in that I set pretty ambiguous goals for myself like ‘speak faster’ or ‘learn more vocabulary words’. I got a little bit of a boost when I learned about the JLPT and was able to really set a solid goal for myself with a test, but even that has its problems because the N2 can be quite an ordeal that takes a lot more time than some of the other levels.

It became more important to set smaller goals that I could achieve in order for me to keep my language studies progressing forward. So, I started to set more solid goals for myself. One system that I came across when learning how to set goals was the SMART way of setting goals. Each letter stands for something you should be keep in mind when you set a goal.

S – Specific

The goal you set should be pretty specific. Do you want to work on vocabulary or kanji? Grammar or listening? Ask yourself: Have I stated the goal clear for me to know exactly what it is I’m trying to achieve.

GOOD – ‘be able to score above 50% on a listening practice test.’
BAD – ‘become better at Japanese.’

M – Measurable

Is there some kind of metric for you to see how close or far away you are from your goal? Is there someway for you to clearly see your progress? Ideally this should be an automatic system that you don’t have to do anything with like Anki, or memrise, or working your way through a drill book.

GOOD – ‘Learn 20 new words a day on average.’
BAD – ‘Learn some vocabulary.’

A – Achievable

Let’s be a little realistic here. You aren’t superman. You are going to have to be realistic about the goals you want to achieve. Take in to consideration holidays, family time, and just times when you are going to be burn out and want to veg out on the sofa.

GOOD – ‘Pass N5 in one year after starting to study Japanese.’
BAD – ‘Pass N1 in one year after starting to study Japanese.’

R – Relevant

Is this goal going to benefit you and your life? Learning all the Japanese curse words so you can trash talk to your Japanese friends is fun and all, but is it going to help you achieve your goals? Is it going to really get you to where you want to go with the language?

GOOD – ‘Pass N2 and get a job in IT in Japan.’
BAD – ‘Learn how to talk dirty in Japanese.’ (Unless, you are in the adult entertainment industry, this might not be relevant to your life goals.)

T – Time Specific

This last one is incredibly important. Setting a time limit on your goal will help you pace yourself and get an idea of how close to your target you are. Your studying will expand to meet this limit and you’ll just naturally find ways to make it more efficient and stay on task.

GOOD – ‘Finish my New Kanzen Master N2 Grammar Book by May.’
BAD – ‘Finish my New Kanzen Master N2 Grammar Book as soon as I can.’

What is your goal?

How about you? What is your SMART goal for 2012? Let me know in the comments.

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Music by Kevin MacLeod Photo by Thomas Duesling

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • avlor February 1, 2012, 3:02 pm

    I was floundering, trying to figure out how to go through all of my study books for the N5 before December. Your post inspired me to figure out a schedule for going through my set of study books. Thanks!

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