New Year's Resolutions For ELLs

We’re in our last month of 2017 and about to enter 2018. With this transition into the new year, a lot of people begin to think about setting resolutions. Most resolutions are goals to improve one’s life and are centered on finances, health, and happiness of some sort. That doesn’t mean you can’t set one for English learning though. Make 2018 the year you quickly progress in English language learning!

1. Set a Clear Goal

The keyword here is clear. One mistake that people who fail at setting resolutions, or goals in general, is that they’re not intentional and clear. So many goals end up being vague which just sets the path for quick failure and disappointment. I want to lose weight is a great example. Losing weight is a great goal, but to make it more specific, a better one would be “I want to lose 20 pounds.” That way, you know exactly how much weight you are expecting yourself to lose.

2. Set Limits

Years are long, it’s easy to put off doing something to next week or next month when you give yourself too long to accomplish something. Most goals are achievable in much less than 12 months. Giving yourself 2-3 months to achieve something is quite reasonable - “I want to lose 20 pounds in 2 months.” Having a time limit allows you to stay hyper-focused for a few months, naturally forming new habits, setting new goals throughout the year, and revisiting goals as needed to get new motivation.

3. Define Your WHY

That is, why would you like to achieve this goal and how will it make you or your life better? This is something you should answer before moving forward. Think long and hard (if you have to) because defining your why is a huge part of setting yourself up for resolution success! It’s also important to be conscious of why you’re doing something for conversational reasons. If you say that your resolution is to lose 20 pounds and someone asks you why you don’t want to not have an answer for that or just answer with “because…” Instead, answer this for yourself long before anyone else asks you - “I want to lose 20 pounds in 2 months so I can live a long and healthy life with my children.” Attaching a reason to a goal makes it more personal and you will be more likely to succeed.

4. Make a Plan

Now that you’ve answered the why you need to figure out the how. This is where the plan that you’ll set to make your goal happen. These are the small changes that you’re going to have to make in your life in order to achieve your goal. You’ve probably heard something like this before - a goal without a plan is just a wish. It’s true, so make your plan! “I want to lose 20 pounds in 2 months so I can live a long and healthy life with my children. I will do this by cutting out sweets and white carbohydrates, eating a vegetable at every meal, and walking 2 miles a day.”

5. Write it Down

Write your goal down so that you can see it often and revisit it. That way, the goal remains relevant and on your mind, reducing the change that you’d forget what your goal even is.  Use a simple chart to be sure that you do each step.

Clear Goal

Time Limit



I want to lose 20 pounds

2 months

so I can live a long and healthy life with my children.

- cut out sweets and white carbohydrates

- eat vegetables at every meal

- walk 2 miles/day


Here are some language-focused new year’s resolutions to help get you started.

Clear Goal

Time Limit



I want to be able to listen to spoken English

3 months

so I can have more productive conversations

- find some English podcasts to listen to, take notes, and talk about them with friends

- listen for at least 15 minutes/day

- listen to English music, looking up lyrics as needed

- talk about and share the song with friends

- study one English song/week

I want to be able to have a conversation in English

3 months

so that I can feel more comfortable about going to English speaking places and travel more

- find a friend willing to practice with

- have at least one full English-only conversation/day

- join a local English meetup club (if possible)

- write conversation scripts on different topics and practice memorizing and saying them out loud

I want to understand present progressive better

1 month

so that I can be more confident when speaking and writing

- get a grammar book

- take a class

- watch YouTube videos

- create a grammar chart

- intentionally practice saying something as I’m doing it in my head e.g., I’m brushing my teeth, I’m cooking dinner, I’m watching TV

I want to learn more complex words

3 months

so that I sound more educated

- sign up for a “word of the day”

- practice using the word at least 3 times in a day

- use a thesaurus to look up more complex words of the same meaning

These are just some examples of achievable resolutions, but each resolution that you set should be your own and personal to you.


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