I remember one thing from the study skills class I took in eighth grade, setting goals can be a very valuable effort. They can aid in developing a vision and help you determine a strategy to achieve said vision. Back then, my goals had lower stakes and focused mostly around how I may organize my homework but as I have grown older I have seen the value in goal setting for many aspects of life.
Goal setting can come in handy when raising bilingual children. It can help you develop a road map for how and when to expose them to the target language(s) based on your goals. Identifying the level of bilingualism you want your children to achieve will force you to think through what you need to do to obtain your language goal!
Goal setting is not meant to be rigid but often needs to be
revisited and tweaked over time.
A very common criteria for goal setting is the SMART criteria. The S has always stood for Specific and the M for measurable yet the last three have varied depending on its use. For our purpose, we’ll use the A as attainable, the R as relevant and the T as timely.
If you have kids, you know just how difficult it can be to predict you kid’s behaviors, likes, dislikes, etc. So I am by no means pretending that after you read this blog post you will vigorously brainstorm a plan that, coupled with a lot of hard work on your part and that of your children, will be executed flawlessly and with great success. However, thinking through some of the factors at play in your particular family situation may help you create a manageable road map that can be revisited and tweaked over time.
Let’s take a look at the SMART criteria and see how it may relate to our work as bilingual parents. For each of the different elements, I will walk you through a set list of questions.
Specific – A specific goal has a much higher chance of being accomplished than a vague general one.
You really do want to be as specific as you possibly can in this section. As your children grow and you know more about their strengths and desires, you can probably add even more detail to this criteria. Here are some thought provoking questions to help you define the specifics for your bilingual goals.
– What exactly do you want your children to accomplish in their language journey?
– Do you want your child to be able to [understand, speak, read, and/or write] more than one language? Be as specific as possible here as any one of those four elements can set you on a very different tracks.
– Why is this important? What specific bilingual benefits speak the most to you?
– Who is involved in this task? Are both parents on board? Can extend family and/or friends support the family goals?
Measurable – Keeping track of your progress will incentivize you to keep going or make the necessary adjustments.
Don’t stress out too much about this section. No one is going to grade you on just how well you have raised your children. The way you should approach this criteria is to determine the ways in which you are going to measure and determine if you are on track or not. By setting up check-ins, you can make room to allow for changes along the course of your journey.
– What actions or accomplishments will help you know your children are making progress in the target language?
– What resources can you use that can help you assess language acquisition in your target language?
– What will be the signal that lets you know that your goal is achieved?
Attainable – Your goal should be realistic and achievable.
Pay special attention to this criteria when you are starting out. In a lot of ways, this can really help you determine the beginning of your journey more than any other criteria. You will want to reflect here on how possible and achievable the languages goals that you are setting really are.
– What language strategy will you use to raise bilingual children?
– Do you have the time and resources to follow your plan?
– Do you currently have resources that can support the target language?
– Is your community equipped to support your desired goals?
– Would you be able to send your children to a language school?
– Are there afterschool or extracurricular language activities that your children could attend?
– Do you know of any playgroups geared towards your target language?
Relevant – Identifying goals that are important to you will help you figure out ways to make them come true.
For this criteria, you will want to reflect on how the target language may be useful for your children. In some cases, the cognitive benefits of being bilingual in general may be relevant enough to warrant learning it. For a list of some bilingual benefits, check back for episode 4 with Dr. Brenda Gorman and episode 6 with Dr. Ingrid Piller.
– Why is this goal relevant to my family and I?
– What are some specific situations where knowing a second language may be useful for my child?
– What particular benefits do I think my child may obtain from speaking another language?
– Is this the right time to introduce a new language?
Timely – Time will establish a sense of urgency and prevent language goals to prevail over day to day distractions.
The relevance for this criteria will vary widely based on the individual and the community they are in. You will likely need to break the timely piece of your goal setting into sub-sections. For example, you will need to set different goals for when your child will be able to speak a language versus read the language. If you are just starting out on the journey, determining a time for when your goal can be achieved may seem quite daunting.
You really don’t have to be specific, at least not here! But you do want to determine a rough idea or target range of when you will want language goals for your children to be achieved as this may very well be what drives you to get them accomplished!
And so at the end of the day, it really comes down to one question
– What is your target date or range for achieving the language goals you have set for your children?
I am a firm believer that actions speak louder than words. Now that you have read through the different sections, I want to encourage you to do some goal setting for your family and children. To make things easier, I have developed a simple workbook to help you through each of the sections. You can click here and I will send you a copy.
Start reflecting on each of the questions and categories we discussed and start creating the blue print for your language goals. Take your time through the exercise, goal setting is not done overnight. However, once it is done you can really set yourself up for success with your children.