Our expectations determine our satisfaction

Teaching

Our expectations determine our satisfaction

Being poor is not having too little, it is wanting more.

Seneca

You have it and sometimes you might not even realize it. It becomes a subconscious thing but it’s there and it can wreck havoc on you if you let it. Parents have them even if they don’t speak of it and that is one thing most won’t tell you about parenthood, the realization that no matter how hard you try and work your kids may not meet them a little, a bit or at all….. crushing!

It’s like that for anything really but especially for language learning. It is absolutely critical to keep expectations in check. As is generally the case, they are low and simple at the very beginning of the language learning journey, hence a pleasure, but there is a point we all reach when satisfaction from the effort quickly washes away. What happens? Well, we probably expect a miraculous transformation to take place and suddenly, BAM we are fluent speakers! Ha, not so fast.

Identifying the target

It can be communicating with someone over the phone without misunderstandings or engaging in small talk without hesitation. Here are a few others:

  • Giving a 5-minute presentation without memorizing the whole thing
  • Writing a formal email in less than 5 minutes properly
  • Listening to others speak without major difficulties (accents are unpredictable)
  • Negotiating with someone successfully
  • Resolving conflict with someone successfully
  • Watching a film with lots of dialogue and not needing subtitles(including English ones) 🙂

The list can go on, but each of us needs to identify the ‘target’ that is your expectation. Admittedly, this is easier said than done for some and that is understandable. Here’s a trick, start with what is NOT your target and through process of elimination get there.

Narrow the gap

If the gap between our cravings and rewards is too big then you guessed it, we will be disappointed. It’s why some advise you to not have any expectations at all, that way you won’t be disappointed. The advice is not too off the mark. If what you want is always ahead of what you like then you’re in trouble. So cut it down and make the race even. Satisfaction comes from meeting those expectations. So for language learning this will vary depending on if you are in a classroom or have private lessons.

Either way though the laser focus should be on

accomplishing certain tasks in your language practice, i.e. fluid communication, reduction in pauses to think. That’s achieved by doing the exercises and activities practiced in lessons, how else?

I always advise my students preparing for exams to learn certain language and repeatedly practice those 10 structures in essays and speaking. Once they know them, they can expand from there, but start with the core ten you want first and foremost.

Mastering that limited number at the beginning provides a feeling of pleasure and a craving for more, and now you’ll be ready for the next ten but don’t overwhelm yourself.

Now go get ’em.

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Whatever you do, whatever your job is, there’s a desire to do it better. If it’s not a job than it is a hobby or simply to be a better friend, coworker, person or human being. The desire is real and there’s a craving to satisfy it that is indescribable to most of us. We set boundaries on ourselves, come up with excuses and avoid the question. But no matter how hard anyone of us tries the desire to improve remains and will never vanish.

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