Language Learning as a Development Goal for Your Employees

Maren Pauli -unless-

Motivation is crucial for successful learning, but this is often easier said than done. Where does the motivation actually come from? Learning goals often play a decisive role. In this article, you’ll find out how you can help your employees create the right goals from the start. 

“Only those who know their goal will find the path,” according to a quote by the Chinese philosopher Laozi. For language learning, it’s important for you and your employees to set a realistic goal that you want to reach and can reach.

The SMART method can help you formulate strong goals that get results. Each letter in the word “smart” stands for a characteristic that should be part of your learning goal.

S is for specific. Make your goal as specifically as possible so that it’s clear what you want to achieve. “Learn a new language” is a goal, but it’s not very concrete because the desired result and actions toward it aren’t precisely defined.

M is for measurable. Your goal should be measurable so that you can check if you’ve made progress while you’re learning.

A is for achievable. A goal that isn’t achievable won’t motivate – it will just frustrate.

R is for realistic. Take into account the factors that your employees’ learning depends on. That way you can guarantee that the goal is realistic. For example, if you’ve set the goal to learn French in one month from scratch, it’s not realistic – and also not achievable. To keep your employees’ motivated, the goals should be manageable, realistic and achievable.

T is for time-bound. Schedules and deadlines are an essential part of successful learning. It’s easy to lose sight of goals if they’re not part of a fixed schedule.


A SMART goal can be illustrated with an example. Let’s take this potential learning goal: “I want to improve my English and study 15 minutes a day, five days a week. My goal is to talk to customers in English after three months.” What are the advantages of this kind of learning goal? It’s clear and concrete. It’s also time-bound and measurable because the learner can measure their progress in a customer conversation after three months. And it’s realistic and, thereby, achievable.

You can let your employees formulate their own goals or help them by giving examples, so that they can orient themselves. The basic guideline is to stick to quite manageable goals and then scale them up over time. Nothing is as motivating for future goals as achieving the first one. If your employees are learning a new language, the first goal could be for them to introduce themselves in the new language after three weeks. Many learners reach this goal even earlier, which motivates them to work toward a new goal.

Another driver for learning is tying a small reward to the achievement of a goal. How does this work? There are two kinds of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation comes from the outside, like, for example, a punishment when you don’t reach a goal and a reward when you do. Whereas intrinsic motivation comes from within, arising because achieving a particular goal has meaning for you personally. Both kinds of motivation are important and actually serve to reinforce each other. So, while your employees connect with their own personal reasons to learn their new language, you can help by adding some extrinsic motivation, such as a small prize for the most successful learner.

For most effective language learning, aim for sensible goals and realistic timetables right from the start. This way, your employees are very likely to hit those goals and continue on. You might even discover employees who are eager to help support other learners, which will further ensure success. That’s how, together, you and your team will master new languages and blast through your language learning goals.

Find out more about setting up a sustainable language learning culture.Want to integrate successful language learning in your company as well? Download our free e-book on setting up a sustainable language learning culture here.


Maren Pauli, Lead Didactics

Maren is an avid linguist and exploring other cultures through language is particularly important to her. She works at Babbel with her team of language experts and focuses on language-learning solutions for businesses.

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