Reflection. The word comes to the English language from the Latin reflectere meaning “to bend back.” When you look in a mirror, light bends back towards you and with a little magic behind the glass, you see an exact image of yourself. Another way to use this word is to give “unhurried consideration of something recalled to mind.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reflect) In just a few short weeks, we will once again enter the holiday season which culminates with shouts of HAPPY NEW YEAR! The rush of shopping, traveling, and eating our way to 2022 is upon us; the time to begin “unhurried consideration” of your English language journey is right now.
Begin with reflecting on how far you’ve come, how much you’ve achieved and celebrate that success!!! Unlike looking in a mirror, English language acquisition can be difficult to assess accurately, so be sure to not sell yourself short. If your English language journey recently started, give yourself credit for taking that first step…it is often the hardest. If one year ago you were not yet ready to speak and only listened to native speakers, and now you say, “Hi!” to the grocery store clerk, then you have made significant progress…give yourself credit for that, too. If a year ago you were using the word “to” before every verb and now you don’t, then you have come a long way. These milestones may appear to be insignificant to you, but if you could see them in a mirror, they would be huge.
Let reflection be your launching point. Having considered your journey to this point, it’s an excellent moment to plan next steps. Where do I go from here? Am I getting enough quality instruction? Am I spending enough time on this goal? As a framework for planning, you might consider an exercise called STOP.START.CONTINUE. As the name implies, there are three steps. First, determine which things you need to STOP doing…what habits are getting in the way of my goal? Answers will vary, but they might include:
- Using my heritage language every chance I get
- Listening to poor quality English
- Using a textbook in which someone else has already done the exercises
Second, ask yourself what things I could START doing that would propel me towards my goal, such as:
- Listen to a Ted Talks once a week.
- Go further, and use the Ted Talks transcript to study vocabulary
- Expand my vocabulary with ‘word-a-day’ strategy
- Conjugate one English verb in all cases once per week
- Keep a daily journal in English (start small…just three sentences)
Third, consider what things are working that you should CONTINUE doing…and keep on doing them.
Reflection is good, however, it won’t get you any further if you don’t have an action plan. The exercise of reflecting is like looking in the rearview mirror in your car – looking forward through the windshield is how you keep your car on the road. It’s time to be looking forward to 2022 and choosing the road you want to be on when it arrives.