Clearthelist September 2017 – Time for a change!

This month’s #clearthelist will be a bit different from the rest. While I was thinking about what to write and what to plan I had a revelation, so things will change a bit for me in September.
August was a time for holidays and reflection after a messy July. I’ve been busy planning work related things and I’ll be even busier doing in September.
I also had the chance to assess where I am with Swedish – more of it in a moment.
Finally, I failed badly at my Japanese August on Instagram. No big deal.
Alright, let’s start!

Where am I with Swedish?

I’ve been studying Swedish now for about one year, at first very casually. Since January I’ve been more consistent, but I haven’t studied intensively at any point.
I am now at the point where I understand what’s going on with the language. How did I find out?
First of all, I recently tried and reviewed Interlinear Books. It gave me the chance to strengthen my self-confidence when reading, as I managed to read a real novel without too much struggle and using the translation only occasionally.
Second, I spent a week in Sweden and this gave me a clear idea of my strengths and weaknesses. On the positive side, I can follow a casual conversation between natives without many problems. On the negative, I still cannot answer promptly and interact effectively. I still speak slowly and need to rehearse a sentence in my head before being ready to say it.
Despite that, I surprised myself by actually using Swedish every time I could in shops, bars and restaurants. I was afraid everyone would immediately switch to English, but no one did! So yay for trying!

Tomorrow I’m off to Stockholm again for the wedding I wrote about a few months ago and I am shamefully unprepared. Still, it’s good to know that I can tell people to go ahead and speak Swedish because I understand what they say. Maybe I won’t charm them with my language skills, but at least I won’t be a bother! Silver linings…


What about September?

So about the changes I mentioned earlier, the plan for September is that I will have no plan.
I know that this whole Clear the list thing is about sharing goals, so shall I be disqualified maybe?
I’ve been reading a million times about how setting achievable goals is key if you want to learn a language. It’s all over the language learning community and I’ve accepted this fact without questioning it. The truth is I’ve always been a bit of a Bastian contrario, as we say in Italian (Mary Mary quite contrary in English). I’m used to questioning everything, especially if it’s something that doesn’t resonate with me. So while I agree that one should be consistent to make progress, I don’t necessarily feel like goals are a part of the equation for me.

Goals can be great sometimes, but other times they make me feel anxious and constrained. That’s why for September (and possibly longer) I’ll try to go ahead without a study plan and without setting monthly goals. I feel more confident in doing so since I teamed up with Tiia to support each other as study buddies for Swedish. Chatting with her helped me to see things more clearly and to be more forgiving of my failures, which was refreshing.
So this is all for now, in September I’ll stay loose of any commitment. We’ll see in a month how the experiment goes!

Do you think that short-term goals are necessary to successfully learn a language? Have you ever thought of studying without a fixed plan or routine? Let me know what you think, even if you totally disagree with me! πŸ™‚


I’m Elena Gabrielli, introvert, grammar geek & proud Ravenclaw :)
I’m on a journey to help introverts and other quiet learners make language learning into a tool for self-care (and keep anxiety out of it).


  1. dandiprat
    31st August 2017 / 8:55 pm

    I don’t usually set detailed goals. I just decide I’ll try to do as much as I can and still stay sane. Life just gets in the way too much for me to be consistent every month. I work on languages almost every day. Some days I do more than others. I’ve had some success, but nothing phenomenal by doing things this way.
    Glad to hear your Swedish is so good. I think being able to understand people is a huge accomplishment. I find it hard to improve listening skills without also working on speaking skills, but it’s good to see what you have accomplished. And congratulations on finishing a whole book. It’s harder to finish a whole book these days with all the distractions out there even though in theory it should be easier since on ebooks it should be easier to look up unfamiliar words.

    • Elena
      31st August 2017 / 9:12 pm

      “Try to do as much as I can and stay sane” sums up well my plans for the coming month! Sometimes setting goals just adds so much stress to my everyday life. Language learning is a fun and relaxing activity for me, so I don’t need to force myself to do a bit of it everyday.
      I prefer to keep it fun and enjoyable than seeing amazing results in little time.
      I was surprised to understand so much in conversations, but I wouldn’t say my Swedish is good yet… until I can actually take part in the conversation!
      Thank you for your comment and your positive words!

  2. 31st August 2017 / 11:37 pm

    This is too funny, Elena!! My plan for September is the same as yours- there’s no plan!

    I do think short-term / long-term goals are really helpful for language learning… it’s hard for most people to be consistent without goals… but sometimes it’s good to take a break and just give your language learning some space. Plus, that way you’ll have time to fully immerse yourself and enjoy in the moment when you’re in Sweden without needing to hit specific quotas / targets.

    Excited to hear how your plan-free September goes πŸ™‚ Have a great time on your trip!

    • Elena
      5th September 2017 / 9:09 am

      It’s good to know I’m not alone in my no-plan craziness! πŸ™‚

      I agree that goals are useful, but by now I feel like I have established what materials I’m using for my studies, so whenever I have a moment I’ll fit some learning in my days. Also when I travel I really don’t want to feel stressed or guilty because I’m not doing my homework!

      Thank you and have a great September!

  3. 2nd September 2017 / 9:39 pm

    I really like this idea. Sometimes the stress of setting a goal means you achieve less than if you just wing it and hope for the best. I find the most important part of staying motivated is to stay positive and not beat yourself up. Noone is perfect so you shouldn’t expect yourself to be. I tell myself that I may not have done what I wanted but how can I use this to do it better, quicker or sooner next time.
    Good luck with your learning and hope you have a really good September

    • Elena
      5th September 2017 / 9:22 am

      Yep, you got it. For a while I want to focus more on what I am actually doing instead of what I should be doing, so I’ll track my learning day by day. I feel like it might be a better way to feel positive about learning.
      Thank you and good luck to you as well!

  4. 2nd September 2017 / 11:00 pm

    Hello, Elena, I really look forward to seeing how this works out for you and I wish you all the best. Septemeber is going to be a super busy month for me as you will see from my contribution to #clearthelist. Come October I think I might just ‘freestyle’ it too for a month and see how it goes.

    • Elena
      5th September 2017 / 9:33 am

      Hi Trisha!
      Thank you, I hope this new approach works well, I will write an update at the end of the month.
      I hope your September will be a great month, after that you will definitely deserve a more relaxing October. Best of luck for this month!

  5. 3rd September 2017 / 12:18 pm

    Hey! Good luck with your no-goal-plan! It is also hard for me to set direction for my learning. My goals are more like: watch TV, write some sentences every week, read to pages or do one lesson to go ahead in my textbooks. If I don’t set anything, I tend no to do anything…
    I’ll follow how it works for you, I am very curious about your strategy πŸ˜‰

    • Elena
      5th September 2017 / 9:42 am

      Hello! Yes, for me as well it’s a bit like that, let’s say I have very flexible goals, more like “do a little bit every day” but without being rigid.
      Fitting the study into your routine by watching TV, writing or reading is one of the best ways to learn so I hope you’ll do great this month.
      Thank you and good luck with your studies! πŸ™‚

  6. 5th September 2017 / 7:31 pm

    I can relate to this goal setting thing so much! I realised that I worked a lot better in July (despite being super busy) when I had no goals than when I set some! And I enjoyed it so much more! The only difference for the next 3 month will be that I’m actually preparing for JLPT N5. Now, that seems like a pretty serious goal that requires preparing things properly… But other than that, sticking to my routines is so much better for me.
    Best of wishes for September, I hope your experiment with no commitment will go well!

    • Elena
      6th September 2017 / 4:17 pm

      That’s interesting to read, I hope it works like that for me as well. As you said I think that routines work better than goals and one can set a routine even without goals.
      Good luck with N5, I’m sure that if you stick to the method that works best for you, you’ll do great. γƒ‘γƒ³γƒŠγ•γ‚“γ‚‚ι ‘εΌ΅γ£γ¦γγ γ•γ„γ­οΌοΌΎοΌΎ

  7. 7th September 2017 / 5:44 pm

    Go, Elena, our brave rebel! <3 I'm sure you'll do great! πŸ™‚ Goals aren't everything, routine is. I think this is the point of Clear the list – assessing how the things you're doing are working for you and planning, not necessarily detailed activities, but whether you want to do something differently, even if it means that differently = without goals! So no disqualifications, if you ask me πŸ˜‰
    Speak soon!

    • Elena
      7th September 2017 / 10:05 pm

      Hej Tiia! I feel like I’ve experimented a lot with my studies in the past months, and as you said it’s time to experiment some more and see how it goes. So let’s see at the end of the month! Thank you ❀ and enjoy Iceland, talk soon!