Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
learn English how

Is it easy for you to measure your own progress in English?

When you have a goal, are you too hard on yourself or can you easily see and evaluate your own results?

We look at various ways to measure our progress, particularly when it comes to learning English.

We’re going to look at some tips you can use to measure your own progress, why it’s important, and how you can make this all work to reach your goals faster.

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You Never Want To Be Too Hard On Yourself

You see it all the time that people tend to be too hard on themselves.

Perhaps you have lived through this
yourself, and you have come up short or felt frustrated when you didn’t meet a

You want to measure your progress to
stay on track, but you also want to be sure that you are setting realistic

Lindsay recently had an experience
speaking with a student, Luis from Chile, and it’s very easy to relate to this
when it comes to measuring progress.

When Lindsay talked to Luis from
Chile he was working in New York City.

At work his colleagues had a certain
expectation of him to speak English.

By the end of the workweek he would
feel great with his English, and he was into a new rhythm but then the weekend
would come.

He would spend the whole weekend
with his wife who only speaks Spanish, and so he would regress a bit in his
English speaking.

He would go back to work on Monday
feeling rusty, and then he would have to start the process all over again.

This is a situation that you may
very well be able to relate to, as can many of the listeners.

So the question becomes how often do
you actually measure your progress with something like this?

If you look at a story like that of Luis, he came to the US in 2016.

One thing he could do is record a conversation he had on January 1st of each year.

He could have someone else listen to the recording and score it.

This is a great way to note the progress that he’s making year to year.

This may work for him, or he may have a much better way to measure his progress year to year or even month to month.

Perhaps that’s not the best tactic for you though–and this is where you have to come up with your own measures.

You may wish to measure the number of in depth conversations you have in English each quarter.

If you are actively doing something like that, then the improvement will actually take care of itself.

You do need measures so that you can see what type of progress you are making.

However this is going to be a personal thing, and some tactics or activities that you are a part of everyday may help you to get the work done.

We All Measure Our Progress Differently

Measuring progress is personal for everyone.

Measuring progress is personal for
everyone but extremely helpful.

It can be about many more things in
your life than learning a language.

Though this is where we tend to
focus the most right now, measuring progress carries over into every other area
of your life more than likely.

We’ve talked about overcoming
setbacks before, such as on Episode 1343: Tips On How To Prime Your Mind So
That You Don’t Freeze Up In English.

Now it’s about setting goals so that
you can become proactive, so that you can stay ahead of the obstacles.

Setting up goals and then revisiting
them helps you to actually measure your progress in these areas.

No matter what you are trying to do,
you want to be diligent about measuring your progress.

It helps you to see what’s working,
what’s not, and then switch things up accordingly.

This might make you think of how
often people weigh themselves for example.

If you have a friend who is dieting
and they weigh themselves every single day, you may hear them getting

If the weight goes up even by a
small amount each day it’s easy to get frustrated.

The reality is though that water
weight can factor in and your weight may just fluctuate more than you realize.

So while you may want to weigh
yourself to measure your progress when you are dieting, you want to be
realistic about how often this is.

This sort of thought process can
carry over to so many other areas of your life.

You want to set goals and check back
on them in a given time, for that’s how you measure progress.

You just want to be sure that you’re
not trying to evaluate or measure that progress too little or too much.

As with anything, it’s all about balance!

Looking At This In All Areas of Your Life

There are so many areas of your life that you can and should measure your progress.

This is where it becomes very
personal and where you have to determine where this exercise can become helpful
in your life.

What are some other potential areas
in your own life where you can measure progress?

  • Progress with learning an instrument: You have to practice to get better at it. You want to set goals and measure your progress. You can’t practice all day everyday, nor should you measure your progress constantly either. So you need to find that balance and revisit every so often to see how it’s going.
  • Progress with working out and building muscles: This is something that so many of us set out to do. You may want to lose weight, gain muscle, or just get in better shape. You won’t measure that progress every day, but if you check in on it every once in awhile it works well. Eventually you will be shocked at the progress you’ve made.
  • Progress with work: Perhaps you want to get a promotion or move to a different area or job. Set goals for yourself to lead you down that path. Then take the time to see how that’s going and how you are doing. You can then switch things up if they aren’t working for you.
  • Progress with stopping a habit: Maybe you want to quit smoking for example. You know that your end goal is to be done with this bad habit. You need to give yourself a certain time table to work towards that end goal. Then you have to do things along the way to get there such as smoke less each day. Then you have to measure your progress to see how it’s going until you eventually are done with this bad habit for good.

Think of all of the areas of your
life and how measuring progress may help.

It may be about starting or sticking
with a new skill.

It may be about trying to do
something to improve yourself.

Whatever it is in your life that you want to improve upon, get rid of, or do a better job with, measuring progress will become essential.

Two Steps Forward One Step Back

You might say with any of these things that you are “getting rusty” when it comes to a given skill you have had.

So this is a good time to look at Luis and his story because it helps here.

He feels good about his English during the week, and then gets rusty over the weekend.

You can likely relate to this, and it can be very frustrating because you may feel like your progress comes to a standstill.

The reality is that progress can be seen as “two steps forward, one step back”.

It is not linear, which is to say that sometimes you go up and then you may come back down a bit.

This is a part of it and how it all works, and so you have to recognize that going into it.

When someone is dieting or stopping a habit, it is easy to get frustrated when you “mess up.”

It is however important not to be too hard on yourself.

You are going to take steps forward, but then you can easily take steps back too.

It’s a natural part of the process, and nothing you should be hard on yourself about.

If you’re like a lot of students you may feel as if you hit a “plateau” in English.

This is easy to feel especially at this level, and it’s all very natural to feel this way.

You have to remind yourself that you may feel as if these plateaus happen, but it’s all in how you push forward.

You don’t want to give up when you feel stuck, you have to remind yourself to keep going and move past this temporary setback.

Helpful Tips For Measuring Progress

Though it can be a personal journey and process, there are some helpful ways to measure your progress.

You can apply these to learning and mastering English, but then you can carry some of them out to other areas of your life.

If your goal is to become better at understanding and speaking English, these tips can really help you to focus on that.

  1. Record yourself on January 1 of each year: Maybe you take this a step further and record yourself every few months. Don’t worry so much about recording yourself on a day to day basis. Compare these recordings to see the true progress. Have a friend score your recording each time you do it. Though you may feel funny at first, it may be easier for them to hear the progress because we are hard on ourselves.
  2. Measure the number of in depth conversations you have every quarter/year: Have a journal where you make note of these and what they were about. You will see this grow if you are diligent about tracking this and reviewing it. The truth is if you always have this in mind that you want to add to this journal, progress will come automatically. This gives you something tangible to look at and measure, and regular reviews are an important part of this.
  3. Have goals for comprehension: These goals are very personal and so you have to make them your own. It may be that you want to understand more of a TV show, book, or movie. It may be that you have a goal that by a certain point you will understand a certain percent more than you did. This goal is yours to determine in terms of timing, so it may be by next year or within a few months. Watch the same show or read an article and mark down in a journal what percent you understood. Revisit this next year/quarter and see how much you understand now. This is bound to change if you are focused on your goals and truly take the time to measure your progress.
  4. Have a goal to decrease subtitles (if you use them) by a certain amount by a certain point: Though subtitles can be very helpful as you are just starting to learn English, you don’t want to use them forever. Write down a goal to use subtitles a little less at a time. Eventually you will get to a point where you don’t use them much at all. Take your time to ease into this so that it doesn’t get too overwhelming. You’ll be amazed at how you can ease off of them over time though.
  5. Mark down the amount of activities you do which are mainly in English: Every time you try something new where English is the main language, write it down. Take the time to write down a few new words you learned and tried to use. When you center your activities around using English, it starts to become more natural to you. Eventually you will just perform the activities using English, but you have to give yourself time to get there.

These tips can help you to measure your progress as you aim to become stronger in English.

These are very detailed and specific goals, and they will help you along the way.

Think of how you can use these goals in other areas of your life, or how you can come up with specific goals to help you in other places.

Some Helpful Vocabulary Words

You might be surprised at just how many vocabulary words come out of this area.

These words are phrases are used often to describe your progress or the way that you measure it.

Try to keep in mind that sometimes we are harder on ourselves than anybody else ever could be.

These words and phrases can be very helpful in how we talk about measuring our own progress.

  • You are your own worst critic: This means that you are harder on yourself than anybody else. It means that nobody can analyze or criticize your progress more than you do. This is to say that you put a lot of pressure on yourself or that you have a high standard for yourself.
  • Rusty: This means that you may have to brush up on your skills a bit. It may mean that you used to be good at something or more diligent about working on something. Over time you may have lost that skill or you just haven’t revisited it in awhile. If you give yourself some time and effort, you may be able to get better at that skill again.
  • Hard on oneself: This is along the same lines as saying you are your own worst critic. It means that you challenge yourself or you make things difficult for yourself, even when you may not have to. You may set unrealistic expectations or you may feel as if you will never get to where you want to be. This can be good to challenge yourself, but it can also be bad if you push yourself too hard or set unrealistic expectations.

The way that you talk about measuring your own progress is important.

This is something that we all do in our lives, and so you want to know how to talk about it.

This can lead to great connections since it’s something that we all do from throughout our lives.


It is so hard to measure our own progress, this is particularly true with learning a language.

It can be so hard for you to measure your progress in so many other things in your life though too.

We are truly our own worst critics and that can be a challenge in and of itself.

You want to challenge yourself and keep your tangible goals before you, but you also don’t want to set unrealistic expectations.

Try these tips and don’t worry if you fall back sometimes because that’s natural and happens to all of us.

If you have to, take larger time periods and measure yourself in a way that works for you.

The key is to set tangible goals for yourself and then revisit these frequently so that you are able to measure your progress accordingly.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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