Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

How Cynthia Achieved Her English Goal in Two Months

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Mon, Dec 03, 2012 @ 12:22 PM

Boston English for Interpreter Program Entrance ExamWhat happens when you set a goal with a specific deadline, find support and accountability for reaching that goal, and focus specifically on turning your weaknesses into strengths?

You might just achieve your goal! That's what Cynthia, one of our students at English and Culture, has done.

Do you have a goal in mind that you would like to achieve this year? What are you doing about that goal? How are you reaching for it?

In today's post, I will tell you how Cynthia achieved her goal of passing the entrance exam for the Boston University Interpreter Program and what you can learn from Cynthia on your own path to achieving your goals and dreams. 



She knew the goal wouldn't be easy to achieve


goals for passing English interpreters exam BostonWhen Cynthia first came to Boston, she spoke very little English. Between 2010 and 2012, she became confident with her English by immersing herself in the English language. She spoke English every day with friends, roommates, and at work.

After a few years in the U.S., she realized that she could use her ability to speak English, combined with her native Spanish language, to become a professional English to Spanish interpreter.

She knew that this was the right path for her, but she also knew that the goal would not be easy to achieve. She had to pass an entrance exam to get into the Boston University Interpreter Program.

Cynthia reached out to us at English and Culture for help preparing for the exam.



Here's why it worked


Cynthia's goal was SMART. If you want to achieve your English goal, make it SMART. What do I mean by that? Keep reading!


specific goals for your English, dartboardSpecific: Cynthia knew exactly what she wanted to accomplish. She needed to pass the entrance exam for the program. We also did a little research to figure out exactly what passing the exam would require.

We knew that she would need to listen to a live conversation in Spanish and intrepret it into English. We also knew that she would need to translate a written text from Spanish into English. We planned our lessons around the specific requirements for the exam.

How about you? When you set your English goals, be as specific as possible about what those goals are. Don't just say, "I will become fluent in English." What is English fluency? What does it really mean? What activities do you need to be able to do to be "fluent"? Write them down and make them your goals.


Measurable: When you are taking an exam, it is easy to measure your results. We were happy to hear soon after the exam that Cynthia had passed and had been accepted into the program.

When you set your goal, make sure that you have a way to measure it. Taking an exam is a great way to do this. If you don't plan to take an exam, find another way to see if you have reached your goal. Would you like to be able to maintain a conversation with a native speaker for 10 minutes without asking them to repeat? Could you strive to successfully deliver a business presentation in English at work on your project?


Achievable: Was passing the exam achievable for Cynthia? When we began, she wasn't sure if choose an achievable goal, runnershe would be able to pass it. However, she kept working hard inside and outside of class and due to that hard work, she passed the test!

When you set your English goals, it's a great idea to stretch yourself and go for a BIG goal. However, in order to maintain your confidence and not give up, you also need to make sure that your goal is actually possible and realistic. Remember, you will be setting many goals later so if you accomplish the first goal, you can set an even bigger one and keep moving forward. Set an achievable goal first to gain confidence.


Relevant: Cynthia's decision to set a goal of passing the exam was very relevant to her life and her career aspirations. She had tried different career paths but had decided that this would be the perfect way to blend her skills and interests and to help people in the community. When it came time to do the daily homework for our class and to stay motivated, because her goal was relevant, she was able to keep moving forward. She had a vision for the future.

What English goal would be relevant for you? Choose English goals that really matter for you, both personally and professionally.


achieve English goals Boston time boundTime-bound: Cynthia's deadline for achieving her goal was November 8th. That was the day of the test.

Having only two months to prepare for the exam actually made it easier to focus only on the skills that were really important for passing the test.

When you set your goal, you must have a deadline! By when will you accomplish your English goal? You can have long-term goals and short-term goals but make sure that each goal is attached to a date or a time.



Three more ingredients for success


Success is not just about setting SMART goals and reaching them. It is about choosing the number 3method that works for you. For some people, that means working with a private English teacher.  Here are three ways that the classes helped Cynthia achieve her goal:

#1) Accountability: When you have a goal that you are reaching for, you need to share it with others. Why? This makes you responsible for achieving that goal. It makes you less likely to give up on yourself. During our classes, Cynthia was held accountable not only for sticking with the goal, but also for completing homework each week and preparing for class by practicing during the week.


#2) Positive Encouragement and Support: Regardless of your English goal, you must surround yourself with support. You need to be learning in a positive atmosphere. If you are taking classes, choose a teacher who makes class fun. You should look forward to each class meeting. There should be laughter. There should also be a sense that it's ok to make a mistake. This kind of classroom environment helped Cynthia to stay motivated.


#3) Targeted Curriculum: When you have a time-bound goal that is relevant to your professional or personal dreams, you don't have time to waste in classes that aren't specifically targeted to your needs. For Cynthia, we created lesson activities based on the grammar points, pronunciation, and vocabulary that needed to be improved. This was simply a more efficient and effective way to help her pass the test. Read more about the curriculum that we used.



What's next?


Quote about Boston English lessonsNow that Cynthia has spent two months preparing for the exam and has passed the exam, she will start training to become an interpreter in early 2013.

At this point, the possibilities are wide open for her career!

She could choose to become a medical or a legal interpreter.

She could start her own business as a freelance interpreter.

She has made her dreams a reality because she made the decision to set a goal and she committed to reaching it!

Congratulations, Cynthia! Thank you for your hard work!




What can you learn from Cynthia? What is your dream and how could English help you achieve that dream? What SMART goals will you set for yourself in 2013? How will you set up a system of people and methods to support you in reaching your goal? 







Photo credit: sleepyjeanie, familymwr, uuuhyeah, Kevin,

Topics: Advice for English Students, How to Learn English, Life in Boston

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