A New Year’s Resolution is a tradition most commonly encountered in the Western World, though not completely missing from the Eastern World as well. Often marking the beginning of the calendar year, this statement often reflects a promise to ourselves, made loudly enough for our friends and family to hold us accountable when we (inevitably in some cases) stop going to the gym despite purchasing the annual membership just about a month before.
It is all about continuing good practices, resolving to quit a bad habit, promising to improve something in ourselves or setting a goal to accomplish. With the ancient Babylonians being most likely the first to make New Year’s resolutions about 4.000 years ago, and the Romans promising Janus (the two-faced god who lent his name to the month of January) not to misbehave, this tradition has been around for a very long time.
We even come across this custom in the Middle Ages, when Medieval knights would renew their vow to chivalry and to upkeeping their knightly values by placing their hands on a peacock (the Peacock Vow). Of course, in our modern day and age, many of us common folk do enjoy making these promises as well as blatantly breaking them by spring.
A Boston newspaper from 1813 featured the first recorded use of the phrase “New Year resolution”:
“And yet, I believe there are multitudes of people, accustomed to receive injunctions of new year resolutions, who will sin all the month of December, with a serious determination of beginning the new year with new resolutions and new behavior, and with the full belief that they shall thus expiate and wipe away all their former faults.”
A survey released by Retailmenot.com found that the top seven resolutions for 2022 were:
- Exercising more (35%)
- Saving money (44%)
- Paying off debt (27%)
- Losing weight (30%)
- Spending more time with family (28%)
- Travel (19%)
- Reduce stress (22%)
It is notable that quitting unhealthy habits like smoking, which used to top New Year lists, have fallen in popularity throughout the years as societal norms and people’s health-awareness have shifted. However, some others are still topping the charts, as seen in comparison with this 1947 Gallup poll:
- Improve my disposition, be more understanding, control my temper
- Improve my character, live a better life
- Stop smoking, smoke less
- Save more money
- Stop drinking, drink less
- Be more religious, go to church more often
- Be more efficient, do a better job
- Take better care of my health
- Take greater part in home life
- Lose (or gain) weight
It is interesting to see that self improvement and improving efficiency was already a priority back then. Since then, setting self improvement and training resolution goals has gained considerable ground. Learning a new skill seems to be scoring fourth in many resolution lists and no least learning a new language or improving an existing one seems high in our wish list.
Should you decide to include a new language in your list of self-improvement goals for the new year, there are some key elements to take into consideration:
- Approaching your target with a realistic mindset. Setting multiple and achievable learning milestones throughout the coming year.
- Adding fun activities to your schedule that will help you immerse yourself in the language, e.g. taking up a new show or podcast series in the language you are learning, with a subject you are actually interested in
- Integrating the language into your existing hobbies, e.g. listening to an audiobook in the language you are learning while you are working out at the gym
- Being consistent; making this new language a part of your daily routine
- Do not be too strict with yourself, aim to get your message across successfully at first. You can focus on syntax and grammar as time progresses.
- Find an experienced trainer or speaking buddy to practice speaking with; join a speaking club or community of other learners and exchange resources
Nobody can fault us for setting self-improvement goals in the beginning of a new year, as it is absolutely natural and human to seek self-fulfillment and realization of our aspirations. Whether we choose to keep these resolutions clandestine or put them out there for the world to hear, it is nonetheless beautiful to know that people continue to care and hope for something better in life.
And if that gym membership expires without us having achieved our goals, at least no peacocks were harmed in the making of our vows…
Written by Evelin D., LTES Teacher