Advanced Learning Partnership
Accountability Partner: Who’s with you?
You want to improve your English but can’t get going on your own? Then you probably know this thought:
“Maybe I need a tandem partner or an app or something.”
You can’t do it alone, so you need help to keep at it. And when it comes to language learning, that means classes, an app, or a tandem partner – right? Well, yeah. Partially. Maybe. It depends. The magic word is “accountability”: your commitment to do something or not do something. And accountability partners help you do it. Also in learning English. I’ll show you how accountability partnerships work and what you should think about before looking for partners. I’ll also give you examples of accountability relationship variations. This way you can find out why it might not have worked out with your last tandem partner and whether your new best accountability buddy could be FC Bayern.
What is “Accountability”?
Accountability means “accountability”, “responsibility” and “self-responsibility”. An accountability partner helps you – roughly speaking – to keep your commitments to yourself.
Why do you need an accountability relationship?
You have decided to practice English regularly. You have a study plan and you get started. But after a few days, it gets difficult. Or boring. You don’t know if you’re making progress and wonder what the point of it all is. It’s not enjoyable, but it’s not surprising either. Motivating yourself is difficult. Especially when an action is effortful or when it doesn’t lead to visible results quickly. That’s the case with sports, where muscle mass doesn’t sprout immediately, but it’s also the case with learning English. So you start to slack off. And what happens? Nothing. And that’s it. That’s the sad story of gym memberships, app purchases, smoothie makers, and magazine subscriptions.
What do accountability partnerships change?
- You’re not alone anymore. It doesn’t matter if you get ahead. Someone is watching.
- You’re sharing your decision with others, giving it greater value.
- You practice setting SMART goals, goals that are Specific (S), measurable (M), feasible (A = achievable), relevant (R) and time-bound (T) are. What do you want to do, when, and why? How do you show that you have done it? Half-heartedly reading through vocabulary lists to learn “all the words” is not SMART. A SMART goal would be: I want to get fit for small talk. As part of my strategy, I take one (A) typical expression (R) every day (T) and use it in a sentence (S). I record this sentence with my cell phone (M).
- You are forced to question your strategies. Why is something not working? What can you change?
- You make your progress visible.
- You don’t have to celebrate your successes alone.
What type of relationship are you?
How do you react to the idea of entering into an accountability relationship?
- Yes, that’s exactly what I’m in the mood for – I’d like to get started right away!
- Yes, that’s exactly what I’m in the mood for – I’d like to get started right away!
By all means, keep reading. While I’m describing accountability partnerships in the narrow sense here, I’m also I’ll also give you examples of other ways to bring “accountability” into your English learning. Listen to your first reaction.
What do you need right now?
The following questions will help you find an appropriate accountability relationship:
1. is your “sticking point” in staying on task or in learning English?
Accountability partners help you stay on track, but don’t necessarily know your subject (i.e., English). You focus on the goal at hand: You don’t need to prove how “good” your English will be, just that you’ll keep at it successfully. Or do you need people who understand your particular challenges as an English learner and can also help with content-related questions? Then you need a slightly different accountability relationship. The focus in an accountability partnership is on everyone moving forward with their own goals.
2) How intense do you want the exchange to be: friendly reminder or bootcamp?
Maybe you just want a “nudge” to remind you of your goals? Or binding deadlines so you can get into a routine?
3) How much can you give?
Someone is helping you achieve your goals. What can you give back? Are you willing to be a good accountability partner yourself? Or, hand on heart, don’t you have the attention or time to get involved in other people’s issues? That’s okay, it’s good that you know. Be honest with yourself: How much can you invest in a new collaboration right now?
4. How many resources do you have?
Your attention, time, money… a collaboration always consumes resources. Sure, a coach costs money. But accountability groups aren’t “free” either: you drive somewhere, have a coffee, and maybe pay for babysitters. Get clear on how much you can and want to invest. So much forethought? Yes. Accountability relationships only work when your expectations are compatible. Knowing yourself and your own expectations well can save you frustration – and others, too.
Why tandem partnerships so often go wrong
Tandem partnerships often fail because of incompatible expectations. Imagine that the other person is looking for social contacts and is looking forward to some small talk – and you want to prepare for an exam. If one person is looking for friends and the other is actually looking for a teacher, it’s bound to go wrong. A tandem partnership is an exchange of “time for time.” However, it doesn’t work quite that selfishly in practice – it’s better if you tick similarly and have compatible goals. Agree on a trial period and find out if you tick similarly and have matching expectations.
What all accountability partners should bring to the table
There is no such thing as the ideal accountability partner. But some qualities are indispensable in my opinion:
- Accountability partners want you to succeed. They celebrate with you. You don’t need people who drag you down, belittle your successes, or question your fundamental decisions.
- Accountability partners don’t judge. They are loyal. They are “your team.” Sharing your weaknesses makes you vulnerable. So you need people who are appreciative of you. It doesn’t matter if it’s in person or online.
There are a surprising number of ways to “build” an accountability partnership. You’ve already seen that there are several variables involved.
Variables in an accountability partnership:
Theme: Usually, the focus is on staying on track, and the particular topics are very different. However, there are also variants where the common theme (e.g. English) is the main focus. Attention: How much can you give right now? Are you fully engaged when others talk about their goals? Money: You don’t have much time and know you can’t invest much energy in others right now? Then you may want to invest money instead. Pressure: Is social pressure enough for you? Or do you want to work with “higher stakes” and motivate yourself, for example, with a financial commitment? Find the version of the accountability partnership that suits you.
The Accountability Group: individual, but not alone
This is the “real” Accountability Partnership – a group of 2-10 people who support each other in achieving their goals.
You have specific English goals and need help staying on track. You don’t need content support. You do need: “sparring partners” who will challenge and push you, but also join in the celebration.
Everyone has their own themes. They may or may not be related. What you have in common is the challenge: “I want to do this and follow through.”
Accountability groups arrange regular meetings – this can be once a week, every two weeks, or just once a month.
Meetings usually follow an agreed-upon schedule. Most often, each member gets a set amount of time in the “hot seat” to reflect on their own progress:
- What was the goal?
- Did I achieve it?
- What helped me?
- What caused me to stumble?
- What support do I need?
- What is my next goal?
Dealing in the group
The basic prerequisite should be that people deal with each other in an appreciative, loyal and non-judgmental manner. Everyone is equally important. Every goal is valuable.
- You practice setting goals. You want to “somehow write better emails”? Then the group challenges you to “get specific.” Want to create a workbook of expressions for specific occasions? Write at least four emails a week in English?
- You take responsibility for your goal. After all, it’s awkward to have to say in front of the group: I didn’t do anything.
- You can tackle your challenges in a protected environment. If something doesn’t work out, the group helps you to find out what the problem is and what you could change.
- You gain an outside perspective – on your own challenges, but also on those of others. You’ll also recognize your own strengths as you mentor others. Maybe you ask great questions, can summarize things in a great way or open up unusual perspectives. This helps others, but also yourself.
- You make successes visible and celebrate them. Think things aren’t progressing? The others remind you how well you’re progressing on your path and what hurdles you’ve already overcome.
If it just took you an hour to write an English email, you’ll quickly forget how great your last presentation was. The others remind you of your successes when you feel like you’re just treading water.
Advanced variation: Accountability group in English
So, how have you been getting on? Of course, this can also be done in English.
I would only recommend this form to advanced students who need a little extra pressure or a bigger challenge.
Everyone has an individual topic. The group helps to achieve their own goals.
The most important thing here is to treat each other in a respectful and non-judgmental manner. This also includes agreeing on how you want to deal with the linguistic challenge:
- How can you ensure that everyone listens attentively to the content and is not distracted by missing vocabulary or language errors?
- Do you decide not to give any linguistic feedback at all and just use English?
- Do you designate one person to note where there are hangs or ambiguities, while the others just pay attention to the content? You can then discuss uncertainties afterwards. This sounds a little scary, but it can help you stay in the flow of your speech: You practice talking over mistakes (“What was that word again? Oh, never mind, we’ll do that later”). At the same time, questions about language don’t just “disappear.”
- Do you establish certain ways of speaking that you always use?
Question whether your approach is working. You may challenge yourself, of course, but you should feel confident. And please don’t lose sight of the actual purpose of the meeting – it’s about the goals you are pursuing individually. If at some point you realize that it’s all about “meeting language” or small talk, you should take another look at how to proceed in an accountability group.
This variation is very intense because you invest a lot of attention and, of course, make yourself vulnerable. Openness to the mistakes of others is as much a part of this as openness to your own mistakes.
- In such a group you have the opportunity to practice your English in a realistic setting with a real content – you use the language instead of “just” learning it.
- At the same time, you have the advantages of a “normal” accountability group: the content is still about your progress with your individual goals.
- The flow of an accountability meeting is predictable and you can practice phrases with specific functions. Talking about targets and progress, discussing challenges, making recommendations … These are great skills, of course.
- Recognizing strengths and tolerating weaknesses: If you have to deal a lot with native speakers or very competent speakers in your job, it can be difficult to acknowledge your own strengths. In the group, you’ll notice what works well for you and what challenges the others have. The more normal the flow becomes, the more relaxed you’ll be about hang-ups: “Oh, that wouldn’t have bothered me at all.”
- Small talk: this can become a fixed part of the meeting, as an introduction for a certain time or even after the actual topics have been discussed.
Variations: “Accountability” can also look like this
You both work on your English or even do the same course. You are then accountability partners and learning partners at the same time. At the meetings, you deepen content, clarify questions, and set new goals.
This is a good solution if you want to focus exclusively on your goals. Of course, you’re investing money in return – but that’s also the reason people without great athletic ambitions hire personal trainers. What hurts a little financially, you pull through. A coach also formulates goals with you, recommends strategies, gives feedback, and finds solutions when things aren’t going well. Some coaches even offer to write you daily reminders and tips via email or messenger service. By the way, there are also accountability-only coaches who will help you stick with it, but not with English learning per se.
Accountability on time: the challenge
You’ve probably seen this on social media. You find a goal, make it public, decide what kind of evidence you’ll post, and off you go. 30 English expressions in 30 days. 5 mini-videos in a week. But beware: people on social media don’t care about your success, and you can’t influence their reactions. Maybe share your challenge only with close friends or in a specific group.
“Light touch” accountability
No time for sharing? Find people who feel the same way. You share your goals with each other and agree to send each other daily (or once a week) proof via email or Messenger. Want to read English blog articles? Send the title. Practice vocabulary? Send a sentence with the target vocabulary. You don’t even look at the evidence much, but send a thumbs up – it’s about keeping at it, not quality control. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
Virtual accountability partners
Yes, of course there is an app for that. In fact, there’s more than one. You enter your goal and feed the app with data. The trick: You can enter your credit card number. If you miss your target, money is transferred to a target of your choice: friends, enemies, charities, political associations, your soccer club – or the opposing team. You can get creative.
Where can you find your accountability partners?
Here, too, the unexpected often happens. In your circle of acquaintances, you’ll hear surprisingly often that someone is struggling to stick to a new routine. In Facebook groups, too, the topic comes up again and again – both in groups for English language learners and in other interest groups. As I said, you don’t have to have the same issue. Or you can ask in the online neighborhood forum. Or among friends. One caveat: Accountability partnerships with friends and family can work out. But they can also go very wrong. You know your loved ones best.
Now I’m curious:
- Do you have experience with accountability partners?
- What went well? What didn’t?
- How did you find your partners?
- Who motivates you to keep at it?
Write me in the comments! by Christoph Gollub Mastering foreign languages is interesting and rewarding: you come into contact with people more easily on your travels and learn about the culture of the country much faster. In addition, you will be able to find your way around quickly. For example, you can read and understand menus, signs, information boards or newspapers. Now, learning a language all on your own with a multimedia language course or a textbook requires a great deal of discipline. But why not bring on board as a learning partner the person closest to you, with whom you can exchange information every day about your joint learning progress? Central: a shared interest in learning the language The most important thing, of course, is that you both have a shared interest in the language, as well as the motivation and desire to learn it. A common upcoming trip for which you both want to acquire knowledge of the language spoken there can be motivating. Or, of course, if you have a particular soft spot for a certain country and its language. Or perhaps you have friends or relatives who come from that country and with whom you would like to converse in their native language. Of course, your motives may be different – perhaps you personally have a professional interest in the language and your partner has a more private one. You often travel to the country on business or would like to move there for a period of time to further your professional development, while your partner is more interested in the country and culture. What unites you, however, is the mutual desire to learn the language. If you both really want to learn the language, you should think about how you can best achieve this and what your goals are. A common goal could be that you have a basic vocabulary and grammatical knowledge by the time you go on vacation together. With these you can communicate in the country to such an extent that you do not have to switch to another foreign language (e.g. English) and still manage without any problems. To achieve this goal, set a schedule for when you want to learn, such as three specific days of the week for 45 minutes each. Create opportunities to use the foreign language Motivate each other and arrange opportunities during the week to speak and listen to the language outside of the language class. For example, you can use your Sunday breakfast to communicate with each other exclusively in the foreign language or to share your progress or any language learning problems you may have. This way, you can not only learn something from your partner, such as different learning strategies, but also support them in their learning success. If you have friends who also speak the foreign language or are currently learning it, get together with them and agree that for once you will not talk in German, but only use the foreign language. Your foreign language skills don’t have to be “perfect” yet, you can quickly ask for missing vocabulary or phrases and learn them in an authentic situation. Read books, newspapers, articles or travel guides in the foreign language with your partner – whether on paper or online. This way, you not only train your vocabulary and text comprehension together, but also learn a lot of interesting facts about the country you want to visit as a side effect. You can also listen to a variety of radio stations from your travel destination from home via the Internet. Here you not only listen to music typical of the country, but also get a feel for the correct pronunciation, speech melody and characteristic idioms at the same time. You can find a selection of around 3,000 international online radio stations on the Surfmusik web portal, for example. If you are both learning the same foreign language, you will also enjoy watching films in the foreign language together on DVD. Cinemas in larger cities often offer films in the original language – perhaps in the language you are learning. Preparing a typical meal from the country whose language you are learning will also motivate your learning. If you don’t want to cook yourself, you can reward yourself after a week of learning by going to a restaurant in your city that offers the cuisine of that country. You can order your favorite dish in the foreign language, if you wish, and you may even strike up a conversation with the waiter or other patrons in the restaurant. If you wish, you can also form a so-called learning tandem with another couple who is just learning German and speaks the language you are just learning as your mother tongue. In this case, you support the couple in the acquisition of the German language, while they assist you with the foreign language. The concept of the learning tandem is also presented on this blog in a separate, detailed article. We wish you much success and, of course, a lot of fun learning the language together with your partner Your editorial team from Sprachenlernen24 Advanced Learning Partnership.
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