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METT-T: military planning as applied to managing your language learning!

Greetings! I was looking over the site this evening and realized that—OOPS!—I had just plain forgotten to write this article that I promised several months ago! Here it is—how to apply the same military planning considerations that I learned many years ago as a US Army Infantry officer to your language planning. My apologies to any current Army doctrine-writers, as the acronym METT-T’s initials have changed from time to time and I’m not sure if this is the Army’s latest version. No big deal for your purposes, though!

​This is what METT-T is, as I recall it from The Good Old Days, stands for:

Terrain, weather,
Troops and
Time available.

​Let’s take them one at a time. Consider your Mission: why are you learning this language? Personal example: the first time I came to Taiwan was because of having been recruited to teach English, and I was only going to be here for a month or so. I would get up early and walk for at least a half hour while doing my daily Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese lesson. I came to Taiwan equipped with a grand total of 7 or so hours of Pimsleur self-study and a good phrasebook! You can get pretty far, believe it or not, with “where is…” and “do you have…” and a phrasebook. That was sufficient at the time, but now, I live in Taiwan, so my Mission has changed. I need to know more than just a few phrases. When I wanted to be a Licensed Court Interpreter, my Spanish expertise had to be very high and I had to know multiple registers and a lot of nuanced speech. Again, what’s your Mission?

​Along with Mission, consider the Enemy. You probably don’t have the same type of Enemy that armies do (at least, I hope not!). However, your Enemy is whatever can stop you from studying, typically, limited time because of job requirements from Those People. In my case, my Enemy is my job (don’t tell my employer I said this, please). What do I mean by this? As a professor, I have a lot of stuff to do—the typical professor-like stuff, teaching, grading, etc., along with keeping irregular hours during the school year (I am stuck with, I mean priviled to be!!!!, editing for everybody and his dog, because I’m the only native English speaker language teacher here in an Asian school). So I defeat my Enemy by studying from 2-4 hours per week, 1-on-1, with no tests or homework during the school year, and by doing intensive courses during the summer. Works for me! So how about the remaining METT-T factors?

​We can probably ignore Terrain, weather, and Troops available (unless you consider study partners), but as you saw in the section on Enemy, you shouldn’t ignore Time available! Again, a personal example: I have limited time and irregular hours during the school year, so I go with 1-on-1 lessons that don’t require homework or tests. I accept the results, as far as what I retain from the lessons (the good news, though, is that I’ve found 1-on-1 instruction to be pretty powerful, and I have been gaining some useful survival and conversational skills). During the summer, though, I draw a salary and have no teaching duties, so I can take intensive courses of 3 or so hours a day with tons of homework! Again, it works for me!

​As I teach students to write in standardized testing classes, “in conclusion,” I hope that you consider METT-T when you set up your own language training program. METT-T considerations can help you a lot, whether you are taking a group class, studying on your own, doing 1-on-1 lessons, or All Of The Above. See what useful stuff your American Older Brother learned from his Army service? Cool, huh? Catch you soon with another newsletter item, and I promise not to take so long between articles again! Please feel free to forward this and to ask your friends to subscribe and of course, to Like my Facebook page!

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