When we think of language learning, we most often imagine the two most common options:
- Learning with others, in a classroom or other study group.
- Learning independently, either at home or abroad.
If you partake in the second option, it’s easy to feel alone.
After all, the loneliness is encoded right there in the vocabulary we use to describe it:
Independent learner. Self-study. Autodidact.
When you’re outside of a classroom, it can often seem as if the weight of language learning success and failure falls squarely on your shoulders.
To a point, it does. You chose to learn this language, so you have to get the job done. Nothing can change that.
However, as we have seen in our previous article, How Social Accountability Will Revolutionize Your Language Goals, just because you’re the sole person in charge of your learning does not mean that you can’t get others involved. Done correctly, in fact, involving others in your goals can have extraordinary benefits—often for all parties.
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the first major form of social accountability: the accountability partnership.
Specifically, you’re going to learn:
- What an accountability partner is
- What to look for in a potential accountability partner
- Where to find potential accountability partners
- And how to reach out once you find one!
What is an Accountability Partner?
An accountability partner (also known as an accountability buddy) is a single person who holds you accountable to a specific commitment or commitments.
Along with the accountability coach, it is a major form of one-to-one accountability.
Unlike a learner-coach relationship, however, an accountability partnership is usually reciprocal in nature—your partner will hold you accountable for achieving your goals, while you will hold your partner accountable for achieving theirs.
If developed properly, your relationship with an accountability partner can be a powerful motivational tool. Due to the fundamental human desire to appear consistent to those around us, once we disclose our goals and commitments to a potential accountability partner, we will be much more likely to follow through with them.
It is not enough, however, to disclose our language learning goals to any random person and then expect success. A good accountability partnership should be an ongoing interaction—from goal setting, to action planning, to taking action, to fulfilling the goal, and back again—that grows and strengthens over time.
If that is to happen, you will have to look for someone with specific traits that make them well-suited to the demands of a successful accountability partnership.
What to Look for in an Accountability Partner
Ideal accountability partners will have the following characteristics:
- They Hold You Accountable – For an accountability partnership to work, your partner has to actually hold you responsible for following through with your commitments. This means that if you do not follow through with your goals, they do not let you “off the hook” and hope that you do better next time. Instead, they fully expect and encourage that you face the consequences of breaking your commitment (typically through a pre-determined penalty or punishment agreed upon by both parties). This mutual responsibility is the most essential element of the partnership. If your partner does not hold you responsible in this way, the social accountability loses all effectiveness.
- They Are Honest With You – Accountability partnerships are no place for excess politeness and hand-holding. One or both of you are in the group to achieve a goal. If you are not following through on your commitment, your accountability partner needs to be able to communicate that to you open and honestly, without fear of argument or retribution.
- They Are Reliable – Over time, you will have to regularly “check-in” with your accountability partner to keep him or her updated on your progress towards your goals. Check-ins can be done in-person (i.e. a meeting), long-distance (i.e. over phone, Skype, instant messaging, etc.) or a mixture of both. Whatever variety of check-in you choose, it is important that you and your partner organize a check-in schedule, and that you both stick to it without fail. If your partner doesn’t reliably show up for his or her accountability check-ins, then you simply need a new accountability partner.
- Their Goals Are Aligned to Yours (Optional) – The most powerful of accountability partnerships are among people who have similar goals. Though this is not a necessary condition of success, if you can find a partner that is either a) learning a language or b) learning the same language as you are, you two will be able to support and motivate each other as you encounter similar struggles and successes, in turn.
Where to Find an Accountability Partner
If you’re not concerned with finding an accountability partner with similar goals to your own, then literally anyone in your life can serve as an accountability partner, as long as they have the characteristics we described in the last section. You can choose among friends, family, or even acquaintances made in interest groups like those found through Meetup.com.
If you’re looking for accountability partners online, a couple of good starting points to look for general accountability partners (i.e. not necessarily language learners) are online goal-setting forums and platforms, such as:
- StickK – A goal-setting and tracking platform that allows users to set an accountability partner (known on-site as a “Referee”) and even enlist other users as accountability partners through a “Supporters” system.
- Habitica – A RPG-style productivity app that quantifies your productivity towards your goal and allows you to “compete” with accountability partners (on-site “friends”)
- Reddit’s GetMotivatedBuddies – An offshoot of Reddit’s community r/GetMotivated, GetMotivatedBuddies is an open forum for you to find an accountability partner for any goal.
If you’re looking for accountability partners who are learning languages, you can look in any of the Internet’s most robust learner communities, including:
- italki – A community of language learners, teachers, and tutors almost 2,000,000 users strong.
- LingQ – A language learning content library with a global user community.
- LinguaCore – Yes, us too! All LinguaCore courses come with built-in community features, and our site boasts an ever-growing user base that can help keep you accountable to your learning goals.
How to Connect with a Potential Accountability Partner
Once you’ve identified a few good candidates for your next accountability partnership, the next step is to reach out and communicate your interest!
Whether you’re looking for an in-person or online accountability partner, the steps are the same.
- Make Contact – Pick up the phone, send them a message, or meet them for coffee.
- Explain Your Goals – Mention that you’re ready to make a serious commitment to learning a language, and that you need their help to make it happen.
- Offer Help – Since the best accountability partnerships are of a reciprocal nature, let them know you’re willing to help keep them committed to any of their goals, language-related or otherwise.
- Discuss a Check-In Schedule – If they’re willing to be your accountability partner, you can now discuss how (and how often) you would ideally like to check-in with this person to discuss your goals.
- Discuss Penalties for Broken Commitments – From the very start, you should both establish what the consequences will be if you decide not to follow through with your goals.
The above information is all you need to take your very first steps into the world of social accountability. By now, you know what kind of person you’re looking for, and how you’ll find them.
Next, you’ll need to actually make it happen. Search in-person and online for a few candidate partners, and then reach out once you’ve identified who you’ll work best with.
In our next article in this accountability series, we will discuss how to take your brand-new accountability partnership and turn it into one that will have you not only achieving your goals, but crushing them, again and again.