Ask around: no one has time to learn a language - except them! So, I asked 11 polyglots and language learning experts to give me their best tips to make the time for languages in your busy life. Here they are:
Agnieszka Murdoch - 5-Minute Language
“'living a language' rather than just learning it”
I've always advocated the idea of 'living a language' rather than just learning it. What I mean by that is that you can replace some of the things you already do in your native language with activities in your target language.
For example, if you like to cook, look for recipes in your target language. If you like to exercise, put on YouTube and find a workout video in your target language.
That way, you're not really adding any extra time for language learning to your schedule - you're just replacing what's already in it with the same thing in a different language. It makes learning fun and inevitable, and it's a great way to immerse yourself in the language without going abroad.
Agnieszka is a language coach and the founder of 5-Minute Language. Her mission is to help and motivate language learners worldwide so that every person in the world has a chance to learn a foreign language.
Angel Prétot - FrenchLover.org
“The key is to make sure that your study plan stays adapted to your daily life, as the circumstances change.”
The biggest obstacle to making time for language learning is not finding time or making a study plan - which is quite easy if you have a system to follow, but life getting in the way of your plan and eventually making it irrelevant. I recommend taking five minutes every week to assess how much language learning you did this week and tweak your study plan to make it more adapted to your current life.
Angel is the French guy behind this website. He has designed a step-by-step system to help his busy students find time, make a personalized study plan and fine tune it to make sure it keeps fitting the ever-changing circumstances of their life.
Annick Le Berre - Selfrench
“Switch one current activity for a language learning activity”
In school, I was a pretty bad student. I could understand ideas and concepts, but I was terrible at remembering something by heart. And by the time I reached college, that had become a real issue. I realized by watching my friends that we all had different ways to study, different strengths and weaknesses too.
Asserting your favorite, most efficient way to learn will help you a lot along the way. There isn’t one way to learn suitable to all. (ex: I fall asleep with podcasts)
But my favorite tip when it comes to studying would be switching. When we don’t have much time, it’s hard to find more. Instead of looking for an empty spot, switch an activity for another, in your target language.
Surely, you can turn around:
- 5 min of Candy Crush into Quizlet reviews?
- 10minn of workout music to French songs?
And plenty more!
So here’s my idea: instead of looking to create more space, switch one current activity for one in French: this way, you will easily be able to implement 5mn reading sessions, 5mn vocabulary, exercises... several times a day!
Annick is the creator of Selfrench. She is a french tutor and expert language learner and she loves helping students implement strong language learning habits and make learning languages a pleasant and engaging
Brian Powers - Languages around the globe
“Capitalize on commute to work and affinity for technology.”
My number one strategy for making time is capitalizing on commute to work and my affinity for technology. I love mobile learning and am constantly looking out for new mobile apps or techniques. I totally welcome our robot overlords. The "trick", for me at least, is to take advantage of my relatively long commutes to work. I sit on two different trains every morning and every evening, the platforms between them. That equals out to roughly an hour of study each way. This strategy may not work for everyone - it kind of relies on having public transportation available. Furthermore, I live in the country of my target language, so there's a lot of "passive" learning as well. Still, 2 hours of active study with a full time job really isn't bad.
Brian is the creator, and Apex Editor of Languages Around the Globe. When he’s not hanging around with linguistics nerds and learning languages, Brian works full time at Kolibri Online, a Hamburg based international content marketing and translation agency as a writer, human dictionary and general doer of things.
Kerstin Cable - Fluent Language
“Work on creating a habit for yourself, learning a little bit of your target language every single day.”
My expert trick to learning a language is to work on creating a habit for yourself, learning a little bit of your target language every single day. It can be very easy to feel that something isn't working when you suffer a setback, or when you feel like you should be making faster progress. But as long as you keep going, you will be going towards success. I also advise every learner to ensure they study with a mix of all four core skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), something I wrote about in my book Fluency Made Achievable.
Kerstin is the writer and educator behind www.fluentlanguage.co.uk, a website helping everyone build a language learning habit. She is a trained translator and author of the books Fluency Made Achievable and The Vocab Cookbook.
Kristoffer Broholm - Actual fluency
“Make time for language learning…. The less time you have available, the more creative you have to get.”
My philosophy on finding time to learning languages is actually really simple. I strongly believe that language learning is something you have to make time for, and the best time I've found personally is when I'm just getting started with my day. The psychological feeling of victory, as you embark on the rest of the day knowing full-well that you've done your learning is amazing.
Of course, some people are busier than others but almost everyone could get up 15-30 minutes earlier to do this. If that is still too tough, then I'd recommend looking into your dead time. This could be your daily commute, or when you're cleaning the house. These are times where you could easily have an audio course playing in the ears or using mobile apps to learn with. The less time you have available, the more creative you have to get.
But ultimately, make time for language learning. Don't try and find it at the end of a long day - that's too difficult for most people.
Kris is the voice behind The Actual Fluency Podcast, where he has interviewed over 100 successful language learners in an attempt to discover their secrets to language learning. When he isn't interviewing people he is on a mission to learn 10 new languages in 10 years.
Lindsay Williams - Lindsay Does Languages
“Make language learning a regular habit and tie it to something else in your life.“
Make language learning a regular habit and tie it to something else in your life. Learning a language doesn't have to mean sitting down for hours each day with your study books. If all you can fit in every single day is 5 minutes on Memrise while you're waiting for the kettle to boil or watching a YouTube video in your target language while you're brushing your teeth, that's fine! Once you've accepted that that still counts and that if that's all you're doing then your progress will be slower but still happening, then you're golden.
Lindsay is the language obsessed chica behind Lindsay Does Languages, a community dedicated to inspiring independent language learners and online tutors to succeed when doing it solo. She speaks a varying number of languages depending on the day of the week and how awake her brain is, but has studied 11 to some degree of competence.
She wrote an ebook called Finding Time in Your Life for Language Learning which you can find in her free Little Language Library.
Olly Richards - I will teach you a language
“I dedicate a fixed time to language learning every single morning, before I start my day”
My solution to the "time problem" is to dedicate a fixed time to language learning every single morning, before I start my day. I find that 45-60 minutes is enough. The reason it's so important to do this first-thing in the morning is that I lose all powers of focus and concentration later in the day! By studying early in the morning, before everyone else wakes up, I ensure that I get my language study in every day!
Olly is a language coach, consultant and author. He is the creator of IWillTeachYouALanguage.com and FluentSpanishAcademy.com. He is based in London, where he regularly uses his 8 languages with locals.
Rebecca Vaughan - Love Learning English
“Find a routine that you already have and “Piggy back” your learning on to it.”
A great way to make time is to make habits. The problem is, making habits is difficult, especially if you are the kind of person that doesn’t really live to any kind of routine. My suggestion is to find a routine that you already have, that is well established, and “Piggy back” your learning on to it. If you are a disorganised person and struggle to make routines you will still find that there are some things you do routinely, making dinner for instance, driving to work, going to the gym, walking the kids to school, showering, brushing your teeth, getting up, etc. There are lots of things that you habitually do every day. So, think of some of these routine habits that you already do, and combine your language learning with that activity. Driving to work is an easy one, you can listen to a podcast every morning on your commute. You could listen to music in your target language while cooking dinner, you could study some flashcards every lunch time. Maybe you watch tv every evening, when you sit down to watch tv, make sure you brush up on some grammar first and then watch the tv as a reward! So in summary, find a habit that is already established and piggy back your learning on to it!
Rebecca is an online Conversation English guide and coach at www.lovelearningenglish.com. Her lessons use comprehensible input and storytelling techniques to get you speaking English right away, even at beginner levels.
If you want to know what you should study in your daily routine you can download her super simple study plan here!
Shannon Kennedy - Eurolinguiste
“Showing up each and every day and putting in the work, even if it’s only five minutes”
When it comes to learning languages, I’ve discovered that the key to success is consistency. It’s all about showing up each and every day and putting in the work.
Even if it’s only five minutes, that time you spend slowly adds up. And sometimes, when you sit down for five minutes, you find that an hour has passed without you realizing it.
In the writing community, it’s said that inspiration only comes when you’ve put your butt in your chair and are doing the work. It doesn’t magically appear out of thin air. Inspiration isn’t something that strikes you at random. It’s something that comes from putting time in.
As a musician (and a writer), I can vouch for this. The inspiration for songs that I’ve written have come out of the time I was sitting at my piano trying to write. Not from anything external. I’ve found the same to be true of languages.
Grammar points and new vocabulary don’t suddenly click at random. They come when I’m studying. From reading a tip that causes everything to suddenly make sense or from doing exercises that ingrain the information I’m learning. Or from speaking the language and trying out that new vocabulary word to give it some context.
As much as we might wish and hope it, there are no shortcuts to learning a language. We have to dedicate the time and energy. But this doesn’t mean that language learning isn’t fun. Quite the contrary. There are tons of things that we can do to make the prices more enjoyable. And if video games, books or binge-watching on Netflix in your target language works for you, then by all means, go for it. Especially if it means you’ll do it consistently.
Shannon is the traveler, language lover, and foodie who shares her adventures and language learning tips over at Eurolinguiste. She speaks French, English, Mandarin Chinese, and Croatian and is currently studying Spanish, Russian, and Korean.
Susi Doyle - Not So Lost in Translation.
“Live your normal life except in a new language!”
Live your normal life except in a new language! Even if you can’t live in a country where the language you are learning is spoken, do your best to make sure that you have exposure to your new language every single day. Listen to audiobooks on your way to work, follow blogs written by native speakers, or try cooking from recipes written in your new language. Be creative!
Susi is an avid traveler, productivity geek, and aspiring polyglot. She shares tips and encouragement for other busy professionals, travelers, and lifelong learners on her blog, Not So Lost In Translation.
So, which trick was the most important in your opinion?
Do you have any trick of your own? Please let me know in the comments below.