Finding time to study languages can be very difficult in our already busy lives. Coming up with a half-hour a day or a full hour just a few times a week can be next to impossible for many people. With our full-time jobs, school, kids, pets, hobbies and who knows what else, how can we fit in the time that is necessary to learn a language?
The Language Learning Tips page has lots of different ideas and tools you can use to improve your language learning efficiency. We're going to look at some ways to use a few of these ideas that won't take away your valuable time. It may take a little money or some creativity, but if finding time to study languages is a problem, and you are serious about learning another language, you may need to take a few of these ideas to heart and put them to work for you.
Obviously, if you are studying in a class or with a language method of some kind, you have already set aside some time for that study. Don't forget, though, that you can always use a little review now and again. Can you take any of those study materials with you, when you are not going to class or studying? Can you get in a quick review while you are doing laundry, riding on the bus or a plane, or in the waiting room at the doctors office? Even 5 minutes to look over a few grammar details, or reviewing vocabulary a few times a week can help all that information sink in faster. Look for moments in your life where you can grab a minute or two, and give yourself a chance to put it to work for you. Maybe finding time to study languages is not the hard part. Maybe it's recapturing time we didn't realize we could be using!
Does your language method have an audio component? Does it have cd's or mp3's? These are great to study with, but you can also use these at other times, when you aren't actively studying. How about listening to them on your morning jog, or while taking a shower, or in the car on the way to work? These are all times that we don't really do anything with our minds. Take some of these moments and review the audio material you are studying or even get another all-audio method to supplement with.
There are lots of other ideas you can use in small doses. Flashcards are great for a quick vocabulary review, or even for learning new vocabulary and phrases. They are cheap, easy to use, and can be as quick as 10 seconds. There's no better way to put lost moments back to work for you. How about penpals or chats? You can sit down at the computer and read an email from one of your penpals, or pound out a quick hello to a penpal or two in just a few minutes, or jump in a chatroom for language learners for just a few minutes to say hi. These short simple uses of the language will grow more complex over time as you learn more and more, but they don't need to take up a lot of your time. These times when you have to creatively use the language when you interact with others can be a real boost to your confidence and your ability to learn and use the language.
Talking to other people in your life doesn't require any additional time. Warn your friends and family that you may occasionally use some foreign words. Inject a few words or phrases that you know here and there, and you will reinforce your understanding of the vocabulary. You may find that some of these people will pick up some words and join you! Have fun with it. Make it a game with yourself and others and it won't feel so much like learning or review.
Talking to yourself is a great way to work on your new language. It may seem a little nuts, but when you're alone no one will know. And if anyone hears you, just tell them what you're doing - you're practicing your new language. You won't have trouble finding time to learn languages with this idea. You can talk anywhere, anytime. Try talking in the car. Name things as you pass them, and describe them. If you don't know those words yet, look them up in a dictionary and start using them tomorrow. It doesn't require any more time in your life to talk to yourself around the house or in the car. I've seen people do it in the supermarket or out shopping, too. People who don't know you will think you're nuts. If you're comfortable with that, then go ahead. Every moment speaking and using your new language brings you closer to understanding it and fluency.
So far, I've mentioned a few things that require active participation - you need to read flashcards and respond to that audio, and you have to type out those emails etc. But there are lots of ways to find time to learn your new language passively, as well. Listening to music requires no time on your part. I've already mentioned the morning jog, the shower and the car, or even just while cleaning around the house. When you are done reviewing your audio method, pop in some music in your new language and just listen. Try to pick out words or phrases, try to hear the rhythm of the language, or just listen and absorb. How about audiobooks? Or radio, internet radio and movies?
There are lots of ways to use and learn your new language. Studying a
language does not have to be relegated to textbooks and classrooms, taking notes
and learning by rote. Finding time to study languages does not have to be
difficult and in fact, it can be fun. Use the time you have set aside as the
core of your language learning, but find other ways to include the language in
your life that doesn't intrude on it. You will be using the language more and
more, and reinforcing what you are learning and you will have fun while doing
it, making your language learning experience successful and fun!
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"Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study. Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life."
- Henry L. Doherty