Where I Find the Most Time for Language Study

Probably the biggest problem people have when it comes to language learning is how to find the time to do it. The most common reason people give for not even trying is that they just don't have the time. I don't think that's true at all. Most people have not given their daily and weekly schedules a good enough audit to discover some free time. I'll use myself as an example.


Every four months my schedule changes. Besides working from home (during whatever hours I can set for myself), I also work a part-time job and I am going to school full-time finishing up a degree in Anthropology. Obviously, this all requires lots of my time.

So, my solution has always been to find the bulk of my language study time in those periods where I would be doing something else, or what I like to call 'doubling-up' my time. If I'm doing something like making dinner, doing laundry etc, I always work study time in between those chores, while waiting for the oven to heat up, or the water to boil, or the rinse cycle to complete or whatever. If I wrote out a schedule, this would be time for making dinner, but I'm slipping in little bits of language study. This may seem insignificant, but it adds up. Especially if you use language learning tools that use your time efficiently such as an SRS program like Anki or Byki. I can review vocabulary in just five minutes or less for each language I'm studying.

But, by far, the car has always been my best source of free time. On my current schedule (which is not written down because I'm not really organized enough to do that) there is a lot of time for commuting. This semester I have to drive over an hour to two different campuses, three days per week, and then drive back and go to work. In the past two weeks I have been logging over three hours per day on those days, and at least an hour per day on the other days of the week, listening to audio-based language resources. I added nearly thirty minutes just by keeping the iPod going as I walk between classes and back to the car.

I spend most of that time just listening. Since I am currently working on Dutch, I mostly listen to a few chapters of a Harry Potter audiobook. By the way, I also have this audio and the Dutch transcription uploaded to Lingq, where I can periodically lingq and review new vocabulary words, or read along while listening. By listening to this material again in the car, I am reinforcing what I learn and fine-tuning my ear to Dutch. I also have some other audiobooks and a good supply of Dutch music (current playlist - Doe Maar, Het Goede Doel, Blof).

I can't spend all of this car time just listening, so I mix in short bouts of shadowing Assimil Dutch. At this pace, I will finally finish that course this semester and get my Dutch to a more self-sustaining level. I also mix my languages. I'll do at least fifteen minutes of French and Spanish at some point. I have so much time that I added a half hour for Pimsleur Thai just for fun. When I finish that course I have a few others to follow up, or maybe just try a different language.

So, how about your schedule? Do you have time between chores, walking the dog, jogging, making dinner? How long is your commute? Most people dread the commute. I look forward to it.

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