One of the most common excuses people have for not learning a language is that they just don’t have the time. But are we really too busy or are we just not using our time efficiently? We make time for the things that are important in our lives and the things that bring us happiness. If you make learning a new language a priority there is no reason you can’t reach your goals. Here are 5 habits to make learning a language part of your daily routine.
Maximize your commuting time
Whether you drive to work, take the train, or ride the bus; the average Canadian is commuting over an hour to and from work each day. This is a perfect opportunity to get some studying in! If you take the train or bus you can read or write a short journal entry in your target language. Try to write using only words that you know, if you run into trouble or don’t know how to use a specific grammar point, make a note and study that topic when you have more time to dedicate. This is a great way to identify some of your problem areas. or use an app on your phone to review or learn new vocabulary. If you drive to work you can listen to audio courses such as Pimsleur, teach yourself, or Michel Thomas. If you want to relax and not think so much about new vocabulary and active listening, try listening to news or songs in your target language. Even if you don’t understand everything you will still be getting exposure to the language. Plus, there is a huge amount of amazing music from other countries, you may be surprised at the songs you discover!
Wake up early and spend 15 minutes on your language
Like any new skill, language learning requires dedication and discipline. There is a lot of research that says our brains are most active in the mornings and this is often the time we retain the most new information. Setting your alarm even 15 minutes earlier and taking that time to dedicate to language learning will help you maximize your efforts. You can even incorporate it into something you enjoy to do in the morning. If you like to exercise first thing, listen to podcasts while you work out or, read something online in your target language while you enjoy your morning coffee. The goal is to make it a priority in your life and doing it first thing frees your mind from worrying about it for the rest of the day.
Set your phone or Siri to your target language
This can be a bit tricky and if you are still in the early stages of learning a language it may prove to be more frustrating than rewarding. However, there is something to be said for learning out of necessity and if you can’t figure out how to post a picture of that delicious pizza you ate to instagram or update your facebook status you will learn the necessary words and phrases pretty quickly! Although, the vocabulary and phrases are fairly specific to operating technology the benefit of seeing and interacting with your target language on a daily basis is what will keep you going. Additionally, using Siri is a great way to practice speaking and listening! Who needs a language partner when you have Siri! Giving verbal commands and dictating text messages or notes in your language will help you gauge how accurate your pronunciation is and help to identify areas you can focus on improving.
Consume media in your target language
Instead of watching your favourite series mindlessly for hours on end why not take advantage of this time to get exposure in your target language? Netflix has a huge array of subtitles and language tracks for most of its content. This means that when you plan to watch the second season of Stranger things all in one sitting you can listen to it in your target language and not feel so guilty; just tell yourself you have been studying for the last 12 hours! Most of us get our news online or through our phones so why not take advantage of this to help improve your target language. News articles are usually fairly short and straightforward. They also use a lot of common vocabulary that will be extremely useful to you in your everyday interactions with your new language. If reading through headlines is already part of your daily routine just book mark a few news outlets in your target language or download news apps to your phone. This will help you achieve exposure to your language while spending time on something you would normally be doing anyways. If you don’t usually read the news, you can pick a topic that interests you and try to read through a blog or forum. The point is to try and incorporate your language into your existing daily routine to make it as easy as possible to regular gain exposure.
Take advantage of applications that use spaced repetition to remind you when to practice.
There is a lot of research on spaced repetition for learning new concepts and solidifying new content into your long-term memory. Basically, as we intake new information it should be reviewed at varying intervals increasing in length as time goes on. This ensure that just before you are about to forget a piece of information you review it, moving it from your short-term memory to your long-term. This means that you are not merely memorizing something for a test or exam but actually learning the content to be accessed when you need it. There are a lot of apps and programs that have incorporated this into their design. Most notably, Duolingo, Memrise, and Tiny Cards have gained a lot of popularity among the online community. If you prefer a pencil and paper to study you can use a system like the Goldlist method to quickly acquire vocabulary.
Track your progress and stay accountable
One of the most effective way to ensure you stay focused and reach your daily goals and habits is to track your progress. Accountability is key and a lot of people benefit from a visual representation of the tasks they have completed. If for nothing else, you will be motivated to complete your daily task to check of the box on your list! There are a few different ways to track your habits and goals and it is best to find one that works for you. Bullet journaling is a quick and easy visual tracker that requires you to check or colour a box for every day that your complete a task. This allows you to see which days you might be less likely to complete your goals and also what other activities are taking up your time. At the end of each week or month you can adjust your goals to ensure that you are making them realistic and attainable. Breaking down your larger goals into small daily tasks will help them seem more manageable and maintain your motivation to continue.
Language learning isn’t easy, it will take time and effort but with a little determination and prioritization you can make it part of your daily routine. Faster than you may think you will start to see progress and improvement that will help build momentum for days you may be lacking motivation. The most important thing is to do a little each day, don’t be too hard on yourself when you experience a set back, and most importantly have fun!