My schedule is full. How should I find time for language learning?

listovani_v_diari

Are you also one of those people who decided to improve their Spanish or learn French, but haven’t started yet? Good news: You can even start today. The not-so-good news: you’ll need to find some time for it. I can hear you say: “But my schedule is so full already, and every day only has 24 hours. Where should I get more time?” 

How can you find more time for your language learning, while still taking care of your kids, keeping up with your work obligations and other activities you normally do? Read on to get yourself lots of practical tips on how to find more time in your daily schedule. You may even find out that you won’t need as much time as you originally expected! (Spoiler alert: you can spend a lot of time with the target language while doing other activities.) Sounds good? Let’s get started!

How to set language-learning goals that are not overwhelming, but will help you achieve success at the same time? 

learning spanish

At the very beginning, it’s crucial to set goals for your language learning. Ask yourself: Why do I want to learn this language? What is the level of proficiency I want to achieve? Once you’ve answered these questions, you can move on to planning specifics: how many hours a week you want to spend with the language, and which methods you want to use. Then you should set a fixed period during which you’re going to stick to this plan. It’s important to keep the goals SMART, i.e.:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Ambitious
  • Realistic and 
  • Time-bound goals.

As creating your language-learning plan is quite complex, we won’t go into much detail here. But if this is something you need help with, have a look at the Language Master or Language Key video courses, where language mentor Lydia Machova dedicated a whole module to creating a language-learning plan tailored to your needs.

If you already have your plan, let’s talk about the time! First, divide all the activities you’ll do to improve your target language into two categories: 

  1. Focused or active time spent with a language – such as working with a textbook, learning vocabulary using the Goldlist method, conversations, and
  2. Passive time or keeping in touch with the language while doing other activities – everything from podcasts, series or audiobooks to reading fiction, blogs, Facebook or Instagram posts in the target language.
active versus passive language learning time

How to find time for concentrated learning?

If you’ve ever tried eating healthier, you have probably found very quickly that it’s not a problem not to eat something (such as gluten products). The problem occurs when you are about to eat your favorite meal that usually comes with a slice of bread – and you’ve forgotten to buy vegetables or a gluten-free alternative to bread. You were so focused on what not to eat, that you forgot what you’d actually eat, right? You didn’t create the right conditions for starting your new diet.

It is important to think this way about other activities in your life as well – language learning is no exception. Before you start, think about your schedule: if it’s already so full, that you cannot find time for language learning, you will probably need to change it for the following 2 or 3 months. While planning, it’s also important to reevaluate your priorities and maybe give something up for a certain period. There is no single path to success in this, so we’ll just provide a few tips from learners from previous Autodidacts’ Academies:

If you usually spend 2 hours scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram newsfeed every evening, maybe you could go to bed an hour earlier and use it the following morning for your concentrated learning?

If you usually spend two evenings a week dancing salsa, could you go only once a week for these 2 months and dedicate the other evening to conversations? 

If you usually hit the gym for an hour every morning, maybe you could go just 4 times a week and try 10-minute exercise sessions at home on the other three days? You’ll have 3 hours left for studying with your textbook! 

how to find time for language learning

But don’t take this too seriously! It doesn’t mean that you are giving up on gym or salsa forever! After two or three months, you can have a look at your priorities again and adjust your plan for the future. 

Good news: You won’t need as much time for focused learning as you may think. 2-3 hours a week will do if you add some contact with the language on top of that. 

But how to get natural contact with the language?

You started to learn the language to be able to use it in real life, right? And you should do just that! Now we are going to have a look at how to spend hours and hours with the language, not even noticing we are learning. 

  1. Enjoy the process! The exposure to the language should be mainly about fun. It should give you that feeling “I’ll only read one more page” or “I’ll watch just one more episode.” It could also be watching the videos by your favorite Youtuber or reading posts by an inspirational Instagrammer.
  2. Concentrate on your niche! Are you a nutrition consultant and want to broaden your horizons? Start looking for blogs or Youtube channels about nutrition in your target language! You’ll understand much more when the material is about something you are familiar with – even though your language proficiency is low. And the best thing about this – you are getting better at your niche and at the language at the same time! 
  3. Sometimes, less is more. Don’t overwhelm yourself with many different resources at once. Instead, choose just one blogger, Youtuber or one website with video lectures and spend a few weeks working with it. You’ll find it easier to follow one person because you’ll get used to their accent and notice phrases they regularly use. Also, you’ll quickly feel a sense of accomplishment because you’ll have read all the blog posts they’ve written in the past year, or have seen all the videos they’ve published about your niche. Little bonus: After you finish your active study period (2 or 3 months, as you’ve planned at the beginning), it’s more likely that you won’t stop following this person, and in this way, you’ll keep natural contact with the language in the long run.  
  4. Stay yourself. You’ve never been a bookworm, but you enjoy reading blog posts? That’s what you should do in the target language as well! Little bonus: If you choose activities you would normally do in your free time, you’ll get rid of the feeling that you have to learn. On the contrary, you’ll enjoy the process and make it a part of your lifestyle. 
  5. Immerse yourself in the language. Don’t worry, you don’t have to quit your job and fly to Spain for six months to finally learn Spanish. You can create a Spanish environment anywhere you are thanks to the Internet. But how to do it? We normally spend quite a lot of time reading, listening, writing and speaking our native language every day, right? How about doing these everyday activities in your target language instead? These could include listening to podcasts or songs during breakfast, reading a few Instagram or Facebook posts on your way to work, talking to your friends and colleagues or also reading books and watching certain TV shows just for pleasure in the evenings. You will be surprised how much time in a day you can spend learning if you do everything in the target language.
learning a language is fun

Finally, I would like to quote Ingrid, one of our Autodidacts’ Academy participants. Before the Academy, she thought that while having a full-time job, being a mother of two, and still working on her university degree, she wouldn’t be able to find more than 20 minutes a day for learning English. But she fell in love with learning so much that sometimes she spends 2-3 hours a day learning English. She says: 

“The best thing is that I was able to involve my whole family in learning English. My husband loves to practise conversation, so we started to speak English at home. My sons (7 and 13 years old) loved my vocabulary flashcards so much that we had to make some for them too.”

time is not something you can have. it's something you create. it's all about priorities

If you decide to start learning with a specific plan and SMART goals after reading this blog post, remember to divide all the activities into focused ones (spend at least 2-3 hours a week with them), and the activities that’ll help you keep in touch with the language whenever it’s possible throughout the day. You may be surprised how much time you can find for language learning. It’s all about priorities and taking the first step.

Translation: Veronika Báthoryová.

Would you like to learn a language by yourself but don't know where to start? My video courses with the complete manual for learning any language are now 60% OFF! Get them for yourself or give them to someone you love as a Christmas present. The path to fluency has never been easier. 

The author of this blog post is Veronika Báthoryová, member of the Language Mentoring team.

Language Mentoring provides a complete guide for learning any language using simple and often free resources on the internet and in bookshops. It was founded by polyglot, language mentor and author of this website, Lýdia Machová, PhD., in 2016. She’s learned 7 languages by herself and she adds another one every other year. Her philosophy is that everybody can learn a language regardless talent, age or other qualities – if they know how to do it.

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