5 Things You Can Do When You Don’t Have Time to Learn a Language Language Resources

When I first started seriously studying languages, I was a university student. Language learning was something that I had to fit in around my core studies. Because my program was intensive, having a class I needed to show up for made it easier to fit time in for language learning. There was a teacher and there were grades keeping me accountable.

When I graduated, I lost that accountability system and my language studies suffered for it. I let all the other things I had to do and that I wanted to do take priority.

Life can get crazy and your schedule filled to the point of overflowing. You take a look at all the things on your to-do list, wondering when you’ll ever have time to learn a language.

You know that you should sit down and study, but you just never seem to fit it in. Your target language is looking pretty neglected.

Does this sound like you?

It certainly used to be me, but then I started doing a few things differently and it’s helped me fit in language study even when I was sure that I wouldn’t have the time.

Here are a few of the things that I do to make sure language learning is a part of my day, no matter how busy I am.

(Psst… before we get started, I have a new, FREE 7-day email course that’s starting soon. You can sign up for it here.)

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1 // Always be ready.

It can sometimes feel like the only good language study is that which is done at a desk with your course book or when you have time to sit down for a language exchange. But that’s not necessarily the case.

There are a lot of productive things that you can do when you only have a few minutes free or when you’re out and about. It’s all about being prepared to use any moments of wait time or free time when they come up.

How do you do this?

Find a few apps that target some of the things you need to work on in your target language. LingQ is my favorite tool when I’m on the go (I can get a few minutes of reading in while I wait in line or am on hold). But I also use things like Duolingo for quick review. And you can always learn new vocabulary, so Memrise or Duolingo are more great choices.

In addition to language specific apps, I also have my phone loaded with podcasts and books, so I’m ready for whatever time I have.

2 // Batch Tasks

Can’t sit down and study because you need to do chores, drive to work, or cook dinner? That’s no problem. You can batch language study with those tasks.

Listening practice is one of the most versatile study tools when it comes to where and when you can do it. Whenever you’re doing something that doesn’t require a ton of concentration (like cleaning or cooking) or something that’s pretty much on autopilot for you (like driving to work), you can get listening in.

Depending on the level your at or the mood you’re in you can listen to music in your target language, the radio, or language lessons.

3 // Switching over what you already do.

Don’t have time study language because you’re committed to other things? See if there’s a way you can do them (at least in part) in your target language.

Switch your devices, browser settings or accounts over to the language you’re learning. Set the language of your gaming console to your target language. Other things you can do in your language are:

– Look up recipes
– Watch instructional videos for a sport or hobby you’re already doing
– Write your grocery, to-do, or journal entries

4 // Better Prioritize

Take a look at all the things you need to do. Is learning a language even on that list? And if it is, where does it sit on the list?

Sometimes, sitting down and studying can feel like this immense task, so we procrastinate getting around to it because it feels so overwhelming.

Instead, we prefer to complete all of the other little, less important things on our list. And at the end of the day, we just don’t have the energy or time left to study.

If this sounds like you, it’s all about changing how you prioritize learning a new language. Move it to the top of your list and get it done first – even if it’s just five minute of vocabulary study, or one page of your course book. Once you start building the habit, it won’t be so easy to avoid.

5 // Better Prepare

Need to study, but you can’t remember where you left off after your last session? Perhaps your course book is buried under a million other things on your desk and it’s just a pain to have to shuffle things around to get to it.

Or maybe, you’ve been avoiding your next language tutoring session because you haven’t had the chance to get ready for it.

When this is the case, it’s a matter of preparation.

When it comes to preparing, things might seem a little counterintuitive. Doesn’t preparing take time on top of the time needed to complete the task?

The answer in short, is yes. But by preparing, the amount of time it takes to transition to and complete the task is lessoned. Plus, you get more out of the time you spend studying, so it ends up being worth the time investment in the end.

That’s it for now. These are my five tips for what you can do when you feel like you don’t have time to learn a language.

What about you?

If you have anything to add, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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If you enjoyed this post, you’ll definitely love my new email series coming up! I’d be just ecstatic if you joined us! I think you’ll find the series extremely helpful, especially if you feel like you’re just too busy to learn a language. You can sign up here.



I'm a language lover, traveler and musician sharing my adventures and language learning tips over at Eurolinguiste. Join me on Facebook for daily language learning and travel tips!

  • Dorothée

    I am reading a book at the moment about finding a way to stop being/feeling so busy (that’s called “Busy” in English by the way^^ and “Plus jamais débordé(e)” in French), how to stop playing the game of “who is the most busy?”. It made me think about my language learning because I really struggle finding time/motivation to study after work, after working out… and I realised that’s what you say: a matter of priorities.
    So, I feel like you read my mind Shannon^^ with your new email course, I just enrolled. And you couldn’t make it better starting on 19th of June: it is just after I come back from holiday^^

    • I did it just for you Dorothée ! 😉 Have a wonderful holiday !

      Je dois lire Plus jamais débordé(e) – hope I can find the French ebook here in the US.

      • Dorothée

        I think the original is in English, so the book is “Busy” by Tony Crabbe.

        • Thanks Dorothée 🙂 I’m always looking for French reading material, so I might still read the French. 🙂