If I wanted to, I could easily say that I don’t have the time to learn a language.
As I’ve shared in past posts, I have both a full time job and a full time music career. The time I can spend studying language is sometimes limited. But it’s important to me, so if I can’t make the time, I find the time.
Often, at the end of a full nine hour work day, one of the last things I want to do is study or keep working. And sometimes, that’s exactly what learning a language feels like – work. No matter how much you love doing it.
One of the things that I’ve learned after several years of language study is this:
Whenever I can’t squeeze a little bit of language learning into my day, it’s usually as much of a case of poor energy management as it is bad time management.
Let me give you an example of what I mean.
Typically, my evenings are free. It makes sense to think, “okay, that’s when I’ll do my language learning.” But before those evenings happen, I have a full day of work, music practice, and driving that uses up every ounce of my energy.
When that free evening time comes up, I’m too tired to actually do any decent language learning. My energy management is poorly handled. If I wait until the end of the day after all of that work, I don’t have any energy left over for my target languages.
How did I overcome this?
I fixed how I prioritized my language studies.
If Language Learning is Important to You, You’ll Find the Time to Do It
In my Busy Language Learner course, I share the importance of both finding time and making time – two surprisingly different ways you can incorporate more language learning into your day.
I firmly believe that if something is important to you, you’ll find or make the time to do it.
Language learning is something that enriches my life. It was important to me to change how I prioritized it so that I wasn’t trying to do it at the end of the day when I was too tired or drained.
Now, this isn’t to say that making language learning a more important and regular part of my schedule is easy. It isn’t. Making it a part of your routine requires that learning a language is something that you really want. It is a huge, long-term investment.
Making language study a more consistent part of your life, however, is not impossible. It’s totally manageable without becoming an all-consuming or exhausting task. Even for an adult learner with adult responsibilities, family, and a job.
If taking on a new language is something that you’ve always wanted to do, I really encourage you to go after it.
The key is to make sure that you can’t use “I don’t have time” as an excuse. Here are just a few of the ways I’ve done this. Hopefully seeing how I make language study a part of my day-to-day life will inspire you to reimagine your routine.
Here’s how I manage to make time for language study:
1. Listen to foreign language podcasts and lectures during my morning commute. Depending on where I am coming from and traffic, my morning commute can take me anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours. That’s quite a bit of time I can dedicate to listening and practicing the languages I am studying. I used to spend this time listening to the radio and catching up on news, but my husband tends to chat about anything noteworthy each evening, so listening to the radio is actually redundant. By eliminating the radio in the morning, I gain a lot of study time. Enough, in fact, that if I don’t have time later in the day to study, I am okay.
2. When I don’t feel like listening to a podcast (or in the rare case I don’t have anything to listen to), I rehearse potential conversations with myself. Out loud. When I do this, it become apparent which words I need to learn and which sounds I still have a hard time creating. It also forces me to stretch my imagination when putting words together in order to express myself.
2. Utilize my breaks at work to study or read in a foreign language. I was already doing this on occasion, but not consistently. If I do a quick round of Memrise or Duolingo while I wait for my lunch to heat up in the microwave or while I’m on hold with a vendor, I get a few more minutes of additional language study in. And those minutes add up. This also opens up my evening schedule to catch up on other tasks like blogging, more music practice (this is how I use my lunch break), exercising, or hanging out with Little Linguist.
3. Do more listening during my commute back home. I usually spend the drive back home listening to music. If I change what I’m listening to from instrumental music to foreign language music, I’m getting a different medium of practice and immersion and a nice way to break up my study schedule. That’s another 20 minutes to 2 hours of study time.
4. Weekend study breaks and language exchanges. On the weekends, I try to do at least one extended study session to either work on conversing or work through grammar points I’m struggling with. Or to just make decent progress through the language that I’m focusing on.
5. I also sometimes study language for fun anywhere from 15 minutes to hours at a time. It’s sporadic and inconsistent which is why I’m all the more glad I’ve adopted the above methods to make sure I do have something routine going on.
By implementing these small changes, I can increase my language study time while freeing up my evening and weekend schedule to do other things – like relax (gasp!) – or continue my studies if I like.
What about you?
How do you fit language study into your schedule? Is there a language you would like to learn, but haven’t found the time to do so?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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My name is Shannon Kennedy and I'm the language lover, traveler, and foodie behind Eurolinguiste. I'm also the Resident Polyglot at Drops and the Head Coach of the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge.