How you can make meaningful progress (even if you haven’t got any time)
If you’re here reading this post, then it’s likely that you’re hoping/dreaming/trying to learn English as a second (or third, or fourth…) language.
Learning a new language is incredibly rewarding.
It challenges our brains, it opens doors, and it changes the way that we communicate and interact with others. It helps us to be able to travel, expand in our careers, experience other cultures, and make relationships around the world.
I could list benefits of language learning all day; there are so many rewarding aspects of becoming a polyglot (HINT: a ‘polyglot’ is someone who speaks more than one language).
So, if learning more than one language is sooo amazing, then why aren’t we all doing it?
We want to learn a new language. We know that our brains are capable. We’re motivated, passionate, and intelligent.
So what’s stopping us? The easiest (and most common) answer is: time.
Besides wanting to learn another language, we also want to advance in our careers, be better parents to our children, and spend more time with friends and family. We have meetings at work, and deadlines to hit. There are courses that we want to study, and degrees that we’re working towards.
We’re training to run marathons, teaching our kids, doing our best to be good partners, renovating our houses, and taking care of our pets.
The sad reality is that language learning would be so much easier if we had the time.
So, what’s to be done? We can’t all just quit our jobs or forget about our other responsibilities and interests until we’ve become fluent in English.
Don’t throw in the towel yet!
Here are a three simple, yet totally effective tips for fitting language learning into your busy schedule (even if you feel like you don’t have time).
My first tip is actually going to be a bit of a reality check. No, you don’t need to set aside many hours each day in order to improve your English. You also don’t need to quit or abandon all of the other things that take up time during your day.
The difference between you and the confident English speaker you want to become is simply the commitment to prioritise English in your daily life.
You’ll never improve your English if you always put it on the back-burner. The time you set aside for studying can’t always come at the end of your to-do list, when you’re tired and ready to finish your busy day. And you can’t always push off your studies until “tomorrow” (and then the next day… and the next day…). No, language learning doesn’t have to take over your entire life. Yes, you need to set aside some time and energy for it if you want to make progress.
Be concrete with your language goals, and set aside a realistic amount of time for learning.
If you know that you have an extremely busy schedule, then setting the goal of studying English for 3 hours a day probably isn’t doable. You’re setting yourself up for failure from the start, and you’ll only feel frustrated when you can’t meet your goal.
Think carefully about your schedule. Can you study for a short amount of time each day? Maybe you prefer to study every other day, but for a longer chunk of time. Try to set aside some concrete time during your week for English learning.
And if you take a look at your schedule and can’t find any time, then it’s time to make some decisions. Is it more important than Netflix time in the evening? Can you take a shorter lunch break to make time? Is language learning truly important to you? If it is, then you need to make time for it. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time… but it has to be something.
Be efficient with your time (don’t waste it!)
If you only have twenty minutes a day to work on your English, then you need to make sure that you’re doing valuable studying in those twenty minutes.
One way to maximize your time is to combine different learning techniques into one. Instead of just spending those twenty minutes reading in English, for example, you could challenge yourself to read out loud, and write a sentence with each new word you come across.
Now you’ve changed a simple reading exercise into reading, speaking, pronunciation, writing, and vocabulary practice!
Make sure you get rid of distractions, too. Stop thinking about all of the millions of things you need to do that day, and commit to only thinking about English during your study time. The bottom line is that you set aside this time for a reason, so don’t waste it!
Also, make sure that you’re having fun in the process. Life is too short to set aside time each day to do something that you’re not enjoying. And if you’re not having fun, it’ll be really hard for you to stick to the routine that you created.
Add English to your daily routine.
You might only be able to set aside ten or twenty minutes a day for studying, but maybe you can get some additional practice by multi-tasking. Here’s some ideas!
- Listen to music in English on your drive to work.
- Help your kids with their English homework and quiz them while you’re making dinner.
- As you drink your morning coffee, write down your daily to-do list… in English.
- Challenge yourself to read the morning news in English.
- As you’re exercising at the gym (or going for a jog, etc) make a vocabulary list in your head of all the things that you see around you.
English learning doesn’t always have to be official study time (although that’s important, too), and by combining your learning with things that you have to do anyway… you can fit a lot of extra learning into your day!
Hopefully by now I’ve convinced you that your busy life isn’t a valid excuse for putting aside your dream of learning English. You’re ready to maximize your time, to multitask, and to find fun ways to fit English into your day.
So here’s my last tip for you:
Don’t learn alone.
Language is the exchange of thoughts and ideas between people – not wearing headphones or watching videos on your phone on the couch!
Learning with friends, having a community to support you, and learning with others who help keep you on track and accountable with your learning are so beneficial.
And it’s way more fun!
One of my favorite resources for community language learning is The Ladies’ Project.
Our wonderful community ticks all of the boxes that we just talked about; by spending just a few minutes each day on the TLP platform, you can chat with other ladies around the world, read interesting articles, challenge yourself to write an article, or join a debate.
You can set your own goals and priorities, too. If you’re looking for something quick and informal, you can simply login to TLP and explore.
If you need more support and want extra time with native teachers, TLP offers that as well. TLP fits into your busy, action-packed life, because you can make it your own!
So, are you ready to get started?
We’d love to hear about the creative ways that you find to fit English into your lives! How do you maximize your learning time?