Tips for Busy Language Learners: Part I

One of the greatest frustrations of older language learners is the lack of available time in the day. Be it school, work, volunteering or other obligations, it seems learning and maintaining a foreign language is unrealistic or even impossible. Many websites and classes devoted to helping language students stress the need for dedication, but dedication typically implies time, and time can be extremely limited. While I certainly recognize the importance of dedicating yourself to a task and do not wish to dismiss the significance of thoroughly studying textbooks and flashcards, I believe we sometimes disregard the little efforts we can make throughout the day to help retain or even add to the level of language proficiency we already possess.

The goal is to maintain contact with the language in situations where full immersion is not possible. To do so, you should try to incorporate the language into your daily routine in a way that does not interfere with your established schedule. One of the best examples of this is switching the language on your phone. Besides the initial minute it may take to change the settings, no extra time is involved in this , since you are exposing yourself to the language during the time when you would be using your phone anyway. Similarly, you can change the language of your social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc) to expose you further to known and new vocabulary.

Another trick that may take 30 minutes or so to prepare is writing the names of common household items on sticky notes and posting them around the house. Obviously, this particular tip is not for everyone; it is entirely understandable that somebody would not want to hang yellow slips of paper on every lamp, couch, and painting in the house. For those who do not mind, however, this can prove particularly useful. As with switching the language on your phone, marking different appliances or furniture pieces around the house requires no additional time after the initial setup, yet it provides constant exposure to important vocabulary. This is even better than studying lists that translate a word from the original language to the second language, since you are no longer identifying a word with its translation but rather with the object itself. This will undoubtedly help you think more fluently in the target language.

Next week, we will add a few more tips for busy language learners. In the meantime, do you have any suggestions for ways to subtly yet effectively incorporate a target language into daily routines? We’d love to read your comments below!



Nisar, the dynamic force behind Translation Excellence, stands tall as its founder and CEO. This isn’t just any company—it’s a global heavyweight in boutique language services. Hailing from the vibrant city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nisar brought his passion and expertise to the U.S. shores in 2001. In the realm of languages, he’s a titan. With 19 years under his belt, he’s worn hats from a linguist and instructor to a cultural bridge-builder and curriculum craftsman.

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