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Home » Tip of the Week » Tips for Busy Language Learners: Part I

Tips for Busy Language Learners: Part I

10th September, 2014 I by Charlotte Klein

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!

3 responses to “Tips for Busy Language Learners: Part I”

  1. Ángela says:

    I am trying to learn German. One thing I sometimes do is to read international news in my language (Spanish), then some time during the day, I do it in English and finally, at the end of the day, I take a look at the headlines in German. I am also subscribed to a learning German page on Facebook; they post throughout tiny cards on various topics during the day which work beautifully as reminders of words or grammar rules I have sure studied but may have forgotten. ¡Happy learning everyone!

  2. Carol Palacio says:

    Thanks for the tips. I also select “Spanish” on the films we watch at home. I have French learning CDs I listen to during my drive to and from work (a 4th language I am trying to learn), listen to radio and TV programming in my target languages and get books to read in the target languages from my local library. My son watches cartoons in Spanish on saturday mornings. I try to speak in only Spanish or Portuguese with my friends who are native speakers of those languages. I also listen to music in Spanish and Portuguese and carry an electronic dictionary around with me. When I am reading or viewing a film and I don’t know a word, I pull out the dictionary and look it up. I have a small pocket notebook where I keep lists of new words. I keep it in my work bag and pull it out when I have time and read over the lists to see if I still remember the words.

  3. Albina says:

    I am trying to learn Spanish, my fourth language, never studied it before. Keep telling myself that it is doable if I am disciplined enough and I know that I am. Spending about an hour everyday to learn vocabulary and grammar. Planning to take classes for beginners as I think self-study is not enough. I have visual memory so, I write down the words several times – at least seven times – and it works. I remembered all of the months within 30 minutes and know how to write them and pronounce them.
    The best way to remember a word for me is to associate it to the word I already know, when you know several languages, there is 90% of chance that there is a similar word or sound to associate it with. I want to be able to write and speak Spanish in a very good level because I am working with Spanish speaking people remotely.
    And, i also know that if you know one additional language, it will be so much easier to learn another one because you are already have all skills for it!

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