Language-Learning for the Busy Person

Let’s be honest…learning a language takes up a lot of time. One of the most stand-out excuses for not learning a language is “I don’t have time.” That may be true, especially if you’re in school, are working, or have a lot of responsibilities. Even if you have to take a break from officially studying languages, there are always ways to incorporate language into your life, easily and effortlessly.

1. Auditory Multitasking

Depending on where you live, you could spend a lot of time driving the car or taking the train or the bus (or the plane if you’re a frequent flier!); if you like walking, running, or working out, “auditory multitasking” could be an easy way to incorporate language learning into your life. This can even be paired with the smallest things like washing your dog, washing the dishes, and doing and folding the laundry. There are a lot of resources that allow you easy access to your target languages, such as music. If you find really good artists that you like that sing in your target language, save them on a playlist and play it while you’re doing “silent” activities that don’t need much concentration. If you’ve listened to a lot of music or run out of new songs, you could also incorporate audiobooks into your routine. No matter what language it’s in, books have always been fountains of knowledge and listening to them is an easy way to add comprehension skills and more knowledge in your life.
*Click this link for a free audiobook of your choice!


2. Sight and Taste

This is probably a long shot–but depending on how proficient you are in your language and how much you like cooking, you could try to find recipes online in your target language. You’ll learn a lot of food terms as well as food measurement terms, which, believe it or not, can be really useful at random times. This is also really cool for those of you who are interested in learning more about your target language’s culture; you could learn more about the cuisine and how its prepared, which can be a topic of focus when you start conversing with other people. Who knows, you might really enjoy it!
*Just make sure you accurately convert between different measurement systems to avoid any problems. 


3. Social Media is International

The major social media sites like Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are for the most part, very international. People from all over the world have access to these sites, and not everyone speaks English, so they’re bound to have multiple languages. For a small effortless shift in your daily (online) social life, change your media sites into your target language. Though you don’t learn an infinite amount of things, it helps getting to know the tech-y language and how to say “Like” in your target language 😉
Besides changing your settings, if you’re a social media junkie, you can also follow social media personalities who are native speakers of your target language. Even if you’re scrolling past your feed, if the person has interesting content, it might make you want to read the caption, then wonder what it says. You might learn a new word or two, even some slang or Internet abbreviations.

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4. TV Addicts

Though this only helps passive knowledge, if you like your TV shows and movies, you can always put on subtitles or a dubbed version. Even if you’re not actively reading the subtitles or listening to the language, a few words may pop out to you in the subtitles or the rhythm of the way people speak may start to become more “normal” to you. It’s kind of like the music on commercials; you don’t really pay attention to it, but somehow, sometimes, it gets stuck. That’s the goal.

Flickr photo found here.

5. Write it down!

Have post-it notes/a small notebook and pen with you to write down words you think of so you can use them later for later conversation (or just have them for future knowledge). Oftentimes I have randomly thought of a word that I wanted to know–something obscure but very useful, like the word “straw.” I was at a juice place and as I went over to get a straw, I thought “how do you even say this in X language?”
If you’re at home and have control of your space, you could also write the word down on a post-it note and stick it onto the object in your home, that way, every time you pass it, you can look at the word and internalize it.

Flickr photo found here.

6. Flashcards for Free Time

Keep blank flashcards in your work space! If you find yourself taking a break from other work, go online and find a list of words you’d like to add to your vocabulary (animals, numbers, verbs, clothing, etc.) and keep them with you wherever you go. You can keep them in your purse, in your pocket, in your car–take them wherever you go. Anyone who has gone to the doctor or dentists office, through a fast-food drive thru, or in a long line at the grocery store knows that those are empty minutes that you could be studying. If you want to go paperless and walk around without the weight, find an app that allows you to make flashcards!

Flickr photo found here.

Other Ideas:

Depending on your level of proficiency, everyone can o this differently. Some make language learning a priority, but others can’t afford that type of luxury. Life happens!

7. If you like reading and make time for reading, read a book in your target language.
8. If you’re a foodie, find restaurants or markets with authentic food from your target language culture (if it’s available to you). Depending on where you are, chances are you might be surrounded by your TL.
9. Shoppers! Despite high international shipping costs, shop for clothes in your TL. Rules don’t say you have to buy something, and it’s a fun way to learn your clothes and currency exchange rates.
10. If you blog or journal, write down your thoughts in your TL. Even if it’s only one to a few lines, it’s still better than nothing. You’ll be practicing your active knowledge.
11. A favorite: Look for inspirational quotes in your TL. Whether it’s translated or an original quote in that language, it’s always nice to have a little bit of motivation.

Is there any other way you like to keep your language-learning active while being busy? Leave your comments below 🙂

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2 Replies to “Language-Learning for the Busy Person

  1. Dear Elica:

    Would you be interested in doing a collaboration in self-learning multi-language? Please let me know and we could discuss more details. Thank you for your kind consideration as I look forward to hearing from you!

    Esther 🙂

  2. Hi, is there a way to get in touch with you via e-mail? We’re a language self-learning system looking to collaborate with language enthusiasts and polyglots everywhere. Thank you 🙂

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