Hello again! I know it has been a while since I have posted anything sadly my laptop crashed during the summer and I was too busy working to get it fixed. But it is fixed now, and I’m back in Lincoln for my 2nd year of university. As all the work I do this year counts towards my degree, I must focus on my work in order to hopefully achieve a 2:1, or a 1st if I’m lucky. As a result of this, I feel my language learning will take a huge slide as I concentrate on my degree and not on learning languages. However, I have found ways of fitting language learning into my busy life, a skill I picked up whilst studying for my A-levels. This blog post will aim to help you fit language learning into your busy schedule, and my own personal experience of balancing both work and language learning.
One of the main problems we have is that we barely find the time to do the things that we really enjoy. Whether that be reading, spending time with loved ones or making time for our favourite hobbies. Whilst I was studying for my A2 exams, I knew that they would take up my time, but I could also find time for language learning. The best way to find time for language learning is to write out a schedule of what you plan to do each day and in each day make time for language learning. Whether that be sixty, thirty or even fifteen minutes! Just as long as you’re making time each day. It doesn’t matter if you’re studying the language intensely or not, all that matters is that you’re making language learning part of your busy life.
Effective learning methods
Now I shall talk about the language learning methods that I have found the most effective when having to balance my work life and language learning, and different techniques for language learners of different levels.
- Beginner language learners: We’ve all been there, each time we decide to learn a new language we always start out as a beginner. But how does one learn a new language and make time for it? Well, there are a few ways in which this can be done if you are a beginner. Firstly: invest in a language course book, preferably one with audio, these can be found on Amazon and most high street book shops for a reasonably cheap price. Once you have one, try reading a page or two each morning while commuting to work or on your break. If you have the audio, it would also be worth syncing them onto your Ipod or mp3 player and listening to the dialogues, so you can get more exposure to the spoken language Secondly, it may also be worth downloading language learning apps on your smart phone. Apps such as Duolingo or Memrise are great vocabulary learning apps. Try doing this whenever you have a few moments to yourself, you’ll really notice how a little learning each day can go a long way.
- Intermediate language learners: Now you’re at the stage where you can understand basic expressions, you can maybe talk about a few various topics and you know quite a bit of vocabulary. But just because the language you’e learning starts to become difficult, doesn’t mean that it has to get in the way of your busy life. A good way to start taking your language to a far more advanced level if you are an intermediate learner would be to start listening to songs, radio broadcasts or pod-casts in the language you are learning. This could be done while commuting to work, walking around town or even cleaning around the house. The benefits of this is that your ears become exposed to the normal rate of speech in the language as well as a more colloquial register. When it comes to using the language, obviously if you have friends or co-workers who speak the language then practice shouldn’t be an issue. But if that’s not the case, the internet is a fantastic tool for meeting fellow language learners and teachers from around the world. A good method would be to set aside time each week, maybe an hour, to simply chat with the person who is helping you to learn the language you’re learning. This way you’re getting yourself more immersed in the spoken language which is always a good thing! This will not take up a lot of your time, but it will help you to improve your knowledge of the language. Which in the long run, will me all the more beneficial.
- Advanced language learners: Finally, you’ve made it to the stage where you can perhaps read and understand most texts in the language you’re learning, and you can even sing along to the songs and understand the lyrics. But you still want to keep learning the language and make time for it whenever possible. As I myself am an advanced language learner, I shall offer on to you my personal experience of how to learning a language at an advanced level without it taking too much of your time. A method I have found useful is to read literature in your target language. On the bus to work and on my break I would often read a few pages from ‘der Vorleser’ by Bernard Schlink. This way I am exposing myself to much more vocabulary whilst being able to read and understand enough vocabulary to be able to understand the story.
Other useful tips
Another technique I have found rather effective in my language learning is to mentally translate everything around you. Whether this be conversations you hear on the bus, street signs or even buildings. For example, you could be on the bus on your way to work or school and you see a church, so if you were learning German you’d say ‘die Kirche’ or if you were learning Swedish you’d say ‘Kyrkan’. This is a method I have found particularly useful as I am trying to make my own language learning environment without it taking up too much of my time.
In addition to this, it is also important to make use of ‘dead time’ in your schedule. Language learning doesn’t just have to be intense, you don’t just have to be in a classroom studying the language. Another method which is just as useful and far less time consuming is to learn the language in what is known as ‘dead time’. What I mean by this is the time in which you’re not really doing much such as commuting to and from work or cleaning around the house. A good way to make good use of this time would be to maybe find a radio station in your target language and just have it on in the background. Even if you don’t understand every word you’re still getting exposure to the language. The same goes for listening to music in your target language. Song lyrics are easier to remember as they’re in a rhythm. If you start to remember song lyrics in your target language, you’ll start to notice your pronunciation will improve as well as your level of vocabulary!
But will this work?
Language learning takes time and perseverance. There is no secret formula which will make you fluent in a language overnight. Obviously the dream would be to move to the country where your target language is spoken which of course is always beneficial. However, this isn’t always easy. This is why I decided to write this post as I myself have financial difficulties sometimes restraining me foreign travel. Nevertheless I don’t let it get in the way of my language learning, hence why I offer the same skills I have learned which have helped me in my language learning journey. So in the long run, even the tiniest bit of study can be hugely beneficial in your language learning journey.