Written by guest contributor Ted Meyer
You’ve got the drive to study a new language, and with Verbling, you’ve got the tools. But what does it matter if you can’t devote the time?
With lengthening workdays and increasingly time-sensitive commitments, it can seem daunting (especially for a young professional) to devote the time and energy needed to truly internalize a language. The concern is legitimate. Learning a language requires time, commitment, and lots of practice. When you’re already working long, tiring days, asking yourself to focus wholeheartedly on an entirely new language might seem like too much to ask.
The good news is that while it may require some careful planning on your part, learning a new language on a tight schedule is possible; in many ways, the task is easier than it has ever been. If you can find ways to insert the language into your daily life, schedule wisely, and make the most of the time that you are actively learning, fitting a language education into your busy life is definitely achievable.
Integrate the language into your everyday activities
One of the easiest ways to force your brain into new language mode is to integrate the language into activities to which you already devote time. A great way to accomplish this is to listen to audio in your new language while doing activities you’ve already plugged into your schedule. It’s easier than ever to access audio in another language, and even to tailor the type of audio to your tastes. Do you like to listen to pop music when you run? Download a Bollywood playlist and toss Hindi over the four-on-the-floor beats. Listen to the news on your commute? Find a current events podcast in Italian. Spoken audio, especially news broadcasts, can be very helpful for adjusting to the cadence of a new language, because anchors tend to speak slowly and clearly.
Surround yourself with vocabulary words
To work on vocabulary and word association, start to label objects in your house in the other language. Start with simple household items like “table” and begin moving on to more complex words and phrases, like “bottle opener” or “magnetized refrigerator.” Labeling a few items a day takes almost no time, but looking at the words every day will help you with your vocabulary and internalization. When you get more confident, write notes to yourself, grocery lists, etc. in your new language—another great way to work language practice into things that you would do already.
Find language lessons that fit your schedule
The aforementioned ideas are great ways to practice, but they haven’t quite addressed the fundamental problem. If you don’t even have time to focus on the basics, how will you even know what to practice? Eventually, you will have to set aside time specifically for lessons. There is no magic trick that will add another hour to your day. You might also be thinking, “what’s the point of trying if I’m too tired to focus?”
Fortunately, as with finding recordings in another language, scheduling your lessons around your life is easier than it has ever been. Verbling provides tutors across six continents and offers lessons 24/7. This makes it very easy to tailor your lessons to your personal schedule, and even to ensure that you’ll be practicing at a time when you can truly focus on your language. Try to schedule lessons during time when you know that you won’t be tired or busy, like over weekends. This way, you can leave the intensive work for a time when you know you’ll be able to focus on it.
Maximize short periods of free time to practice
Finally, take solace in this well-established principle of education—intense focus over a short period of time will always trump leisurely engagement over a long time. Even if you have only an hour a week to truly zone in on the language, that can be just as valuable, if not more so, than more frequent but relaxed lessons. If you can focus for short periods of time and use some of the tricks above for retention in between, you will be well on your way to integrating the language into your busy life.
Asking yourself to throw language learning on top of an already exhausting daily grind may seem like more than you can handle. However, if you’re truly committed to learning and can manage your time and habits closely, it is absolutely possible for even the busiest person to make time for learning a new language.
About the author:
Ted Meyer is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. He hails from Minnesota, went to college in Ohio and has lived in India and Berlin. Ted's latest language is Dothraki.