How to Find Time to Learn a New Language
When I was in seventh grade, my Spanish teacher asked the class, “If you could snap your fingers and know a new language, how many of you would do it?”
A little confused, we all raised our hands. Of course we would.
“Well,” she said, “That means you all want to know a new language, so what’s stopping you?”
Again we looked at her with confusion. Obviously, the time commitment was stopping us. As silly as she seemed then, I found that question never left me: “What’s stopping me?”
They say you make time for the things you can about, but the truth is, no one can make time. There are only so many hours in the day; you can’t change that no matter how hard you try. But you can find the time. There are bits of time hidden in everyone’s day. With some simple strategies, you can reclaim this time for something important, like learning a new language.
Step 1: Set Your Intentions
The first step is to set your intentions. Intentions are like a key rack, something to hang your time on so you don’t lose it again.
Most of us have To-Do lists filled with tasks we try to check off each day. An intention differs from a task in that it asks you to consider what matters to you and what you would like to incorporate into your life. Intentions allow you to prioritize the steps that will help you reach your goals. How many New Year’s Resolutions fall by the wayside because people commit to what they feel they should do rather than what might genuinely enhance their lives? It is easy to lose the bits of time you’ve gathered if you dedicate them to things not linked to intentional goals. However, when you commit to something important, you are much more likely to continually invest in that endeavor and hang onto the time you have carved out for it. The good news is you’re already here; you’ve already said, “Yes, I would like to know a new language.”
Step 2: Contain Your Time
Next, contain your time. Some tasks can expand into several hours of your day if you let them. By keeping those tasks in specific containers of time, also called calendar blocking or time chunking, you’ll be able to maximize your efficiency. Let’s say you have a four-hour block of time in the morning for “Work.” Rather than trying to tackle every work task you have in those 4 hours, delegate 30 minutes for answering emails, one and a half hours to work on the proposal for Project A, and two hours to work on your presentation for Project B. Stay fully engaged with each task until the time is up. Put the tasks in your calendar. Don’t forget to account for the time it takes to transition tasks and for necessary breaks. You still need to eat and use the restroom after all. With only a half-hour to get to all those emails, you’ll be less likely to get distracted by things like checking your phone for no reason. You can apply this strategy to non-work tasks too. Is your house a mess? Do you need some downtime? Set aside one hour to clean or a half hour to relax. Put these in your calendar too.
Remember, this isn’t just about clearing up space in your calendar; it’s also about clearing up space in your head. If you know you have two hours blocked tomorrow for Project C or an hour set aside for errands on Thursday, you’ll be less likely to worry about them until the time comes.
Step 3: Swap One Thing
Next, think about one thing you can do differently. While you’re reviewing your calendar or tasks, find one thing from your To-Do list you can eliminate or delegate to someone else. Is there an item on the list that is no longer necessary or no longer makes sense? For example, it may be easier to order groceries for pick up than going shopping yourself. Is there an item on the list that someone else can take over, such as preparing dinner one night a week? Or maybe a leisure time activity that takes up more time than you’d like. How many hours do you spend on social media or watching television? What could happen if you spent one hour less each week?
It is easy to get overwhelmed by a long list of things you feel you have to get done. But take a hard look at that list. Whether it’s a work task or a leisure time activity, start small. Pick one thing a week and don’t do it.
Try to add another item to your Not-Do list the following week.
Step 4: Change Up What’s Not Working
There’s that saying attributed to Mark Twain: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” By this, he meant to tackle your most important tasks (MITs) first thing in the morning. This is solid advice to build more productive habits, but don’t be afraid to change up what’s not working.
We have different levels of productivity throughout the day for different types of tasks. If you’ve stalled on a project, you can use your calendar to exchange it for one that seems more manageable, instead of trying to power through. Refocusing may pull you out of your rut. Plus, since you swap time block, you’ll remain on schedule.
If you need to tackle an unfamiliar or creative endeavor, wait until a “non-optimal” time of day, early morning or evening. This may seem counter-intuitive, but studies show we do our best creative thinking when we are tired. During these times, our inhibitions are lower, and we rely more on implicit memory. This means you’re less likely to second-guess your insights or censor your ideas. In short, you’ll get out of your own way. If you’re a night-owl, get up early and take a crack at it. If you’re a morning person, try it right before bed. (Though give yourself time to rest your mind. There’s no substitute for a good night of sleep!)
Reclaim Your Time by Doing Something You Care About
Now that you’ve found some time, how can you fill it with something meaningful? Now is the time to snap your fingers and learning a new language!
Step 5: Small bits add up. Even a few minutes each day can feel like a fortune of time when put towards something you care about. We’ve all seen the guy doing dips on a bench to sneak in a workout while waiting for the bus. You can use the same principle for learning your new language (without getting any funny looks.)
Use the time during your commute, errands, or other tasks to listen to a podcast in your language of study.
Practice speaking your new language whenever you can. If you are learning with your family or friends, have conversations with them in your new language. Practice with native language speakers if you are able. And if there’s no one else, it’s okay to talk to yourself.
Put the language where you’ll see it. Write down key vocabulary words on flashcards and put them around your house where you’ll notice them. Put them on your bedroom door, the corner of the television, the refrigerator, the bathroom mirror, and any other place you will be sure to see. If you turn to your phone when you have downtime, several apps can help you make digital flashcards. This way, you can learn while you wait at the dentist’s office or in line at the grocery store.
You can also tie your learning to other everyday activities. You can review your learning materials when you sit down for coffee or tea each morning. You can turn on the subtitles in your chosen language as you watch a television show or movie. Since you do these things every day, it will help you stay connected to learning your new language.
· Study as a treat
Let learning your new language be a gift you give yourself. You can be intentional about study time and also have fun. Set aside 15 minutes to use as a break between work tasks or other chores. Or set it up as a reward for ticking something off your To-Do list or completing a difficult task.
Step 6: Finally, Make a Commitment
Flexible classes at ReDefiners allow you to use your time well.
The conventional wisdom holds that we are more likely to follow through when we commit not just to ourselves, but to others. This is true, with some caveats. It works best when we commit to a process over an end goal, have consistent check-ins, and receive positive feedback.
ReDefiners language courses offer all this with a flexible schedule for group or individual courses. They offer online and in-person courses in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic. Their Classes meet for one hour twice a week to keep you on track and offer flexible coursework and one-on-one meetings with the instructors for extra support. The time commitment varies to best serve your goals, whether you’re a Casual Learner, a Standard Learner, or an Intensive Learner.
Now that you found the time, don’t just use it, maximize it. Learn a new language with expertly guided instruction and engaging and interactive resources proven to get results. For more information about our classes, please visit www.redefinerswl.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.