Your Study Routine
Now that we’ve discussed what to do with your time, we turn to the when and where of your learning: your routine.
This chapter has four sections:
- How much time to spend
- When to spend your time
- Integrating your language into your life
- Staying motivated
How much time to spend
Languages require a certain number of hours to achieve a high level at, and you cannot cheat your way out of this requirement. This brings us to one of the most important principles:
Principle: Spend as much time as you can with your language
The key factor determining how fast you learn your language is time. If you want to improve quickly, aim to spend as much time as possible learning. The more the better. It is far more important than having the perfect technique or using the perfect resource.
To help build your time with the language, it is important to study every day. Ideally, commit to study at least an hour per day. There is no maximum—the more you can commit each day, the faster you will progress.
When to spend your time
The best technique is to build a routine. To do this, have a set time each day you devote to study without any pauses or distractions. It helps if a block deals with a single resource, such as an article, course lesson, workbook chapter, or podcast episode.
It also helps to intersperse your learning. As long as you are doing a block of at least 20 minutes, then the rest of your learning can be interspersed throughout the day. Similarly, try to study consistently every day rather than doing it all at the end of the week.
There are lots of clever ways to help you spend more time than you otherwise would. We will look at these next.
Integrating your language into your life
Think of learning language as something that becomes a part of your life rather than something to set time for like a school subject. This enables you to spend far more time with the language than you otherwise would have. Here are some ways you can do this:
Switch the language of the media you consume
Try to find a friend or group of friends that speak your target language
Change the language of the devices you use
Once you are good enough, try to think in your target language
A big advantage of the modern world is you can easily take your study materials and content with you wherever you go. To do some extra learning, you can use the small bits of downtime throughout your day, such as on the bus, in a queue, or walking between class. Here are a few ideas:
Get a pen pal on a chat app such those listed in the table of language exchange resources; use any downtime to read and send messages
Use digital flashcards on your phone
Use a beginner course that has a smartphone app
Listen to podcasts while cooking, cleaning, walking, or during any activity where you don’t have to carefully focus
Carry a book with you
Principle: Keep up your motivation
Maintaining motivation is key to succeeding at your language learning goals. Staying motivated is important because it will cause you to study more frequently, help you study longer, and reduce the chances you will give up. Becoming unmotivated can lead to stagnation as you find it difficult to sit and study for the required length of time. Pay attention to your motivation and focus on doing activities you know keep you motivated and interested.
Here are some ideas to help you keep your motivation high:
Use resources you enjoy—Try different methods and choose one that you enjoy the most. This will take the edge off the study process. Read more in the key tip here.
Use content you find interesting—There’s lots of interesting content out there. You will find yourself enjoying learning your language a lot more when you find content you enjoy for its own sake.
Work towards your goals—Striving towards your goals, making progress, and successfully engaging with those parts of the language can be a motivating experience. It can be helpful to keep your goals around you. For example, hanging around with speakers of the language you are learning.
Refresh—If you feel yourself stagnating, try changing your routine by studying at a different time, studying in a different place, doing exercises you wouldn’t usually do, or using content you don’t usually use.
Summary of the book so far
Before we move on, it will be helpful to review what we have covered.
Find a goal and build a method. Ensure you include the three keys: structure, drills, and practice. You can use a basic method at the start, but there are plenty of ideas you can get from others. How you split your time is up to you, but be sure that content retains an important position. Spend at least 20 minutes a day in focused study. Increase your time with the language by integrating it into your life. Keep up your motivation by choosing resources that you enjoy using.
You are now in a good position to start studying. All you need to do is begin searching for resources, then build a basic method and you are ready to start. From here, we will be looking at how to do your method better. I will start with a section on using the core resources effectively. I will then move to learning effectively. I finish the core portion of the guide with a set of three key activities that are great for any learner from upper-beginner onwards. If you have time, I recommend you continue to read after this chapter.