Learning a language can seem like a lengthy, difficult process and, at times, it can feel like you’re wading through a sticky bog unable to get to the other side.
Too many people focus on the end goal without thinking about – and acting upon – a series of smaller tasks that will help them reach that end goal. Whilst it’s good to practice every day to keep everything fresh in your mind, you don’t have to sacrifice other things.
Taking ten minutes here or there throughout your day is enough, especially if you incorporate the language learning process into your every day routine.
1. Change the language on your phone
You probably already know your way around your phone pretty well, so why not change the settings so it’s in your target language?
Seeing the language pop up every time you look at your device – which, let’s face it, is pretty often for most people – can help etch it in your memory, and the regular exposure will keep you thinking about it throughout the day.
2. Listen to a podcast
Most of us have some kind of daily commute, whether it’s to work or to the supermarket, which is the perfect opportunity to practice language learning.
Download some podcasts or get a good audiobook to plug yourself into during this time and you won’t feel like you have wasted a single second of your day.
3. Read an article or news story
To familiarise yourself with the grammar and sentence structure of your target language, it is a great idea to read one or two articles in it each day.
They don’t have to be long; just a current affairs piece or something on a topic that interests you. To take this a step further, try reading the article out loud to get used to the sound of the letters and to practice your intonation.
4. Flash cards and post-its
When I was learning to talk, my mum stuck post-it notes with the names of objects all around the house to familiarise me with how words look and to encourage me to learn more vocabulary.
This is a great thing to do when learning a language, too. Of course, this method only really works for tangible objects – you can’t put a post-it on an abstract notion – but it is an effective revision technique as you will be looking at and using these objects on a daily basis.
5. Translate your shopping list
Talking of supermarkets, writing out your shopping list or your to-do list in your target language is another great technique to incorporate into the language learning process.
Practicing writing things out gets you used to the spelling and formation of words and, if you don’t know the word for something you need, you can look it up and add a new word to your ever-expanding vocabulary!
6. Listen to some music
If you’re a music fan, weaving songs in your target language into your daily routine can be hugely beneficial as well as fun.
Most songs are written in a casual manner, giving you an insight into colloquial language. Plus, they are great tools for getting to grips with grammar and pronunciation, and they’re easier to memorise than dry blocks of text.
7. Have a dictionary on hand
Pick up a pocket dictionary and carry it with you at all times.
So, if you have a spare moment, you can have a flick through or, if you’re desperate to know what a certain word or phrase means in your target language, you can quickly look it up and add it to your new-found dialogue.
8. Play a game
There are so many online language learning games now that there is bound to be one out there that suits your needs and you find fun.
Alternatively, if you are a big gaming fan, you can change the settings on your favorite game to your target language.
There tends to be a number of conversations to move games forward and it won’t feel like you’re doing any work at all!
9. Sign up to a forum
The vast majority of countries have a range of forums on a various topics, from relationships, to writing, to computer programming like forosdelweb.
So, if you’re interested in technology and you’re learning Spanish, you might want to sign up to a site like this for a great way view interactions between native speakers, to get involved yourself, and to gain some industry-specific vocabulary - if this is what you are looking to learn.
10. Write about your day
This is one of my favorite daily techniques because you can easily begin to see the progress you have made after a couple of weeks if you keep all your ‘daily reviews’ in the same place.
You only need to write a couple of sentences about what you got up to, things you saw, and things you read or heard and it will keep the creative juices flowing in your target language.
If you do it quickly before bed you can review it the next morning to keep the language fresh in your mind for the rest of the day.
Lizzie writes for GEOS Languages Plus and other language school sites. Last year she went to LanguagesAbroad to learn Spanish in Spain where she realized that language learning has to become a part of everyday life if you want to succeed. In her spare time you can find her exploring Europe and further afield, watching nature documentaries, and drinking an obscene amount of tea.