How to Find Time to Learn Languages

If you’re busy with a full-time job and a family, you may feel that you don’t have enough time to study languages. It doesn’t have to be like that. With a bit of ingenuity, you can still find time. This is how I solved the study time problem when I worked a full-time job which left me mentally drained every night:

  • study the textbook for my newest target language for half an hour in the morning before work whenever possible
  • do flashcards on my iphone while on the bus going to work (using the Anki app that syncs with my PC) or listen to podcasts
  • start a series of company lunches where e.g. all French speakers, all Italians or all Spanish speakers would get together (the company was very international) so that I could occasionally practise languages over lunch. I also started a “Slow German for foreigners” lunch group in order to give back.
  • occasionally do self-talk exercises while doing dishes or vacuuming
  • spend an hour reading a book (light reading, not a language course) in a foreign language before sleeping / watch a TV show or a movie in a foreign language with subtitles
  • study as much as possible on the weekend, mainly focusing on brain-intensive things like textbook study

I generally recommend studying two languages at once – one beginner and one intermediate or advanced. The main advantages of this is that you’re less likely to get bored and that you can do different activities – for a beginner language you basically have to follow a textbook, but if you also study an intermediate/advanced language at the same time you can read easy readers or actual books, watch TV or movies and the like. Those are things that require less brainpower than studying a textbook, so they are convenient to do after a taxing workday. Still, if you can invest only two hours a week or less for language study, you should probably study one language only.