Time for a language related post! It’s been a while since I posted anything that related solely to language learning, so I’ll try to do that today! Today I’m going to talk about time and how everybody actually has enough time to learn a foreign language. I made a video on this two years ago and that can be viewed by clicking here.
Time… time… time… We all wish we had more of it. Life can be very busy and hectic at times and sometimes we feel like we don’t have time for a anything at all… Let alone language learning. Have no fear, Captain Polyglot is here to save you from procrastination and dispel all of the time related myths and excuses you may have. No, Captain Polyglot is not me, he’s one of the lesser known Marvel super heroes. He made a brief appearance in the newest Marvel movie. If you don’t believe me, go back and look for yourself or google him! Anyway, without further ado, let’s get into it!
Alright, so lets start with the morning! Let’s imagine that you work a regular 9-5 job. You wake up at 7 in the morning and spend 10 minutes pooping, 20 minutes showering and getting ready and 20 minutes eating breakfast and getting your lunch ready for work assuming you’re not going to go out and eat lunch during your day. If you have access to a bluetooth speaker you can be listening to your target language while you’re pooping and showering. I recommend doing both separately for the best results. That’s 30 minutes of language learning right there. You can continue this while you’re eating breakfast and getting your lunch ready. Just have something in the target language playing in the background. That adds another 20 minutes of potential learning to your morning. You’ve now spent 50 minutes learning your target language passively and you haven’t even left your house yet! Your “I don’t have time excuse is getting weaker”. These same tricks can even be applied if you have kids that need to be taken to school. Passive learning can be a family activity! Why not get your kids in on the language learning? If you do it in a fun way, they’ll enjoy it and it will add some healthy excitement to their morning and who knows, they may pick up the language too!
Alright, so now I’m assuming that you need to somehow get to work unless you work from home! Whether you’re driving, using public transportation or carpooling you still have time to continue the learning. If you’re driving and have an Aux cord, you can plug your phone into your car and listen to the target language as you drive. Many cars can also use bluetooth nowadays too. Make sure you’re listening to something in the target language that doesn’t require a lot of attention because you’ll need to focus on the road. I personally recommend listening to the news in the target language because you’ll be exposed to a lot of words that you wouldn’t normally hear and news podcasts are normally longer in duration than other things which will prevent you from needing to touch your phone to play subsequent episodes while you’re driving because that’s dangerous. Don’t touch your phone while driving! Turn the podcast on before you leave the driveway.
If you’re on the bus you can do the exact same thing. Just make sure you use headphones because you don’t want to be that annoying guy on the bus listening to how Russian cases work. Besides, some suffering is not meant to be shared. So keep your Russian cases to yourself! Russian grammar jokes aside, I used to use my time on the bus to read through my Assimil books. Being on the bus meant that I didn’t need to focus on actually driving myself which allowed me to read safely. I feel like one third of my Catalan was learned on the bus.
If your carpooling you have the best of both worlds. You may not be the one driving, so you can still read if you’d like to or you can listen to the language through your headphones. There’s only one thing you may have to bear in mind when it comes to carpooling. You may have to….. *gulps* socialize… with the person/people you’re carpooling with.
Everyone’s commute will vary. That means that the amount of time that each person will be able to spend learning on their commute will also vary, but just remember to use your commute time to your advantage.
Language learning doesn’t have to be in a classroom!
Most people assume that language learning needs to take place in a classroom and that it also needs to be an intense gruelling process that requires ALL of your attention. I have some good news for all of you! It doesn’t. Everything counts when it comes to language learning and I’m going to explain how I put this stuff into practice myself.
Back in 2014, I’d take the bus to and from work in the winter and I’d bike to and from work in the summer. As I mentioned above, I’d always bring my Assimil books and listen to them on the bus because I knew it would take just just over half and hour to get to work and half an hour to get back. I was too lazy and loved my sleep too much to get up an hour earlier than I normally would to study before I left the house,(I did sometimes though) so I’d just split it up on the bus because there wasn’t really anything else that I could have been doing other than maybe listening to music for example, so I decided to use the time to study and learn.
In the summer I’d just listen to news podcasts on my phone because riding a bike and reading is dangerous. I knew it would take just over 20 minutes to get to work and twenty minutes to come back home after, so I decided to make use of the time. Yes, biking to work actually was faster than taking the bus because I didn’t have to wait for any bus connections in case any of you were wondering.
On my thirty minute break at work, I’d also use my time to study a bit. I’d try to spend 10 minutes texting, checking social media and eating and then the twenty minutes that followed were dedicated to language learning and nothing else. I remember that I also spent quiet a bit of time on the train back in those days and I’m sure you can guess what I did on the commute to Toronto and back by now and no it wasn’t playing candy crush… You guessed it! I got more passive learning in! I’m not one who likes to lug a bag or backpack around, so I left my books at home and got all my passive listening on the train in via podcasts on my phone. I remember I used to always listen to a French radio show called Manu 6/9 Sur NRJ on my train rides regardless of the language I was learning at the time.
I’d also get passive listening in at home while cooking, washing dishes, or cleaning my room. These are all things that ALL of us do in our lives, so why not incorporate some passive learning into these activities? We all have at least a little bit of time!
Passive and active learning
There are two kinds of learning. One is active learning which is when you sit down and actively and consciously try to learn something. This normally takes place in school or when you’re studying for exams or tests or are trying to memorize facts or other things. Passive learning, on the other hand, is exactly what it sounds like; it’s passive. Passive learning is what I’m trying to encourage in this article. When you read a book in your native language, you’ll passively pick up new vocabulary. When you read a book in a foreign language the same thing will happen. The same thing will also happen when you passively listen to the target language while doing other things. You won’t necessarily be conscious of all of the learning that is subconsciously taking place until you have a conversation with somebody in the target language and think “Wow, I’m surprised I understood that” or “wow, I didn’t know I knew that word” Both types of learning are important and your lifestyle and responsibilities will dictate which type of learning you rely on the most. The busier you are, the more time you’ll probably end up spending learning passively. Try and make sure you get a least a little bit of both because learning a language in a completely passive manner without any active, conscious study is possible, but it will take a long time.
Pimsleur and Earworms Rapid learning are two good courses that can be used in the background while doing other things. I recommend checking them both out.
Analyze and breakdown your day!
I want you to sit down and think about your day and try to figure out when you have free time and when you can take advantage of passive learning. Do you have time while cooking dinner? Do you go for a thirty minute jog every evening or morning? Do you go on long walks? Does your job allow you to listen to music that could be in your target language? Can you listen to podcasts at work? Is your carpool buddy from a country that speaks your target language? Is he or she willing to let you practice speaking? These are all questions you should ask yourself. Really break down your day and see where you can slip in some passive or active learning. Don’t procrastinate and don’t allow yourself to be lazy. We can all find a little bit off time in our days. Nobody is literally busy 24/7 because your body would get overwhelmed and you’d die. We can all find at least a LITTLE bit of time.
I hope that reading this article has dispelled a lot of your time related myths and excuses! I really hope that you are now more motivated to learn the language of your choosing or that you were able to free up more time in some other areas of your life to dedicate to language learning! We all have time, we just need to use it wisely and efficiently.
P.S I’m sorry to disappoint you guys, but Captain Polyglot is not a real Marvel character and he didn’t make an appearance in the latest Marvel movie, but the good news is that if you actually had enough time to google him and look for scenes from the movie featuring him on youtube, you are gullible and I tricked you, but don’t be mad because if you had time to look him up, you have time to learn a language! Use that time to learn languages next time!
Good luck, Folks!
This picture was taken is Barcelona, Spain.