How to Find the Time to Learn a Language

By Jonty Yamisha

Don’t worry. This is not going to be a post on how to make an actual study schedule. Most people don’t follow schedules very well. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve blocked off parts of my day for x and y activity, tried it for a week or two most, only to see those efforts wasted. Worse, I’ve stumbled upon reminders of these infamous schedules in forgotten notebooks I’ve revisited by accident and cringed. They just weren’t very helpful.

Instead, this post is about how to make sure you fit studying a new language into your day, at some point. We’ll look at where to find the time to learn and how to approach each day optimistically with learning goals in mind. As a result, you can hit each day with confidence as you rapidly achieve fluency in a foreign language.

We Have More Free Time Than We Think

You’ve probably heard that saying that we all have the same 24 hours in a day. It’s what you do with it that matters. But it goes deeper than that. We actually have a lot more time than we need. 

Even the busiest of us. 

The fact is, we tend to think we have less time than we do. But, our time is pretty elastic. All it takes is an emergency in our lives to realize how easy it is to move things around in our schedules. For instance, if a tree falls on your house during a storm. Now, you have to suddenly handle your busy schedule while dealing with insurance people, repairs, clean up, etc. Instances like this force you to quickly push aside non-essential activities and focus on what’s really importantgetting your house repaired.

Okay. So, maybe it’s not “easy” in the sense that there’s nothing to worry about. But rather, it’s easy in the sense that we have the capacity to do it. Necessity dictates change, specifically changes in our personal habits. We may think our schedule is fully booked, but once we have to juggle something extra, most of us quickly prioritize essentials to successfully navigate whatever life throws our way. 

How Important Is Learning a New Language to You?

Most people say that they don’t have the time to make something in their lives happen. But really, it’s about whether or not that task is a priority. We have to eat, sleep, work, etc. These things are necessary, and so, we make time for them. But what about all the other hours of the day? What we choose to do in those moments illustrates how much importance we place on those tasks.

If you’re trying to figure out how to schedule learning a new language, then the first step is to figure out whether or not it is a priority for you. Are you casually learning a new language? Striving for fluency to get a promotion at work? Or maybe you have a trip coming up and you know that speaking the local language will make it more enjoyable. Either way, you need to take the time to figure out how important reaching fluency is to you.

Once you do that, then you need to take a look at your day and see when you could set aside between 20 – 30 minutes for a lesson. 

Why not more? 

20 – 30 minutes is the minimum you need to study each day to make steady progress towards fluency in a target foreign language. Spending 5 days working towards your language learning goals means that you’ll need (at most) 2.5 hours. Once you realize that there are 168 hours in a week, finding 2.5 hours doesn’t seem too difficult.

Anything more is just an added bonus.

When Is the Best Time to Study?

Ideally, you’d want to study when your mind is both fresh and ready to learn. And there are actually periods of time when you’re brain is more open to acquiring new knowledge. Between 10 am – 2 pm and between 4 pm and 10 pm, according to studies. This is because our circadian rhythm is hardwired into our biology, giving us moments throughout the day where we function at peak performance. 

Keep in mind that not everyone has the same rhythm. Some people are night owls, others may be outliers. The key here is to listen to your body. Try out different times during the day to study, and see how successful your efforts are. Consistency through trial and error will go along way to finding the right time for language lessons.

If your schedule is a bit too chaotic to study during these times, then you may need to “reset” your brain beforehand. Let’s say your job takes a lot of out you. You show up at 8 am and you’re on, non-stop, until 5 pm. You may be mentally exhausted by 5 pm. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to “reset” your brain. Taking a short nap, meditating, or going to the gym can help reduce stress and clear the mind, leaving you rejuvenated and ready for your language lessons. 

The Importance of Removing Distractions

Did you know that it takes, on average 23 minutes to refocus on a task after you’ve been distracted? For the best results, you need 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to FOCUS on learning a new language during one of your optimal time windows. So, turn off the phone notifications, close the door, and focus on achieving fluency during these study sessions. 

How to Find the Time to Reach Fluency

Worst-case scenario, you’re one of the few who really, really don’t have any free time. Does that mean you can’t learn a language? Not. At. All. There are moments in the day you can use to carve up language learning lessons. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. And if you are someone who has plenty of free time but wants to find even more moments you can use to speed up your progress toward fluency, then you can benefit from knowing where to find that time as well.

Tips for finding more time to practice a foreign language:

  • Study on the road. If you have to take a train, bus, or you travel a lot by plane for work, there will be plenty of time for lessons. Avoid studying while driving, though. You won’t be able to focus as much as you should, and it can be unsafe.
  • Study at the gym. If you work out, you can listen to a new language lesson on the treadmill while doing cardio. Then, during your exercises, you can listen to music in your target language. Remember, immersion is important. And listening to songs in your target language provides you with more exposure.
  • Use little tricks. Setting your phone, computer, and email to your target language can keep the learning going throughout the day. But it doesn’t end there. Try labeling everything in your house in the language you want to learn. Every time you use it, you’re reminded of its translation. 
  • Don’t get bored waiting. Train yourself to pay attention to moments when you’re waiting (doctors appointments, friends to show up, a meeting to start). When you catch time ticking by with no demands on you, pull out your language learning app or browse some content in your target language.
  • Switch out the socials. The average person spends over 2 hours on social media a day. It’s so casual that it happens without thinking about it. Instead of reaching for Instagram when you wake up, open up your favorite language learning application. 
  • The toilet is just another classroom. Depending upon how often and how much time you spend in there, you can pick up a few minutes to focus on learning a new language during that downtime. Just remember, if you have roommates, you may want to keep singing in a foreign language to a minimum. 

One more thing to keep in mind: Don’t panic if you miss a day. Life is busy. Unexpected events happen all the time. You have to push through them and remain consistent if you’re going to reach fluency in a new language. It’s not the end of the world if you miss a day here and there, just try to be as consistent as you can be.

Successful People Rely on Routines

Many of the most successful people in the world rely on routines. They keep us sane, organized, and successful. And if you want to learn a language, it helps to have a routine. It’ll keep your lessons structured and predictable.

When you have a specific time of day that you study and practice your target language, you know that it’s coming. It’s not something you need to waste time figuring out when or how you’re going to find the time to fit it in. Knowing that you’ll be working on your foreign language lessons from 6:30 pm – 7:00 pm, for instance, makes it easier to plan your day around it. It’ll also be one less thing you need to worry about. And, you’ll grow to feel excitement and anticipation for that time. 

Reevaluate Your Day

If it feels like you’re constantly busy, constantly working on something, just barely reaching deadlines constantly, then you may need to reevaluate your work habits. Routines, schedules, and micro lessons can only get you so far. Unproductive work habits could actually be the main problem, cutting your progress down drastically. 

Did you know that most people need to work for 52 minutes followed by 17 minutes of rest? Desktime tracked the top 10% of its most productive users and found that this pattern of work/rest was common among them. If you work for 8 hours a day, according to this study, then you would need 136 minutes of rest each day. Now, before you think, “That’s unreasonable.” You need to rethink “rest”.

Rest doesn’t have to be Social Media and YouTube time. Instead, you can do 52 minutes of high-level work, followed by 17 minutes answering emails, reading articles, and completing other administrative errands. These tasks can keep you productive while giving your brain the break it needs.

By analyzing your daily schedule and keeping track of how much time you spend on certain tasks, you’ll find ways to optimize each workday. And the more you optimize your efforts, the more likely it will be that you can easily find the time you need to practice speaking a foreign language.

Why Your Mindset Matters

At the end of the day, having the right mindset matters most. You have to be willing to seek out opportunities in your day. If you approach learning a new language with a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset, you’re not going to find the opportunities clearly waiting for you. But there are plenty of them out there.

The best way to successfully learn a language is to see it as something that you can achieve, not another “task” you have to juggle every day. It’s a small adjustment, but it’s one that matters. The more eager and willing you are to find moments in your day to practice speaking in your target language, the more likely you’ll be to make progress toward your language-learning goals. 

Get the Most Out of Time

All of this is for nothing if you waste your time on the wrong language learning platform. If you want to rapidly achieve fluency in a foreign language, then you need to move away from apps that focus on translation and memorization. You need an app that gets you SPEAKING not typing in a foreign language.

OptiLingo uses Guided Immersion and Spaced Repetition Systems while exposing you to common phrases in your target language. The results speak for themselves. You’ll start learning phrases you can use to talk to native speakers. Ditch flashcards, boring grammar lessons, and programs that leave you feeling like you’re wasting your time. Check out OptiLingo today!