Learning a second language is no easy feat. For a busy working professional sitting down to study like a school child after a long day’s work is the last thing you want to do.
But learning a language doesn’t have to be a chore and doesn’t have to take over all your valuable free time. Finding the perfect work life balance is key to successful studying. Languages are actually one of the easiest skills to integrate into your day to day life so learning can become fun and manageable alongside a full-time job.
You can learn a language anywhere, at any time. The following tips will help you optimise your study time and keep you excited about discovering a new language.
- Optimise your ‘dead time’ – learn whilst you work
- Integrate learning into your free time – make it fun
- Make language friends
- Take group classes
- Get a private tutor
- Set yourself goals and track your progress
- Remember – quality over quantity
- Don’t give up
Optimise Your ‘dead time’ - Learn Whilst You Work
Honestly, there are many times in the day where you’re not working but not quite relaxing. Dead times are the moments throughout your day when you’re not doing anything that requires mental focus. Commuting to and from work, waiting in between meetings and coffee breaks. These are all parts of your ‘dead time’ that you could utilise for studying.
With the average commute to London being 74 minutes a day, think how much studying you could do! The best thing about learning during these quiet parts of your day is that you’re studying doesn’t eat up all your free time. This can easily be integrated into your work life.
Language Apps Are Your Friend
If you’re able to listen to music at work then try listening to songs and podcasts in the new language. No matter what type of work you do, make the most of your breaks and commuting time and get learning, but obviously don’t start writing out notes if you’re driving to work!
Integrate Learning Into Your Free Time - Make It Fun
Similarly to doing activities whilst at work, there are loads of fun ways to integrate language learning into your free time. Needless to say, in order to learn a new language you do need proper study time where you read textbooks and write out tasks.
But doing things like watching movies and tv shows in the language or with subtitles, listening to music or reading books and articles really help with learning the language. You pick up more colloquial terms, increase your vocabulary and practice listening and reading skills.
You’d be surprised at how much you pick up without realising it. A tip for if you have young children, buy them some basic language books or story books and read with them so you can both learn together.
Make Language Friends
You may be content with the social circles you already have, but there’s no harm in making new friends. Using apps like Hellotalk and Tandem introduce you to like minded people who are also learning the language or people who want to learn English and can offer you a language exchange. You can also make friends through group classes.
Having people doing the same thing as you makes the journey easier as you can share your challenges and successes with them and support each other. Language exchange lunches are a great way to fit learning into your working day. You can theoretically kill two birds with one stone, get fed and get some quality study time in.
Alternatively you could get a colleague, friend or family member to join you on your learning journey. Working together is always easier than working alone and it can provide some friendly competition and motivation for you.
Take Group Classes
Group lessons are not only a great way to make new friends, but they also deliver a structured and guided learning experience. Setting out to learn a whole new language independently can be a bit overwhelming.
But classes give you the basics and allow you to ask questions and practice your speaking skills. There are many evening language classes set up especially for working professionals. Check out your local college, university or community centre to find group sessions.
You could also ask your boss if the company offers language training to employees. Many companies do provide language classes but you may not be aware of it. At Learn&Co we run corporate training for a variety of businesses. If it’s not already set up at your company you could suggest it as it could be a great opportunity for employees.
Get A Private Tutor
Alternatively, if you want more personal support than getting a private tutor is a good idea. Private lessons are more tailored to your level and needs and can be arguably more efficient as they are one-on-one. The learning time is higher quality and completely personalised. Learn&Co offers tutoring in a variety of languages. All our tutors are masters at creating sessions that challenge students and optimise their time.
Private tutoring lessons are great as they can fit easily into your working schedule. They can also be done remotely through digital based companies, like Learn&Co, that specialise in online tutoring.
Set Yourself Goals and Track Your Progress
The first rule for learning a language should always be to set yourself appropriate and reachable goals. Writing down your targets for each day or week is a simple but effective way to keep you on track and maintain focus.
Being able to see your progress and achieve goals is a great motivator. You can ask your tutor to set you homework or tasks to be completed before sessions so that you can’t slack off.
Goals can be as simple as learning 50 new words a week or being able to read and fully understand a page of a textbook. Goals can also be more fun and lighthearted, like watch 2 movies in the language or learn the lyrics to a song. Whatever targets you set yourself, make sure they’re achievable and share them with friends and family to keep you motivated.
Remember - Quality Over Quantity
You could sit down at a desk for ages and stare at a book overloaded with difficult tasks and write pointless notes. When you finish you’ll feel dissatisfied and not have actually learnt much.
Ten minutes of focused and intense study is better than an hour of distracted and unstructured work. That’s why private tutors or group lessons can be important. Most busy professionals don’t have much time to dedicate to learning a new language so it’s important to make the most of the time you do have to study.
Stop procrastinating. In order to make the most of your time you have to remove distractions and focus. Turn your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ for an hour and start studying. It’s key to reward yourself after good quality work.
Find the right balance between working hard but not making it unbearable. If studying becomes a chore then you will lose motivation and passion for learning. Figure out what balance works for you and stick with it.
Don't Give Up!
If you are trying to fit learning into your busy life. Take a moment to remind yourself why you want to do this. Speaking a second language is one of the most beneficial skills you can have. It can open up great opportunities.
If you have a busy work week and stop studying, don’t give up completely. Get back on the saddle and keep going the next week! If it seems overwhelming and like you’re not getting anywhere then revise your goals. Make them more achievable, or consider getting a private tutor to keep you committed.
So, some final thoughts, endeavouring to learn a second language alongside a full time job is a brave decision. It can be hard to find the balance between work, study and free time.
However, there are easy ways to integrate studying into your life. When learning a new language every second really does count. So utilising your free and quiet time is the best way to make learning fun and less overwhelming. Always remember that learning a new skill, whatever it is, should be fun and never become a chore. Be kind to yourself, set goals and use friends and tutors to keep you inspired and motivated.