Roman Malanke

Finding Time to Learn a Language

The original plan to complete my e-book on language learning during winter time didn’t quite work out due to my work on higher priority activities. Nonetheless, I did make a good progress on the draft and will continue to share small pieces from it in this blog, until I finally brace myself and finish the thing. Today I have for you a chapter about finding time for learning a language. Enjoy!

Of all the time I spent to learn English and Spanish only about 10% was dedicated time consciously taken away from other activities, when I sat down, disconnected from the outside world, and immersed into learning materials. Most of that happened during the first stage of learning, when the basic structure of the language was being established in my brain.

The remaining 90% came from two sources:
1. Combining listening to audio materials with routine activities.
2. Substituting leisure information consumption with content in a target language.

My two favorite activities to combine with audio learning are walking and housework. Apart from being the healthiest way to move around, walking is wonderful because in itself it requires very little mental attention leaving 99% of brain cycles unused. So you just grab an iPod loaded with learning material before going out and, voilà, the street becomes your classroom. Similarly with the housework — instead of carelessly mediating or having your thoughts wander while washing dishes, tidying up or ironing, you can make use of this time by listening to a podcast or an audiobook. There are many more activities that can provide time for listening practice: driving, jogging, exercising, etc.

At some point in the process of learning English I made the decision that I later found out to be fundamental for success — I decided that 100% of the content that I consume for pleasure and self-development purposes would be in English. I read books and articles, listened to music and podcasts, watched movies — all in English. In such a way the time that I would have otherwise spent just for relaxation served that same purpose, but was simultaneously used for improving my listening and comprehension skills in English language. Later I applied the same tactics with Spanish and it worked perfectly too. Of course, such approach becomes possible only at a certain point, when you can understand significant part of the content already. But this point definitely comes much earlier than most people think.