John Assaraf said, “The interested person will do what is convenient. The committed person will do whatever it takes.” If you’re like me, at first glance this quote can be a bit discouraging. After all, few of us are really committed to language learning, at least not committed enough to do whatever it takes. But there is hope and it is found in doing convenient, simple things everyday. If we can do this, our commitment will grow and we will one day find ourselves at the end of a successful language learning journey.
My goal with this post is to give you ideas. I want to help you find the convenient things you can do every day that will help you begin to make real headway in the language you are learning. None of these ideas are the be all and end all for learning another language but rather are supplemental activities that can help you build a robust personal language learning program.
With all of these, the idea is the same. They should be fun, easy to implement and simple to use. Some of course are more so than others. Some require five minutes of your time while others require twenty. Some are purely entertainment and some are more focused in nature. Some of the ideas below will feel like a perfect match for your learning and life style. A few will seem like total nonsense. And that’s okay. All of these ideas can be used to create a rich learning environment that will lead to more interaction with the language you are learning. Here are 40 simple ways to maximize your life as a language learner:
- Place stacks of flashcards in high use regions of your home – near the kitchen sink, on the back of the toilet in the bathroom, on your desk or night stand, next to the TV remote in the living room.
- Label and super label things around your home. Read More.
- Place high interest reading material on the back of the toilet, on the nightstand, in the drawer at the office.
- Begin to acquire music in the language you wish to learn.
- Create a folder on your ipod called “ [language] file” so that you can easily listen to target language music.
- Sign up for the Ten Week Journey to get started with language learning. Learn More.
- Make your shopping list in the target language and don’t bring a dictionary. This idea comes from Randy The Yearlyglot.
- Change your ipod, cell phone and computer interface language settings to your target language.
- Join a local club or association that will put you in contact with native speakers.
- Shop at ethnic grocery stores.
- Use Google Translate to find Youtube videos in the target language on topics you are interested in. An Example.
- Find podcasts in the language to listen to anytime.
- Purchase coffee table picture books filled with glossy photos of the target language country and keep it on the end table to help sustain motivation.
- Find audio books in the language that you can listen to anytime.
- Sign up for Livemocha, Busuu, or purchase Rosetta Stone so that you have a simple program for learning at your computer to use 20 minutes at a time.
- If you are a gamer, find computer games in the target language.
- Go online to stream major sporting events (Super Bowl, NBA finals, etc) with target language announcers.
- If you like board games, find board or card games in the target language.
- Subscribe to a major news magazine’s target language edition.
- Read the Free Everyday Language Learner’s Guide to Sustaining to help you maintain and even improve your motivation, commitment and attitude. READ NOW.
- Sign up and begin using LingQ. Learn More.
- Keep a stack of note cards with you. On these write example sentences of the newest grammar structures you have been learning, write expressions and proverbs you would like to learn and write other important words and phrases that you want to learn. Keep these cards with you everywhere. Read More.
- Watch foreign films in your target language.
- Print off ten Wikipedia articles in the target language about topics or people that you are extremely interested in and knowledgeable of. Keep these in on the end table or nightstand for easy reading.
- Write in the target language at Lang-8 and get free feedback and corrections. Read More.
- Change Wikipedia to the target language and bookmark it on your computer.
- Read or watch your daily dose of “world news” from a target language news outlet.
- Print out a list of 50 new words you are learning and tape that to the bathroom mirror.
- Place another copy of this list near your bed, above your desk and on the car dashboard.
- Find a TV series from the country of the Target language that you can watch. These can easily be streamed online.
- Place a target language dictionary on the navigation bar of your computer.
- Sign up for a word of the day email auto responder so that you get something in your inbox everyday.
- Download Anki or a similar computer based flashcard program.
- Subscribe to a target language online news feed.
- Keep a children’s book in the target language near every chair in your home and office.
- Buy a target language pocket dictionary and keep it with you.
- Hang a map of the country you most wish to visit on a prominent wall in your home to help sustain motivation and begin to learn the names of places (if you can get a map in the target language – all the better).
- Download a target language dictionary to your iphone.
- Buy a small phrase book and keep it around the house or office.
- Subscribe to The Everyday Language Learner so that you can get each new blog post delivered into your inbox. Subscribe Now.
So there you have it. 40 ideas to get you started. The idea isn’t to find the one perfect method or system that will be your silver bullet, but rather to fill your day and your environment with the language as much as possible. You may want to print this list and keep it with your language learning materials for reference when you are wondering what you should be doing. I think it especially important that you have a number of easy to access activities that you can do in the five minutes of free time that come up here and there throughout our days. Capitalize on these brief windows of time as much as you can. Lots of little chunks of time throughout each day are vastly better than one four to five hour push once a week.
I am quite certain that this list could easily be doubled. Would you help all of us out by adding your ideas below? Let’s make this the “80 Simple Ways” post. Together we can become better language learners.
What is one simple activity or idea you have for maximizing your life as a language learner?
Ready to get serious about learning another language?
"Aaron consistenly pumps out top quality language learning advice and motivational posts,
and is probably one of the best sources of encouragement you'll come across."
-Donovan Nagel, The Mezzofanti Guild