Daily language learning hacks

Major Mitchell cockatoo, AustraliaIf you are like me, your language learning motivation waxes and wanes, with the weather, with a changing daily workload and social appointments, and with tiredness and stress.

Recently, my workload has increased, and I’m running around like a headless chicken chasing appointments, sometimes every single day of the week.

It hasn’t left me with much motivation, energy or time to work on my language studies!

So, I’ve had to work language practice into my daily life, and make it as effortless as possible.

Social tips for language learning – intermediate+

We occasionally have friends over to watch movies on a weekend. In a culture that almost completely shuns subtitles, this means we watch dubbed versions of the movies.

This is something I personally don’t like, because the sounds don’t match the mouth movements, or sound like the actual actor, but I’ll do it for my friends and to sneak in a little practice.

Many movies that are digitally rent-able have multiple languages for both sound and subtitles. Switch into your target language, and enjoy!

Visible language learning – beginner+

When I was learning the articles and basic vocabulary in German, I stuck post-it notes everywhere around the house.

I also had a vocabulary list hung up on the bathroom mirror, with the words I needed to learn for the classes I was taking.

As I got more advanced, my partner would sometimes stick questions or words on the fridge, or send me text messages in German.

For Japanese, I have a poster of the most common 2000 kanji in my workroom. Before that I had a home-drawn poster of all the hiragana and katakana characters hanging in the bedroom. Seeing the characters every day helps with speedy character recognition, and in turn with reading signs when traveling, or when seen in anime!

Think and talk to yourself in your target language – beginner+

As you walk around during the day, comment to yourself. If you are worried about looking crazy, do this in your head or under your breath.

  1. Beginner, name the things you see, or perhaps describe them with adjectives and adverbs. Sound out the words so you can practice pronunciation.
  2. Intermediate, start rehearsing conversations, introductions, or comment on what you see in short sentences. Sound out the sentences so you can practice phrasing, intonation and emphasis within the sentences.
  3. Advanced, try to think entirely to yourself in your target language. Hold arguments, discussions, make plans and decisions in the language you are learning.

Write lists and notes in another language – upper-beginner+

I love to-do lists and calendar-diaries. They are a replacement for my brain because I can never remember what I need to get done, where and when. Shopping lists and a weekly menu plan are also a must, or I’ll overspend my budget!

All of my lists are mostly written in German at the moment, as I’m focusing on improving this to B2/A1 level before returning to Japanese. Although, this was partly necessary because my partner didn’t recognize all the English food terms.

I’m about to start a daily note of my health in a diary, and will also be doing that in German, partly because the doctors who need to see it don’t typically read/speak English.

Examples lists and notes

  • to-do lists
  • project plans
  • shopping lists
  • menus
  • budgets
  • exercise / diet instructions (if you follow one)
  • symptom tracking
  • appointments
  • gardening notes (what was planted/harvested, where and when)
  • habits and habit tracking
  • study and assignment schedules

Listen to your target language – beginner+

I can’t stand silence, so I always have music playing. Or, when I’m out running errands, I listen to podcasts or audiobooks.

I use playlists and make sure that they are heavy on the language I’m trying to learn. This is much easier for Japanese – I personally find JPop and JRock nicer to listen to than German pop. Although, German is great for heavier music – this language always sounds wonderfully angry!

Use waiting time to study a language – beginner and above

Everyone has to wait – at the doctors, in line at the shops, for public transport, for visitors to turn up, for classes to start.

Pick a waiting-time-filler you enjoy, and sneak in a little extra practice.

  • write down your thoughts or what you see in a mini-journal
  • listen to music, an audiobook or podcast
  • use flash cards and revise vocabulary
  • read a book in your target language

Bonus daily language study hacks

  • Cook using recipes in your target language
  • Read or watch the news in your target language
  • Switch Facebook or other websites, email, computer and phone into your target language
  • Write or tweet to a language exchange partner regularly
  • Follow people on social media who use your target language
  • If you write a journal or note things you are grateful for, do it in the language you are learning.

What are your daily language learning hacks?

How do you work your language study into your daily life?

Please let me know in the comments below!

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