There is a very commonly held misunderstanding about learning a language that it takes an incredible amount of time and effort to get yourself from complete beginner to reasonable fluency. While there are different approaches to take when improving your language skills, you are completely free to choose the path that suits your way of life. The important part is that you find the approach that suits you and you can stick to.
For the language learners out there who struggle with a full schedule and find it tough to find time to dedicate to their target language, we’ve put together this guide that points out simple ways improve their language skills in just 10 minutes a day or less.
1. Prepare for the day in your target language
During your morning routine, whether at the breakfast table or when taking a shower, think about your day ahead – what you need to do, what your schedule is going to look like, what you would like to have for lunch – and do it in your target language.
This will not only help you quickly practice you-specific vocabulary, it will also demonstrate which new words you should be learning. Make note of the parts of your day where you seem to get stuck – adjectives for different activities, phrases to do with time, or specific grammatical constructs. This technique will help to highlight what you should be focussing on in your learning process.
2. Read an article
Take a short break from work, or during your lunch hour to quickly scan a newspaper or magazine in your target language. Choose an article that interests you and give it a read. If there’s an audio or video version available, try to take a look at that as well. Make note of any vocabulary you don’t understand and need to look up.
In some languages, there are options available online for news in simple or slow language which is a good place to start for a beginner. Don’t worry about every single word you don’t know because that can frustrate you at the start. It’s more important to be able to grasp the general meaning.
Do, however, make a note of phrases or words that tend to pop up regularly – chances are that when you learn those, you’ll find them equally important in your everyday language use.
3. Look around you and describe your environment
This is another tip that has to do with thinking in your target language. When you have a few moments, take a look around you and start describing the world around you to yourself. How are the objects around you called in your target language? Can you translate an ad or two you see on a billboard? Describe what people are wearing, what they seem to be doing, and what you imagine their past and future might look like.
This again helps you to practice words you need in everyday language use and you can try to make sentences in different tenses and put your own skills to the test.
4. Take notes throughout the day
While you’re going through your day and making use of the previous tips, keep a notebook with you, or use your smartphone or any other device to keep track of what obstacles you’re meeting in your language learning.
You can jot down new vocabulary you’ve come across, or make a note of an especially difficult grammatical tense you’re struggling to make sense of. This will help you remember what you need to focus on next, and the act of writing things down will help you remember the problems better.
5. Use Duolingo, Busuu, or any other language learning app
Another great way to squeeze some language practice into your busy schedule is to download Duolingo, Busuu, Memrise, or any of the other specialised language learning apps. These take up little room on your smartphone and can stay with you throughout the day to help you practice your target language whenever you get the chance.
Thanks to their expertly done gamification, they also make learning fun and engaging. Most of them advertise themselves as the quick way to learn a language and, while that might be a slight overstatement, their addictive nature is a great way to keep going back to practicing your language skills.