“Routine” is a word that sends shivers down the spines of most people. It brings to mind the numbing repetition of boring tasks without any hope of a finish line. However, in its brighter tones, “routine” can also be a set of cherished traditions which create a sense of stability and security in an otherwise hectic life. When you start thinking of routine in such a light, it comes up more as a lovely afternoon coffee you enjoy every Sunday with your loved one or playing with your dog when you get home from work.
And it’s the second type of routine that will help you with language learning as well. Creating a successful language learning routine is one of the best ways you can really kick off your learning process. But, as always, it’s important to keep in mind the essential part of the process – you.
Make learning a priority
It’s often easy to say “But I don’t have time to practise” when looking at your already-full schedule. And it can really seem like it.
To get over that issue, you should start by making a priority list of your obligations and errands. After you’ve successfully ordered everything you need to do in your day (or week), just add language learning at the top. Ok, maybe not before “feeding the kids” but somewhere near the top, at least. And then see how you can juggle around rest of the parts to make everything fit. Maybe you can get up 20 minutes earlier? Use your lunch break or long commute? There are so many ways of sneaking a little language practice into your schedule without you even noticing.
Of course, ideally, you’d be able to create a routine where you can practise first thing in the morning and as the last activity before you go to bed. But, even if that’s not the case, don’t be too hard on yourself and focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t.
Mark it down
The best way to start creating your successful routine is to have your tasks in front of your eyes. If you use a day-planner, write down your learning goals for the day or set reminders on your smartphone to go over that vocabulary list or talk to yourself in your target language. That way, your priorities don’t shift in the regular hustle and bustle of the day.
This approach also helps to remind your brain that language learning and practice is an important part of your daily life and keep it focused on learning, even when you’re doing something else.
Start with the pleasant parts
When learning their target language, everyone has their favourite parts. Some like tinkering with a new bit of grammar while others enjoy improving their understanding skills by listening to an audiobook. And, conversely, there are parts of learning that not everyone likes equally.
To keep you sticking to your new-found routine, try starting your language practice off with your favourite part. That will “ease you into it” and once you get going, it will be a lot easier to tackle the less pleasant aspects. Also, if, for example, you’re trying to get your head around a particularly complicated grammatical form, getting your brain primed with the easier tasks that you’ve started with, will help you grasp the more complex issues later on.
Focus on what works for you
As with everything in language learning, your routine should also work for your, not the other way around. If you enjoy getting up at 5am and getting in a good hour of learning time before having breakfast then that’s great! But, by no means should you beat yourself up if that’s not a route you want to take. Every language learner is different and you shouldn’t take as pure gold any “one tip that will definitely get you fluent by tomorrow”.
If you want to sleep in and take a more relaxed approach to your learning routine, then that is a completely acceptable strategy. The important part is to find what works for you and create a language learning routine that you can stick to.
Conclusion – Routine is an important part of language learning but you need to make it work for yourself
There is no “one size fits all” in language learning and one of the winning strategies is to realise that you need to make practising your target language work for you. However, you should also focus on making time for regular practice sessions to keep your brain working on acquiring your target language and mark down your revision goals for the day. That way, your target language remains at the forefront of your brain and you’ll see improvement more quickly.
As we’ve repeatedly said, you need to make language practice work for you, but in the second part to this post, we’ll also share some strategies that are proven to help you in building your learning routine.