You want to learn this new language and you wish you could add more hours to the day. You need to improve fast; it is necessary for your work, but time is not on your side. Time is indeed the only thing you need, and with a well thought language schedule you will achieve you learning goals.
So, where do you start?
You must first establish your language goals.
First clearly define your objectives. You must visualise where you see yourself let’s say, in three or five years. All successful language learners have clear goals which allow them to focus on their objective and help them advance in the right direction. Also, when you have set goals, it will be easier for you to know if you are keeping on track and succeeding.
To accomplish your goals, you must know how to set them. You can’t say “I want to speak Italian” and expect it to happen just by magic. Goal setting should start with a clear idea of what you want to achieve, and you should bear in mind that it is not an easy ride. It takes a lot of hard work to excel.
Decide what you want to achieve in the next three to six months, for example,
‘I want to improve my listening comprehension in the foreign language.’ From there you choose the resources you will use to help you reach this goal. For example: ‘I will listen to a podcast [insert a subject that interest you] for native speakers for 25 minutes daily’.
As you can see your goal must be as specific as possible.
Next you must find the time for your language activities. It is where a good language learning schedule plays an important role.
First block out all your unavoidable commitments. You can either use a physical planner for this or an online calendar - like I-calendar or google calendar – to do so. These commitments are the time used for work and or university, schoolwork, social engagements.
Also block out the time you spend for self-care: meals, sleep, exercises, relaxation, and socialising with friends and family. Don’t fall into the beginner’s trap to sacrifice some of these for your language study. The novelty will soon fade, and you might even resent your decision.
Once the essential is blocked out, carefully analyse which activities are demanding most of your time, and if reducing their schedule is feasible. Do so, whenever possible. Make sure that you include some study time into other activities you do. For example, you can program listening to a podcast or a YouTube video during your commute or when you are preparing meals. I always do include some passive listening in my target language when I am in the kitchen. You might even decide to use your spaced-repetition App when queuing at the supermarket or in the bank.
Plan 25 minute activities followed by 5 minute rest.
Now you know for sure how much available time you have for language study; you can start allocating 25-minute slots for this purpose. Also leave some space for rest in-between sessions. Add reminders to your phone if you are not using an online calendar app. You should then transform your language learning into a habit because, once established, it is more difficult to be broken.The more you stick to your schedule, the sooner it will become part of your routine and the easier it will be for you to carry on without feeling that you are making a huge sacrifice to put this language under your belt.
Review your goals and analyse your schedule periodically. See if you are on track, whether your priorities remain the same or have changed. Update your schedule, make some pivoting if necessary. keep what worked and modify what did not work. Keep fine tuning it regularly until it feels totally right.
Be flexible. Remember that we – human beings – rebel against everything that is too rigid. Sometimes you won’t be able to stick to the schedule, and it is fine. Just reschedule the activity you missed for another occasion to avoid falling behind.
Print your timetable and place it where you can often see it. Have it in your calendar App, set reminders. Make it difficult to forget what and when you plan to do at a given time. Establish a routine, transform your language study into an unavoidable habit. This is the best way to stick with your study.
Having an accountability partner is also great. Talk to them at the beginning of the week and let them know about your study plan and check back at the end of the study week and comment whether you managed to accomplish your plan. This little exercise will help you keep on track.
Here the name of the game is consistency, and if you are consistent you will surely reach your goal.
Do you have a language learning schedule? Are you consistent? Comment below.