Language learning when busy

Hello, everyone! This post is not about any language in specific but about learning languages in general. A lot of us have a lot to do in our daily lives! Work, school, family, friends… what about study time? Today, I’d like to talk about making a study schedule that fits in your schedule and, most importantly, works for you.

Multiple intelligences

Before we actually talk about scheduling, let’s talk about learning. To maximize your studies, you need to know how you learn the best. For this, you should know which of the multiple intelligences suit you best. The theory of multiple intelligences was created by a man called Howard Gardner. He suggested that there are many ways of taking in and processing information, and some work better for some people than others. The multiple intelligences are:


— People with high visual-spatial intelligence are good at tasks that require manipulation of things in space, and things related to images. Art might be their thing! Things like making webs to show related vocabulary and drawing pictures or otherwise using images and charts to link with next concepts are helpful here.


— Kinesthetic intelligence is related to being in tune with physical motion of the body. Manipulating physical objects, relating words and terms with motions, and doing activities that require movement like acting things out are all helpful for people with high Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.


— This one is of course related to one’s musicality and sense of rhythm. Using audio materials, using music to help learn and remember concepts, and even just having some music playing while studying can help!


— If you have high interpersonal intelligence, you learn well when you interact with others. Getting involved in language exchanges or study groups could help you a lot.


— High intrapersonal intelligence is related to knowing and being at home with oneself. More quiet, solitary, reflective study might be your thing.


— High verbal-linguistic intelligence is related to being good at manipulating words. Of course, this does not mean that people with high verbal-linguistic intelligence are automatically good at languages! If you fall into this category, try to use the words and grammar you use in more creative ways, such as creative writing. Also, your natural skill will words might help you draw more information from written sources.


— If you have high logical-mathematical intelligence, you are probably good at reasoning and finding trends and patterns. It’s important to build concepts up upon each other to understand the big idea and then get into the detective work of investigating grammar and vocabulary more closely to see how they’re related.


— This eighth intelligence was added after the first seven had already been published. Nature-related intelligence is concerned with how in tune one is with the world around them. I honestly am not too familiar with this one as a concept. However, I think that finding ways to naturally encounter language would help people with high naturalistic intelligence. Also, I think that their sensitivity to things around them would help them to pick up on body language and pragmatic nuance.

Of course, these multiple intelligences are not absolute, and everyone has all of them in a variety of degrees. Still, thinking about which categories you fit into best can help you to start thinking about what might help you to learn best.

Setting aside time for study

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when studying on a schedule is time. Studying a little bit each day is more effective than studying a lot just once every few days! Try to get a big study session or two in at least once or twice a week. On other days, you can do shorter sessions to review the words and grammar you encountered in your main study sessions. The important thing is to set aside the time for it. If you do not make an effort to set aside the time for something, then chances are you just will not do it, especially if you’re already pressed as it is.

I personally have a planner in which I write down my goals, study-wise and otherwise, for the day. I check each item off the list as I complete it… and I hate having to mark an X for incomplete on anything! This works for me. However, if you need more structure, set apart a designated block of time for study. I recommend at least 30 minutes, but that is ultimately up to you. Mark down your study time somewhere—maybe you think 8 to 8:30 is the prime study time. C0mmit to that time and make it a habit!

Study time does not have to be pure study time

Don’t feel too pressured to make every study session a real bring-out-the-big-books session! Your study time can be time spent doing other things as well—listening to dialogues or doing flashcards during your commute, listening to a foreign podcast in the background while doing math homework, watching a show in your target language as your nightly TV time… any way you can fit in that exposure!

If the thought of studying becomes stressful, take a break

If you find that you are actively avoiding study for whatever reason or that your study schedule is stressing you out, take a step back and reevaluate. Your health, both physical and mental, are more important than your studies! Make sure to take some time for yourself every day in the midst of your busy life!

Remember that missing a study session is not a failure

Learning is not a race! Life happens and sometimes we get off track a bit. When it happens, on those days you can’t check your study off of the to-do list, don’t feel bad about it! As long as you can commit to getting back on the study train, a few days down here and there won’t hurt 🙂


As always, happy studying~!

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