I grew up playing violin. When I was young and people asked how often I practiced, my dad joked, “Every day we eat!”

Language, like music, requires practice. Daily practice: research tells us that consistent habits contribute to big successes. Unless you’re a five-year-old with a lot of free time and a parent constantly encouraging you, however, it can be pretty difficult to maintain the practice habit! After a long day at work, sometimes the last thing you want to do is study language. And even if you have the motivation, the best-laid language plans usually get pushed aside when something more urgent arises.

Why do these things happen? Because time and motivation force us to make decisions, and somewhere in the decision-making process, language learning is lost. 

What can we do? We can minimize the number of decisions we have to make.

The more you can reduce the number of times you have to make a decision about spending time on a language, the more you can actually spend time on that language and integrate it into your everyday life. 

How can we do it? Read on.

(Bonus: All of the activities below can be completed by yourself or with others!) 

Use Micro-Immersions

Micro-immersions help us immerse ourselves in a target language without living in a country where the language is spoken. Examples include:

  • Setting your phone to your target language. You know where all the buttons are anyway! And given that most of us glance at our phones a few dozen times per day, you’ll get a lot of vocabulary repetition very quickly.
  • Writing to-do lists in your target language. This is something we may take for granted in our native language but doing it in a target language can open a new world of vocabulary. As a bonus, to-do list vocabulary is practical vocabulary – words you’re likely to use on a regular basis!

Set Your YouTube Feed to Your Target Language

We all spend time on YouTube. Whether we’re looking for entertainment or instructions on how to fix a faucet, YouTube has it all. That means YouTube also has content in your target language! You can play that content with subtitles, slow it down, and/or repeat it – all for free! But the reasons I’ve included YouTube on this list are:

  • The videos are short. You don’t have to spend two hours in front of a movie – instead, you can spend five minutes watching a news clip you probably would have looked up in your native language anyway. 
  • You can choose to be surprised. Enabling push notifications from YouTube means you can be surprised by new videos several times per day. It’s like having an Advent calendar – you never know what you’re going to get! And we’ve all spent too much time scrolling trying to decide what to watch – push notifications do away with that.

Tip: Download a translation app like WordReference to your phone so you can be ready to look up any new vocabulary that might appear in a video. WordReference automatically saves a list of your recent searches, so you can search a word, and then go back later for review!

Digital Flashcards

Download a digital flashcard app so you can practice your vocabulary anywhere. Even if you only have 30 seconds, it’s still enough time to review a handful of words!

Two-for-One Activities

Brainstorm a list of tasks where your hands are occupied but your brain is on autopilot. Think of activities like folding laundry, driving, stretching, or taking a shower. Use those times to plug into a podcast or practice speaking out loud! Even a few minutes by yourself in an elevator is enough time to practice a bit of pronunciation.

That’s all for now! Please leave a message below to share your thoughts, questions, and/or comments about minimizing decisions to maximize language learning – I and other language learners would love to hear your ideas! 😊