Do you want to learn a new language but don’t have much free time? This is one of the most common issues facing language students, especially working adults.
As I tell my students, the key is to maximise your learning efficiency. So if time is an issue for you, here are 3 tips that will help.
Tip 1: Consider your personal learning style
Do you know someone who loves flash cards, but new information just doesn’t stick when you use them?
Then flashcards might be a waste of your time. There’s a better method out there for you.
Everyone learns differently. Maybe you like to write things down. Some people need to repeat new information aloud, and others have to move around while learning.
When teaching groups, I make sure to use a variety of methods with my students so that I cater to everyone’s learning style.
Why is that so important?
Taking your learning style into account will help you learn your new language faster and remember information better.
So how can you make sure that you’re taking your learning style into account?
Think about what methods help you the most when you learn something new. Do you understand ideas better if they’re presented visually or orally? Do you need to try something yourself in order to learn about it? It’s also possible that you learn best through a mix of different methods.
If you’re not sure, you can take a learning style quiz, like this one, to point you in the right direction.
But ultimately it’s a question of trial and error, so be open to testing new learning methods to see how they work for you. You may be surprised.
Once you find those methods, you can apply them in the future to learn better and faster.
Tip 2: Target your needs
Language books and materials are usually written for the general population.They are not customised to your needs.
They might be organised by language level, theme, or skill, but not everything designed for your level will be challenging. On the other hand you may sometimes have trouble with “easier” grammar points. And no matter what the theme they’re built around, some words will be harder for you to remember than others.
So what’s the best way to progress quickly in your new language?
Target the things that are difficult for you and the skills that you’re not confident in. If you have limited time or energy per week, spend less time reviewing the things that you already do well.
And what if you can dedicate a little more time to language learning?
Then practice the difficult things for the longest, or when you have the most mental energy. After that you can spend time on the other stuff.
Not sure what you should work on? Ask a native speaker friend or teacher to help you identify the words and structures that you use incorrectly, or that you don’t know yet.
Tip 3: Focus on active skills – speaking and writing
Reading and listening are important skills, and to some extent they will help you learn and remember new grammar and vocabulary.
But they’re just not enough to improve your fluency alone. To improve your language abilities, you need to communicate ideas yourself and form your own sentences.
How will doing that help you learn more quickly?
Speaking a language involves the ability to recall and use the grammar and vocabulary in order to communicate ideas.
Speaking a language fluently is the ability to do that quickly and reliably. This is a skill in and of itself, and like any skill it, you have to practice to improve it. Reading and listening won’t really help you improve that skill.
Practicing active skills will also help you discover what grammar and vocabulary you’re missing. Trying to communicate and failing can be very, very useful here. Once you know what’s missing, you’ll know what to target (see tip 2).
Do you have any tips for quick and effective learning? Let me know in the comments below! And if you found this post helpful,take a look at my post on 5 mistakes that language learners make and how you can avoid them.