Hello, lovelies! Have you ever asked yourself what’s the best way to study a language? Or perhaps what’s the best way to learn a language by yourself?
They’re questions that cross most of our minds at some point in our language learning journey. More so, at the beginning. Language learning plans or study schedules are not one-size-fits-all.
What works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. And that’s what can make the whole “coming up with your own language study routine” so frustrating.
Personalizing the process for yourself takes time and research. Not only do you have to know yourself, but you also have to know what tools are even available to you.
You have to examine your schedule, motivations, learning style, and more, before finally crafting a language study plan you actually enjoy. One you love.
Fortunately, it’s totally possible for you to design an effective study routine customized to your preferences and abilities. I created this 8-step guide solely for that.
So you can skip any unnecessary hassle, and get straight into learning. These steps work regardless of what language you’re learning and can be enacted no matter how far you are in your journey.
So let’s dive into your list of 8 steps to creating a language study routine that you LOVE!
1. Decide on your ultimate goal
Whether or not this is common knowledge, “Fluency” isn’t a goal that all language learners work towards, and it’s not necessarily a “good” goal. Honestly, it’s a bit vague. It’s not particularly motivating. And it’s not particularly measurable.
If I had a dollar for every time I read someone ask “how do you know when you’ve reached fluency,” I’d have a smooth grand.
Chances are there are personal reasons for why you’ve chosen to learn a particular language. And oftentimes those personal motivations are what ultimately define your overall goal.
If you’re learning a language because you’re marrying into a foreign speaking family, then a good “overall” goal would be to “be able to converse proficiently and naturally with my husband’s family.”
Or if you’re learning a language because you’d like to get involved with international business relations, then a good “overall” goal would be to “fluently discuss all things business with companies based in China.”
Don’t worry if your personal reasons for learning a language are a bit fuzzy right now. If you’re fully dedicated to the goal of reaching “fluency” in this language you happen to love the sound of– then at least familiarize yourself with the CEFR’s 6 levels of proficiency.
C2 is the highest level of language proficiency one can acquire, so under this label, you can define yourself as fluent.
At this level you can understand:
- Virtually everything heard or read with ease
- All spoken language at a fast, native pace
- Abstract, structurally complex text and literary writings
But, relatively few English learners reach this level because their professional or academic goals do not require it. So there’s a good chance your overall goal won’t necessarily require you reach “fluency.”
Nonetheless, there is no better time than now to decide on your ultimate goal for learning your target language. This will be the goal you think back to whenever your motivation starts lacking or someone starts interrogating you for why you’re spending so much time dedicated to this endeavor.
Adding some form of time element to this goal can be extremely helpful for holding yourself accountable. Instead of just “being able to communicate proficiently with customers,” try “being able to communicate proficiently with customers in 7 months.”
Of course, some initial research will be helpful as to reasonable proficiency expectancy in certain amounts of time. Just always remember that any goal is better than not having one at all.
For some help with planning your language goals, grab my 9-page planner printable bundle on Etsy. Totally customizable to your language goals!
Or snag your 51-page ultimate bundle for all things language learning– including planning, tracking, vocabulary, grammar, and guided study.
2. Figure out a reasonable yet effective time goal
Hopefully, you’ll follow my advice under the last step and first create a long-term time goal. Refer to the FSI’s guidelines for how long it typically takes an English speaker to learn foreign languages.
If you’re willing to put in 25 hours of study per week, then here’s a map you can reference for the time expectancy regarding your language. Provided you know your geography well, of course.
Scroll down on my home page to read the full list though. Once you know how many hours you should expect overall, then you’ll need to create a game plan.
A lot of times, I see language learners set daily time goals for themselves. Deciding to set aside 15 minutes per day is, sadly, not very efficient in reaching proficiency in a time any faster than 5 years (at least.)
At least 1 hour is a much more efficient goal, but life is busy. So I encourage you set aside different study durations according to the day. Setting a weekly or monthly goal means you can “make up” for lost time on days you were too busy.
You could decide you want to learn 10 hours per week. Multiply that by 4 and you’ve got roughly 40 hours per month. Even better, you can decide a time goal for each 30/31 day month as a whole.
To create study routine you love though, you need to choose time goals that are actually reasonable for your schedule. You don’t want language learning to begin feeling like an unnecessary burden.
Really examine your schedule, and come to terms with the long-term time commitment you’re willing to make. Deciding on a 2 year study plan will allow you to study less per week than a 1 year study plan.
Despite how it may feel starting out, there isn’t any real reason to rush acquiring a foreign language unless you’re required to professionally. Even moving abroad doesn’t mean you have to learn the entire language in 3 months.
When it comes to learning a language, the only true time limit is how long you live. It’s a skill you develop forever, but setting time goals is key to holding yourself accountable. And the more work you put in initially, the easier the process will be later on.
Setting the goal is great and all, but you actually have to put in the time once you’ve set your mind on it. For some figuring out where exactly you stand in your language journey, check out 8 unique methods to track language learning progress.
3. Create motivational short-term goals
It’s always helpful to cater your study routine around certain goals you’d like to reach. It adds an element of structure to self studying that even online teaching platforms don’t quite capture.
Coming up with actionable, achievable short-term goals will encourage flexibility within your study routine. You can change up your learning methods according to the goal and effectively avoid over exhaustion from 1 particular study plan.
Even better if all these mini goals serve as stepping stones to your overall goal. If you’re studying to reach “business fluency” then a couple different short-term goals could include learning currency terminology in 1 week, industry names in 2 weeks, company positions in 1 week, and marketing jargon in 3 weeks.
Just examples but you get the point.
All these different micro goals will propel you further along in your language journey. Again, they’ll hold you accountable and serve as proof that you’re actually learning.
A language journal is a great way to hold yourself accountable for reaching your language goals. Speaking from personal experience! I consider it to be the ultimate upgrade to any language study routine.
Be sure to check out my self-designed language journals with multilingual covers and strong boss babes depicted. Latin languages, European languages, African languages, and more represented.
You can also grab some matching stickers to really make your language study sessions fun.
4. Figure out what kind of learner you are
Inspired Education defines the 7 different learning styles as:
- Visual (Spatial)
- Aural (Auditory-Musical)
- Verbal (Linguistic)
- Physical (Kinesthetic)
- Logical (Mathematical)
- Social (Interpersonal)
- Solitary (Intrapersonal)
Understanding your strengths among all these learning styles will be extremely helpful in creating a study routine that you love. In creating a study plan that actually works for you. An enjoyable study routine is only beneficial if it’s also effective.
Do you like learning new words that are simultaneously displayed with their respective visuals? Are you someone who like creating mind maps?
Do you enjoy listening to songs in both your target language and native tongue? Do short song mnemonics help you remember things? Is it easier to focus on podcasts over videos?
Does speaking words aloud help you memorize them? Does your language comprehension thrive off of verbal language exchange?
Do you find yourself frequently structuring grammar “formulas?” (think: noun + adjective + preposition + adverb + verb, etc.) Do your notes include lots of arrows to connect points and establish relationships?
Is your memory better after texting native speakers? Are language exchange applications or language teaching applications more effective?
Do find conversing in your target language to feel too “rapid-fire” for real learning? Do frequent corrections throw you off your game?
All those questions can help you figure out what learning styles you best identify with. And then by keeping those main styles in mind, you can create a study routine that isn’t frustrating or boring.
All of us can be broadly categorized in the 3 main learning styles; visual, auditory, and tactile. Hopefully, at this point in your life, you already know where you best fit.
As a visual learner, you often close your eyes to visualize or remember something, and you will find something to watch if you become bored. You may have difficulty with spoken directions and may be easily distracted by sounds. You are attracted to color and to spoken language (like stories) that is rich in imagery.
Some things that visual learners can do to learn better:
- Use flashcards to learn new words.
- Try to visualize things that you hear or things that are read to you.
- Write down keywords, ideas, or instructions.
- Draw pictures to help explain new concepts and then explain the pictures.
- Color code things.
If you are an auditory learner, you learn by hearing and listening and you understand and remember things you have heard.
You store information by the way it sounds, and you have an easier time understanding spoken instructions than written ones. You often learn by reading out loud because you have to hear it or speak it in order to know it.
Here are some things that auditory learners can do to learn better:
- Use flashcards to learn new words; read them out loud.
- Read stories, assignments, or directions out loud.
- Record yourself spelling words and then listen to the recording.
- Study new material by reading it out loud.
If you are a tactile learner, you learn by touching and doing. You understand and remember things through physical movement.
You’re a “hands-on” learner who prefers to touch, move, build, or draw what you learn, and you tend to learn better when some type of physical activity is involved. You need to be active and take frequent breaks.
Here are some things that tactile learners can do to learn better:
- Use flashcards and arrange them in groups to show relationships between ideas.
- Trace words with your finger to learn spelling (finger spelling).
- Take frequent breaks during reading or studying periods (frequent, but not long).
- Use a computer to reinforce learning through the sense of touch.
So use these different tidbits about yourself to create a study routine that resonates with your style of learning.
5. Divide resources into most effective and most enjoyable
The resources available to language learners take many forms today. We’ve got everything from textbooks to Duolingo, Memrise, InFluent, Language Exchange apps, podcasts, YouTube videos, Innovative Language, NetFlix, and more.
But it’s no secret that some resources are significantly more effective than others. And sadly these resources are typically not as enjoyable as some others.
So take a good look at the resources you plan to use in your language learning journey. Hopefully you’ve got a nice selection of different language teaching platforms, text sources, video libraries, auditory content, and language exchange sources.
Try your hand at creating scale from most enjoyable to most effective. Or even from least enjoyable, least effective to most enjoyable, most effective.
But honestly, resources that are both highly enjoyable and effective are hard to come by. Resources like NetFlix, Disney+, YouTube vlogs, & interesting podcasts that are above your proficiency level, are all resources that would most likely fall more into the “enjoyable” range than the “effective” range.
This does not mean that they’re not effective– it just means that they’re less effective.
Teaching platforms like Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel, Innovative Language, and Rosetta Stone can all be considered generally more effective but less enjoyable.
Then hopefully you have few sources, like language exchange Facebook Groups or applications that are both pretty effective and enjoyable. This is all personalized to your preferences though.
You should go into creating your personalized study routine with the knowledge of what resources are most efficient, particularly when under time constraints, and which are most essential to maintaining your mental insanity, particularly during multi-hour study sessions.
6. Find a balance between these resources
Now that you know which resources are more enjoyable than effective and vice versa, it’s time to find a balance. Balance is the basis behind any study routine that a learner loves.
Figure out how you’ll pair together different resources during different study time durations. Chances are certain resources are much more suitable for lengthy study. And others were obviously designed for 10-minute study periods.
It’s useful to know which resources to use when along with which produce the most efficient combinations for maximum acquisition.
You may find that your most effective resource is literally the most un-enjoyable (like a textbook perhaps), and the best way to prevent burnout during a long study sesh would be to pair it with your most enjoyable resource.
Balancing the intense focus required in textbook study with the passive learning associated with Netflix is a great start to building a study plan you love.
Be sure to bear in mind the “4 pillars” of language learning when grouping different resources though. That of writing, speaking, listening, and reading.
Try pairing that podcast you enjoy with a more effective resource that’ll help you improve either your writing, reading, or speaking skills. Fortunately some resources, like Duolingo, allow you to improve all 4 at the same time but most applications obviously focus more on certain pillars over others.
Even Duolingo is best for serving as your reading and listening resource. Oftentimes, it’s click to create a sentence feature diminishes it’s potential as a full writing resource.
And it literally only serves to improve your reading comprehension if you’re unable to allow listening and speaking features at your current location.
Most YouTube videos are enjoyable resources that improve your listening comprehension and possibly your reading comprehension if using subtitles.
Meaning they should be paired a more effective resource that improves either your writing or speaking skills. You can disregard this balancing of the 4 pillars if you’ve made a conscious decision to focus solely on input or output methods.
7. Convert activities you already do
Hopefully, the activities you already do are by default ones that you enjoy. Oftentimes that main thing preventing language learners from loving their study routine is the fact that it feels so much like study.
For most of us, “study” automatically conjures feelings of boredom and a connotation associated with work. There’s nothing more mentally draining than willingly giving up your precious free time just to devote more time to working.
By finding ways to naturally fit the language into your daily routine, study won’t feel as much like a burden. If you always listen to music during commute, consider only listening to songs in your target language.
During your morning yoga, consider listening to a podcast produced in your target language. Try out watching NetFlix episodes that have been dubbed into your target language during your nightly binge sesh.
If you like reading online news articles during your lunch break, then try out Google Translate’s app extension that allows you to automatically translate any word you “highlight.” Check out The Right way to use Google Translate as the valuable tool it is, to actually use it the right way.
If you already love the activity, adding a foreign language aspect to it shouldn’t hurt too much. At least give it a try. And really try to get flexible with this.
Even cooking recipes written in your target language counts.
8. Garner inspiration from other learners
These’s nothing that quite motivates me to upgrade my own study routine like other language learners. People share inspirational content all over the web.
Pinterest, Instagram, and Reddit are all great sources for discovering new methods of language learning, tracking, and planning. Note-taking psreads are particularly popular.
By combining study routines that different students use for themselves, you’ll likely be able to come up with a mix that works wonders for you.
Plus it doesn’t hurt that people tend to only share the best of the best on the web. So even if you’re not a fan of the acquisition method they’re promoting, you’ll at least learn a thing or two about adding aesthetics to your notes.
And if you’re fortunate enough to have an in-person community of language learners, then definitely refer to them for study methods that they enjoy. Even better if they’re also learning your target language.
Before you’re off on your creative journey
If you benefited from this article, then you’ll love 50 Unique Ways to Practice Writing a Foreign Language! We’re on this journey to transform your language study routine together!
Regardless of what language you’re learning though, I want to make sure you’re learning the highest-quality information at the lowest possible costs. Because it definitely seems that costs add up before quality when it comes to online resources.
With Lingualift, you’ll be able to learn a language without memorization, frustration, or boring lectures. You’ll have access to:
- Dedicated tutors
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- Exclusively for learners of Japanese, Russian, and Hebrew
No worries if you’re learning another language though! Rocket Languages offers online language courses that are simple, powerful, and effective. Devised using the strategies polyglots use, their award-winning courses are designed to get you using your new language quickly, correctly, and confidently.
The languages that they offer courses in include:
For other languages, I strongly recommend Innovative Languages. Native taught courses & podcasts available for both free and paid subscriptions.
Before you head off on your language journey– I want us to stay in contact with one another. Us language learners have to stick together right?
My language craziness expands to multiple platforms so you can also find me cranking out polyglot inspiration on Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t hesitate to direct message me or comment on one of my posts! I’d love to get to know you beyond this blog.
Aside from that fun, if you’re still here then I want to make sure you don’t miss out on your free language learning toolkit.
All exclusive content curated specifically for atypical language learners looking to make the language acquisition process as fun and unconventional as possible.
Equipped with a 4-week checklist, 100 fun learning ideas, the keys to a “naturally simple” approach, a rapid acquisition 2-week plan, and science-based guides to creating a language journal you love. All straight to your inbox. And trust me– I never spam.
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Keep learning languages my friend! And I look forward to seeing you again real soon.