Who says learning a language needs to be a full-time job? With the right strategy, scheduling, and tools, you’ll only need 30 minutes a day.
Unfortunately, most of us have fallen into the trap of relying on learning methods that are ineffective and require a significant amount of time upfront to see any results. This leads to a lack of momentum, motivation, and purpose, where the most logical action is to quit.
In fact, before we share with you how to learn a language by spending only 30 minutes a day, let’s share the most common mistakes language learners make.
The wrong methods of learning
The first and most common mistake is the choice of method one uses. This is the most deadly mistake, because it’s the first decision we must make when we’ve committed to learning a language, and most people don’t know the options available when they first get started.
What’s more dangerous is that once they’ve committed to a method, it’s harder to explore other options, and they often blame their lack of innate learning power, age, or convince themselves that learning a language isn’t for them.
What are some of these ineffective methods?
First off, any solution that doesn’t give you the real-life interaction of speaking the language with another human should be crossed off. We’re not saying these solutions are completely ineffective, but they should not be relied on as your main method of learning. Instead, they should be complementary to your main method. This includes free mobile apps like Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, language schools, and audio tapes.
The best way to learn a language is the same way you’ll be using the language—from another human. This could be in the form of undergoing a language immersion program, going through a conversation exchange, or working with a private, professional teacher.
Being overly optimistic about results
The second common mistake is something many of us have faced—being too optimistic. This leads to unrealistic expectations that cannot be fulfilled, like learning a language in 30 days, or making a million dollars in the stock market
It’s important to have clear goals we can visualize, but we must also be realistic and understand that the best things take time. Think about how you first learned English or your native language. Did it happen in one month?
The more realistic answer is that you will face what we call the training curve.
This curve pattern can be represented for just about anything you want to learn and achive, no matter how talented you already are. We’ll all have our high moment and low moments. It’s important to make sure we understand this pattern versus having expectations that we’ll always be growing.
A lack of persistency
Most of us can achieve any goal we set for ourselves, as long as we stick with it long enough. So, why do we quit too early?
We already talked about having overly high expectations. But the other main reason is explained by Simon Sinek, the bestselling author of Start With Why, as not having an inner purpose. Most of us are fascinated by the “what” and the “how-to” solutions of learning something, but never take the time to reflect why we’re trying to learn it in the first place.
For language learning, you could start by asking questions like:
- What opportunities will you open yourself up to?
- Who will you be able to connect with?
- Who will you become as an individual?
This doesn’t have to be limited to language learning, and taking even 5 minutes to carefully think about these questions and answer them will change the outcome of your inner motivation, drive, and purpose to push you forward when things inevitably become difficult.
Now, let’s talk about effective strategies for learning.
Here’s the most effective 3 areas you can focus on to learn a language in less than 30 minutes a day.
*Note: 30 minutes a day spent learning is equivalent to 210 minutes (3.5 hours) per week.
1. Learning and reviewing the most common words (10 minutes a day)
If you’re starting out, there’s no better bang for your time than learning the most common words. Studies by linguists have shown that:
Studying the 2000 most frequently used words will familiarize you with 84% of vocabulary in non-fiction, 86.1% of vocabulary in fictional literature, and 92.7% of vocabulary in oral speech.
What’s worth pointing out is that:
Studying the 3000 most frequently used words will familiarize you with 88.2% of vocabulary in non-fiction, 89.6% of vocabulary in fiction, and 94.0% of vocabulary in oral speech.
This means that, while the first 2,000 most common words helped familiarize you with 92.7% of the language, learning an additional 1,000 words helped you gain only 1.3% more of the language. Talk about a time waster!
Knowing that 2,000 should be our initial target of words to learn, spending only 10 minutes a day to learn and review 20 words will help us reach 2,000 words in just 100 days (about 3 months).
Total time required: 10 minutes a day
2. Working with a private teacher online (three 30-minute sessions per week)
Just understanding vocabulary isn’t going to help us speak fluently with a native speaker. The only way to achieve this level of fluency is to work with a private teacher who can work with you live and give you the immediate feedback you need to correct your mistakes.
Luckily, we no longer have to commute or sign up for language schools that require a 6-hour daily commitment. By taking advantage of the technology and communication solutions we have available, we can work with a professional teacher in the comfort of our home, wherever we go, while spending only 30 minutes per session.
By leveraging the on-the-go and on-demand solutions we have at our disposal, a lack of time should be out of the equation—especially when we can learn in our PJ’s!
Total time required: (30 minutes per session) x (3 sessions per week) = 90 mins divided by 7 days = about 13 minutes a day
3. Follow-up review and practice (15 minutes of review per session)
If you want to see accelerated results, there’s no question that time invested learning outside of your private sessions will benefit you.
This could be homework assigned by your language teacher, Spanish classes to watch, articles to read, or anything to keep you immersed in between your sessions. For some of us, this might mean having 4 private sessions per week without the need to review, or working with an accountability partner to help each other practice the language.
Either way, keep it short and sweet to make sure you’re digesting the materials you learned during the lesson.
Total time required: (15 minutes per session) x (3 sessions per week) = 45 minutes divided by 7 days = about 7 minutes a day
**Final total: 10 minutes a day (studying the most common words) + 13 minutes a day (private sessions) + 7 minutes a day (follow-up review)
= 30 minutes a day to learn a language.
That’s all there is to it! With the right solutions, strategy, and tools, you can take the shortcut approach without wasting years of time and hundreds of dollars on ineffective methods.
In just 30 minutes a day, you can learn a language.