Too Busy to Learn a Language? Here Are 7 Simple Ways to Start Today

No matter how hectic your life is right now

Mathias Barra
Jan 19 · 5 min read
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Image for post
Photo by Brian Matangelo on Unsplash

For the past decade, the most common excuse I’ve heard for not learning a language is, without a doubt, that they don’t have enough time.

Whenever I hear it, I sigh because I know it’s not true. Unfortunately, it’s a mindset most people have. The only way I’ve found to break this thought pattern is to insert the language into their daily life without changing much.

As the weeks pass by, the language becomes part of them and learning a language becomes more than a wish. It becomes a need and that’s when they start making the time to dive into it.

Since you’re a busy person, let’s dive right in. Here are 7 simple things you could try today so you can begin learning a foreign language soon.

1. Listen to Slow Music on Repeat

Music is in our daily life already so why not change it to music in the language you wish to learn?

When you listen to slow music, you get to hear the words clearly. When you listen to a song on repeat, you become accustomed to the flow and pronunciation. Even before you start understanding anything, you could be able to sing along with the song.

That’s what happened to me years ago when I discovered the song 可爱 by Rainie Yang. I loved the song and listened to it all the time. This was years before I started learning Chinese and yet, there I was, singing along alone in my room.

Music inspires us. It moves us. It impacts us at a deep level. Use it to your advantage and trigger a need to learn the language.

2. Grab a Tiny Textbook

When I decided to learn German, I bought a tiny $5 grammar textbook. It could fit in all my pockets so I was able to carry it around. Because of this, I sometimes grabbed it and had a look at a random page.

When I was on the toilet, when I was waiting in line, when I was climbing stairs… Anytime was a good opportunity to connect a bit with the language and discover more. I didn’t open it at every opportunity, but each time I did, I was closer to making German a part of my life.

Grab a tiny conversation guide, a tiny dictionary, or a tiny grammar booklet. Anything works. As long as it creates a connection with the language, you’re in the clear.

3. Change Your Phone Language

This is a common piece of advice for language learners but I reckon you can do it before you even start the language. Let’s be honest for a second, you know where everything is on your phone. You barely read the words anymore.

When you go on Twitter, you know where the “Follow” button is. When you want to delete something, you know where the button is too. When you want to install an app, the button is just as obvious.

This is a no-effort technique that can get you to see the language every day countless times, without even changing your lifestyle.

And, yes, you can do it even with languages using a different script. Even if you can’t read the words, you’ll add these weird-looking drawings to your brain so they become easier to learn when you get to it later.

4. Add Subtitles All The Time

When you watch something that’s not in the language you wish to learn, try to add as often as possible subtitles in the language you wish to learn. When you watch something in that foreign language, try using an extension to have subtitles in two languages.

If you watch Netflix, the Language Learning With Netflix extension works wonders. For Amazon Prime, try this extension. For YouTube, you can give this one a go, even if it’s still not perfect.

By adding subtitles to every video you watch, you get to see the language even when you relax. You may even learn a few things here and there, like “I”, “sorry”, “goodbye”, and so on.

5. Hang Something On Every Wall

This tip is a common one for beginner learners. By hanging random words on your walls, you get to see them every time your pass in front of it. As time passes, you get to remember them without effort. These could be the first of thousands of words you’ll soon get to discover.

If the language has a different script, print an entire page detailing it and hang a copy on every wall of all your rooms. While this may not be enough to learn it, you’ll get a sense of it. When you finally sit down to get to it, it won’t seem so complicated.

If you want, you can write vocabulary words of items you often use and stick them to said items.

Play around. Draw around them. Use colors. Make them attractive. The goal is for you to take a look often enough so you get hooked to seeing the language.

6. Prepare a Trip

Whether you’re planning on going to the country soon or not doesn’t matter. If you start planning for a trip there, you’ll get more excited and may even learn a few words here and there, such as how to say “coffee shop” or “welcome”.

As you keep digging into places to visit, you’ll see the language on panels in pictures. You’ll hear the language. You’ll discover more about the culture.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll become so curious about the country you’ll actually start learning the language to prepare for an even more amazing trip.

Traveling opens the door to incredible experiences. Learning the country’s language makes these even more frequent.

7. Tell a Friend You’ll Learn the Language

There’s nothing better to learn a language than to feel accountable. Telling friends who support you that you’ll learn a language will pressure you into getting to it.

While this would be awful if it were something you didn’t want to do, the power of accountability is incredible for things you do want to do. Accountability helps to find creative ways to get to the goal. In this case, that’d be learning the language.

Even if you think you don’t have enough time right now, you’ll find the time to learn a few words. You’ll tell your friend. Their positive reaction will create a positive loop that’ll make you want to learn more. You’ll do so and tell them again. And the loop starts again.

If you want to double the effect, find a friend who’s also finding excuses not to get to it and decide to learn together. The positive motivational loop will grow manifold.

Learning a foreign language is a magnificent journey. Whatever awful memories you have from high school, you can put them behind you now. Start fresh.

Make yourself excited to learn the language. Make it a part of you before you even understand anything.

Soon enough, when you’ll be speaking the language, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start earlier. And then you may want to dive into a second language.

I started more than a decade ago and haven’t been able to stop since then.

I hope you, too, start and discover how amazing it can be .

Still curious about languages and learning? Sign up for my newsletter!

The Language Learning Hub

A place to find better ways to learn languages

Mathias Barra

Written by

Polyglot speaking 6 languages. Writer. Helping the world to learn languages and become more understanding of others. Say hi →

The Language Learning Hub

A place to find better ways to learn languages

Mathias Barra

Written by

Polyglot speaking 6 languages. Writer. Helping the world to learn languages and become more understanding of others. Say hi →

The Language Learning Hub

A place to find better ways to learn languages

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