A language study routine that actually works

academics language learning

So you're studying a new language, and you've been told that you need to make time to review and study vocabulary regularly. That makes sense. You tell yourself you'll do it. You may even make some flashcards and spend time drilling them two or three times early in the semester when you are full of good intentions. But if you're like me, the deadlines and stresses of daily life take over,
and the end of the semester finds your flashcards gathering dust in a drawer, you feeling guilty, and your language goals unrealized.

If that's you, take heart! It is possible to develop and maintain a language study routine that actually works, one that turbocharges your progress and gets you closer to your goals. This is true whether you are studying a language in class and need a grade boost, or studying a language for your own personal goals. Try these tips and tricks to get started.

1. Commit to ten

I recommend that my students spend ten minutes reviewing each day. Why just ten minutes? Sticking to a small goal of ten minutes will motivate you to stick with this routine, even on your worst
days. If you're feeling charged up and want to keep reviewing, go for it! But if you complete just your ten minutes, even if you do nothing else, you can feel good about it and call your day a success.

Remember that this is not time to complete homework or finish assignments - keep assignments and classwork separate from your review time. This ten minute study block is specifically time to review and break the cycle of cramming.

2. Find your sacred time

Identify a time in the day where you can count on being able to sit down with your phone, app, or flashcards and not be disturbed. For most people, the best time for this is in the morning because it is the most predictable. You might also
consider just before or after a meal, or after you finish your work or school day. Generally, however, choosing a time later in the day increases the danger of interruptions that will interfere with your routine.

Once you've picked your time, commit to it and treat it as sacred. plan your appointments and commitments around it so it doesn't get interrupted or rescheduled. This sacred time slot need only be ten minutes of your day, so this should be possible no matter how busy you are.

3. Make it easy

Once you've found found ten minutes of time a day, you need to decide what you will do during this time. Pen-and-ink flashcards and online review tools are both fantastic options; feel free to choose the option that is most engaging and easy for you! Choose a methodology that is easy enough for you to do even on days that aren't going your way.

I recommend the “Learn” mode on Quizlet, which uses research from Second Language Acquisition experts to take you through varied, tiered practice. It also keeps track of which words you have “mastered.” Plus, Quizlet has sets for just about every language and topic imaginable. There are also self-paced language platforms like Busuu that are highly engaging. 

4. Reward yourself

Create a ritual, however small, for the end of each ten-minute review session. The goal here is to associate your routine with good vibes.

Your reward could be something physical, like giving yourself an unhurried minute to stretch. It could be texting an accountability partner “Did my vocab study!” It could simply be putting a “check” on your daily to-do list. Whatever it is, make sure it gives you a nice “I'm finished!” feeling.

Keeping to this routine will invigorate your language learning and build your independence as a learner. What will your language routine look like?