My Current Language Learning Routine

Hi everyone, how’s it going? I can’t believe July is almost over already! I’ve got a week off from work coming up in August that’ll be here before I know it – I’m quite looking forward to the break! I’m already trying to decide what books I want to read while I’m off! 🙂

Right now I’m still slowly but surely working on the editing project. I keep calling it that because I was originally contracted to edit it, but it has morphed beyond that and I’m now working on writing several of the chapters. I’m quite excited to be getting near the end of one that I’ve been working on for awhile now. Like I said, slow but steady progress!

I was very happy to fit in some reading over the weekend (and not graphic novels, but a nonfiction book!) I read Robin MacPherson’s How to Maintain Languages (that’s a non-affiliate link to his shop). Robin is a polyglot Youtuber that I watch quite often. I enjoy his videos, and was really excited to give his book a read. Robin maintains I believe 8 languages at a high level, and I was very interested in hearing how he maintains them all, as languages do atrophy if you don’t use them. Reading this book got me thinking about my current language learning routine, and whether it’s working for me.

I usually try to study one language at night and during the morning of the next day, then switch to the other during that evening, so I end up with a week that looks like this:

I started using this pattern so I have a longer chunk of time with each language (being able to sleep with one and wake up using it). Plus this way, I vary the amount of time I spend with each language. I am not a morning person, so generally whatever language I’m working on in the morning has little work done on it; I just listen to it on my way to work. Then the evening language gets a little more time as this is when I can watch something or read. It’s also the time I work on Duolingo (just after midnight, so all the time counts for the next day!)

I do have to change my schedule slightly every week though because I have a couple of language related activities that almost always happen on particular days (I almost always do French on Thursday nights because I attend a French language meeting on Zoom, and I almost always have a Ukrainian lesson booked on iTalki on Saturday afternoon), so I end up having two nights in a row of one language/two mornings in a row of the other language. The days of doubling up aren’t always Sunday and Monday though. Sometimes I will work on the same language Monday and Tuesday nights, or Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I try not to double up Wednesday and Thursday nights though, because that would have to be French, and often feels like a bit too much all at once with the Zoom meeting on top of the more intense regular evenings.

In his book, Robin talks about using dead time for your language learning. Dead time refers to the periods of your day that you’re doing other things that don’t require a lot of concentration. For me, the biggest use of dead time that I make is when I listen to podcasts or music in other languages when I walk to work (and quite often walking home from work too – this is especially important on Thursdays, as listening to French on the way home helps get my brain ready for the Zoom meeting). I have another period of dead time that I would love to add into my language learning routine: my afternoon coffee break. But that rarely happens because my iPod, which has my French and Ukrainian content on it, is locked in my purse in a closet at work during the day. I haven’t been bringing the books I’m working on with me to work either because right now my Ukrainian reading still requires a lot of concentration (and I am now used to reading at home where it’s quiet!), and for French I started doubling up by listening to the audiobook while reading. I could work on flashcards on Anki, which is on my phone, but I really don’t enjoy that (it feels like a chore, plus I think I built my deck wrong – I didn’t know what I was doing and just put in individual words, but I’ve since heard that phrases are more helpful for your brain). I do sometimes listen to music on the computer at work, but more often than not I end up just playing a game on my phone. I’ll have to see if I can come up with some sort of solution for how to better utilize this dead time more consistently (maybe having books I specifically read at work in both languages? Or use that time to write a little something in one of the languages?)

I do have other periods of dead time, like when I’m making and eating supper, but I don’t want to mess with that right now. When I started on this language learning journey (and added French on top of the Ukrainian), I always kept a period of time in my day between the two where I stayed in English and wasn’t worrying about either of them. I wanted that separation to help my brain make the distinction between them, and to help me keep from mixing them up. Sure, my brain still “helpfully” supplies a word in one language when I’m looking for it in the other. But overall, I find I can switch fairly easily from “French Brain” to “Ukrainian Brain” with little problems with this English time separating them.

Plus I need to maintain my English! That’s where I do my major writing. 😉

Thinking of writing though, this week I took the plunge and signed up for Journaly, Robin’s blogging platform where you can write in other languages to help improve your language skills. I really like the idea, because native speakers of the language you write in can offer suggestions for spelling and grammar on your post. I haven’t written anything on there yet (I didn’t know what to write about!) but I’m going to give it a shot soon and see how it goes.

So yeah, that’s my current routine. It’s not perfect, but overall it seems to be working alright for me as I learn these two languages. Do you have any routines in your life, whether for language learning or other interests? What are they like? 🙂

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