How to Be Practical about Learning a Language

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Learning a Language

Now that I no longer live in a foreign country, it takes a lot more gumption to really stick to learning a language. When I could just walk down the street in Madrid and listen in on strangers’ conversations to figure out what they’re talking about, I don’t get that anymore. Of course, lots of folks don’t get the luxury of immersion, something that I mentioned before as the best way to go about learning a language. So what do you do when you can’t?

Dedicate your time

We all have schedules. That’s how people work. If you tell yourself to start learning a language today, it’s not going to happen. Pick up your calendar, grab a pen, and mark down a time slot. 4-5 PM. After the kids are asleep. During your lunch break. Whatever you can do to make it work, do it. Be specific. Don’t let yourself forget about it or put it off for another 5 minutes. Oh look, it’s 7:00! Time to open the book!

Come up with a goal

To accomplish anything in your life, you need goals. Now, like I said, learning a language requires a goal more specific than to just learn a language. For example, my goal is to pass the C2 exam for Spanish when it is available in November. Then, to add to that, create supplemental goals: I want to learn this specific vocabulary by next Friday, for example. Create bite-sized goals. As time goes on, they’ll layer themselves together until you can accomplish your big language learning goal!

Be logical

I’ve mentioned my mistakes in learning a language in a previous post, and the one I’d like to apply here is about vocabulary. Yeah, we all hate it. There are thousands of words in a language and you’ve got to learn at least a solid chunk of it. My advice to you? Stick to topics. If you need to clean the house, arm yourself with a collection of household vocabulary and narrate your actions to yourself. Sweep the floor and wash the dishes in your target language. See a toothbrush? What do you use that for? If you can’t find other people to talk to in your language learning journey, talk to yourself!

Don’t limit yourself

Can’t go to the country of your choice? So what? Don’t give yourself excuses as to why you can’t do something. There is always a way around your limitations, especially in the internet age. Can’t find any books in your target language at your local library? Check out some of these language learning books. Have nobody to practice with? Find someone at Verbling to talk to you in your foreign language. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.


  1. There is some really excellent advice here. I definitely agree that you need to set aside time and stick to it. Otherwise the days or weeks just fly by with little progress. Life is too busy! I love the idea of practicing topic-based vocabulary whilst going about normal relevant tasks, like cleaning the house. That’s a fab idea.

  2. Having a goal is super important. When living in a foreign country or learning a language for school, it is easy to stay on top of things. But once you return home or once you no longer have the motivation of grades, it is important to set clear goals. Currently, I’m trying to teach myself Arabic and my goal is to finish Harry Potter book 5. Don’t think I’ll attain it, but at least it has kept me motivated!

  3. I’ve always wanted to learn French or Spanish or Chinese Mandarin but there seems to be so many other things to do! Thanks for the tips and I hope to get around to focusing on learning another language one day soon! There’s nothing like learning a foreign language while being surrounded by native speakers though.

  4. Really good, practical advice here. It’s all too easy to be woolly and nebulous when it comes to a commitment like this, so setting yourself tangible goals is a sure fire way to keep yourself on track. Like Amanda, I think the talking to yourself whilst doing chores etc tip to be a really useful one! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. This is a great post with awesome tips. For me, when I hear I would I try to remember an English word that sounds the same. I find that helps. Not everybody can visit the Country of the language they are trying to learn but to be honest nothing will make you learn a language faster than when your survival depends on it lol…

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