Language Learning: Find Time to Study

Bring your language tapes with you when you take the kids out for a walk or jog, but maybe make sure the kids sit in the right spot (my niece having fun)

Anyone who tells you that learning a language is easy must be a genius. No, that’s not true. They just have more time on their hand than the average parent. I can’t even manage a shower until 10pm most days and I am most definitely a morning shower person. It is my cup of coffee in the morning.

The mere thought of adding anything else to my plate is daunting and yet I always try. Lately it has been to learn Italian for our trip to Europe this fall. It’s going very slow.

I am having a hard time finding the time to go through my course book and do vocabulary drills, so I’ve had to get creative. Instead of dedicating a chunk of time to language study I am breaking it into little bits. It’s not a perfect system, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll retain more because I am chewing off smaller morsels of information. I can only ask so much from my post pregnant brain right now.

However, learning a new language is possible even if you are short on time.

Claudia at The Travelling Mom used her time in the car to get her kids ready for a trip to Italy.

I can speak five European-based languages, and our children are fluent in English & French. When we went to Italy a few years ago, I purchased some Italian language learning CDs for the kids. While I already speak Italian, they were able to pick up some of the language through the CDs, as we listened to them in the car every day on the way to school, activities etc. It was a valuable way to ‘absorb’ useful phrases & words, without in-depth language learning, i.e. verb conjugation! I’m sure there are Apps for this now, but there weren’t that many then. 

I’m in my car all the time. I can definitely grab some language CDs or MP3s on my phone and practice on the way to the grocery store, swim class, and on our way to one of our weekly excursions.

In my mind I am also getting out everyday for a walk or run with the kids. For those already disciplined enough to do this, throw some language files on your MP3 player and hit the pavement. Grab that jogger stroller that has been collecting dust in your closet, stick the kids in it and go. Yes, people may give you funny looks as you walk down the street saying “ciao!” and “Va bene,” but at least they won’t be harassing you. Petitioners will definitely stay clear. Bonus!

Study in the car, at the dinner table and while you exercise

Probably the easiest way for me to study will be at the dinner table. I’ve already been doing flash cards with Dek at dinner to teach him his ABCs and keep him at the table so he actually eats something. After he goes to bed at night I’ve been writing out Italian flash cards for myself. We can easily review the cards at the dinner table. If I get really crafty I’ll draw some pictures so Dek can understand the cards too.

There are not enough hours in the day, plain and simple. I’ve got two active little boys. OK, well maybe a very active toddler and an infant who can’t decide what he wants most days. Learning a language will be impossible unless I make it a priority and get creative.

When do you make time to learn something new? 

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written by Keryn Means

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4 comments

  1. Great tips Keryn. I’ve totally slacked off over the summer. I think you’ve inspired me to carve out the time again!

  2. Yeah, it’s hard to keep up to it with kids! Your ‘listen in the car’ advice is an absolute must if you are serious about achieving any level of fluency. In terms getting the kids involved then I really think it’s important that they learn from native speakers – I can speak Spanish pretty good but I speak it in a heavy regional accent – my kids are never gonna learn well enough from me, and of course 99% of the time I’m going to speak in English anyway.

    To get around this we try to ensure that any childcare/nannying we get for our kids is in foreign languages – it’s not always possible of course, but we always try. The added bonus to this of course is that your own fluency improves aswell because you’re speaking to your kids with a native speaker in a foreign language. Awesome!!

  3. I am not sure how you manage to learn a new language as well as learn a new baby’s needs! My hat goes off to you :)
    I dont have any tips – I try to fit in what I can when I can…and sometimes its late at night! Maybe once you are in Italy and hearing others speak the language you can then pick it up? Just a thought. All the best with studying. The flash cards sound ideal – maybe you can buy them?

  4. I find that I have the most time at work, being a language teacher myself it’s easy to slide by–researching! I don’t have kids of my own, but my friend does, and I sometimes teach them English (I live in Thailand). When I teach them, I use that time to also be learning. Whatever I teach them in English, I learn in Thai too. If you’re kids are studying a language, maybe you can use that time too! …really, I don’t know–that’s why I don’t have kids! :)

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