Aitor Agirre

Aitor Agirre

Hack time and learn languages


You have no time to study new languages. That’s nothing new. You want to learn a new language, but you work an 8-hour day, you´ve got shopping to do, and you still want time to hang out with your friends. Long story short, you don’t have time for language lessons. Don’t worry, nowadays, there are other ways to learn languages, even with a busy schedule. But first, you have to become a time-management expert . You have to adopt some habits right away, but the good thing is, they're free...

1.- Your time has a price, use it as a trade

Your time is expensive, and so is mine. Time is money, and believe me, you´ve got more of it than you think. But sometimes we don’t know how to use it. Nowadays, there are a bunch of ways to use your time and effort as a trade, for example on skill trading sites such as Skilltrade, which can offer you a Spanish teacher in exchange for your cooking services.  But if you're like me, you may not be very good at cooking. Don’t worry, if you're reading this post, I’m sure you know at least one thing: your first language, and maybe one or two more. Bingo! You're the perfect candidate for a language exchange, and Langademy is the perfect place for it. It's also the perfect place to hack your time. Langademy provides a time bank system for language exchanges: if you use 30 minutes to speak in your native language with someone that is learning your language, those 30 minutes will be added to your time bank account so you can use them to speak with native speakers of a language of your choice. Fair, free, and your time won’t be wasted.

 2.- Use your dead time and go online

Sometimes we might feel we waste time by doing things like watching TV. However, the author Marthe Troly-Curtin has a famous quote: “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time”. That said, there are times when we really do waste our time doing nothing. So, instead of wasting your time doing nothing, why not use it to read, listen or chat in another language? Do you spend some time commuting every day? That's your chance to read a book in another language. Or to  get in your daily 10 minutes at Duolingo.

And do you use flashcards? These are a great way of taking advantage of your dead time. Benny Lewis talks about the Spaced Repetition method in this article, which is a more complex version of the flashcard system. In a nutshell, it's a presentation method that gives you the information you need before you have time to forget it, so it always stays fresh in your mind.  And naturally, there’s a phone app that uses this system, Anki. There are iPhone, Android and web versions, and it’s completely free. A must-have if you want to learn vocabulary. As you’ll probably know, Memrise is another great option to learn vocabulary in any language using a learning method that are adapted to the user.

But sometimes you are so exhausted after finishing your workday that firstly, your brain isn’t able to memorize anything, and also, you aren’t in the right mood for these kinds of tasks. If that's the case, then download HelloTalk for your phone, start chatting and practicing languages while you make new friends. Chatting is always more fun than studying and it doesn´t require a lot of effort.

3.- Plan ahead

Planning ahead is a must in your life if you want to manage your time efficiently, not just when it comes to learning a language. For starters, a proper plan will help you not to waste time on further planning (Spending 10 minutes trying to decide what to do next each time you sit at your desk - does it sound familiar?) What's more, having a plan will help you with motivation. If you know what your next task is, it’s always easier to keep yourself motivated. Lindsay Dow has a Weekly Learning Planner that is already set up for you to plan your weekly language learning sessions.

If you want to improve your vocabulary, grammar or listening, making a plan is an easy task. But what happens if you want to practice speaking a language online? If you’ve tried online language exchange apps or websites, you already know that coinciding with someone that knows your language at the exact time you are free isn’t easy. Even if you go for the paid option on sites like Italki or Verbling, you are tied to the tutors’ schedule. To overcome these time-related problems, Langademy provides a solution based on meetups. You can schedule a meetup on the day and time you want. Then, you just have to wait for people to join your meetup. If you plan it a few days in advance, there'll be a better chance of the meetup being joined by someone else.

 4.- Get in shape while you improve your listening

Many people and scientists have claimed that we can actually learn things like music or foreign language skills while we sleep. Although this would be the ultimate time hack, there’s little scientific evidence for that learning method and the little evidence there is says that we can’t learn new things while we sleep, only consolidate what we already know. So, let’s center our efforts on other tasks we do while we are awake. If you spend a few hours a week exercising, you can use that precious time to listen to podcasts. Here you can find 10 amazing podcasts that will help you learn foreign languages. Although our brain is a perfect multitasking machine, you may be the type for intense exercise, so you might not able to pay much attention to podcasts. In that case, just add some foreign language songs to your playlist, and you´ll learn some new words and phrases for sure!  

As I pointed out at the start, your time has a price, it’s precious. Don’t waste it, use all these tips and you´ll have your time hacked, and most importantly, soon you´ll know one more language.