No one sets out to learn a language expecting that they’re going to fail. But if you don’t have a language study plan, there’s a good chance that’s exactly what will happen.
Without a study plan for learning a language, you’ll lack focus and direction, making it nearly impossible to stay motivated, keep on track and make steady progress.
So if you’re trying to learn a new language because you want to earn more money, have meaningful travel experiences or just gain a cool new skill, a language study plan is key.
Let’s discuss some tips that will help set you up for language-learning success.
1. Set goals
Having goals is an essential part of achieving what you want in any part of life; language learning is no exception.
Language goals give you something to work toward so you’re not just coasting along with no end in sight. Without goals, you won’t have any concept of how long it will take you to learn your target language or how far you’ve gotten, and you’ll quickly lose motivation.
It’s a good idea to set several small, realistic goals—for example, “Learn ten new vocabulary words in two weeks.” Hitting small milestones will encourage you to keep going and will be less daunting than one huge, vague goal like “Be fluent in German.” Step by step, those smaller achievements will get you to your ultimate language-learning goal.
2. Stick to a schedule
Having a language-learning schedule will help you ensure that you don’t skip studying, as you’ll be more likely to take it seriously. Sure, it’s great to be flexible sometimes, but if you give yourself too much flexibility, you might find that your language practice always gets pushed to the back burner in favor of more urgent or easier things.
To reach your language goals, it’s important that you manage your time wisely and prioritize your studies just as you would anything else on your schedule. Even if all you have is 30 minutes a day, add it to your schedule and stick to it—consistency is key.
3. Pick the best time of day for you
Studying a language can be a lot of fun, but it also takes effort. If you’re trying to learn new grammar concepts or improve your reading comprehension skills when you’re exhausted or just not feeling it, nothing you practice is really going to stick.
So, as you create your language study plan, ask yourself when you typically feel the most productive, alert and energized. Once you’ve pinned that down, try to schedule your study sessions accordingly if possible.
4. Stay focused
When you’re trying to review your target language, it’s best to be in a quiet, distraction-free space. By “distraction-free,” we mean a place where you’re not tempted to cut your study session short so you can do something else—like washing the dirty dishes you can see out of the corner of your eye.
If you don’t have an area like that in your home, consider going somewhere quiet like a library. Even a coffee shop can work, but in that case, it’s a good idea to bring along some noise-canceling headphones.
Another idea if you have trouble staying focused is to use a productivity timer like Pomodoro, which breaks your tasks into manageable intervals with short breaks in between.
5. Incorporate your target language into your real life
Do whatever you can to incorporate your target language into your day-to-day life. Here are some ideas:
- Label items around your home
- Listen to music or podcasts in your target language
- Watch TV shows or movies in the language you’re studying
- Change the language settings on your phone
- Follow celebrities or influencers on social media who speak your target language
- Make international friends—try language exchange groups on platforms like Reddit, for instance
6. Review regularly
Language learning isn’t a “set it and forget it” situation. It’s essential that you revisit your material regularly to remind yourself of what you’ve covered and commit it to your long-term memory. Without reviewing, everything you’ve studied will fade into the background and you’ll soon forget it. Some review ideas are:
- Rewriting your notes
- Testing your vocabulary with flashcards
- Doing gap-fill listening activities
- Trying to teach someone else
- Writing sentences or passages that incorporate newly learned vocabulary
7. Keep it interesting
Whatever you do, don’t let your language practice get boring! Once you fall into the boredom trap, it’s hard to climb back out. Boredom can quickly cause you to start skipping study sessions and fall behind.
To keep it interesting, switch between the skills you practice: You could focus on speaking one day, and the next day, follow up with some reading comprehension activities. It’s also important that you use various practice methods and activities. For example, if you find you’ve been doing a lot of music-related activities to practice listening, you could switch gears by watching a YouTube video on a topic you find interesting during your next study session.
8. Treat yourself
Earlier, we talked about making mini-goals to steadily get you closer to achieving your main goal. And while intrinsic motivation—satisfaction from simply having done an activity—is fantastic, sometimes we need a little extra incentive.
Consider rewarding yourself with a little treat every time you meet one of your small goals; it could be as simple as a trip to your favorite bakery if you ace a quiz or after completing a week of lessons. Those little rewards can go a long way in helping you keep your eyes on the prize.
Reach your target with a language study plan
Figuring out how to study foreign languages effectively can be intimidating. You need to know what you want to achieve and the most efficient way to get there. Use a language study plan like the one above and tailor it to your own needs, and you’ll be able to prioritize, focus and steadily improve your language skills.
Andrea is a Canadian freelance writer and editor specializing in English, e-learning, EdTech, and SaaS. She has a background as an ESL teacher in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. In her free time, Andrea loves hanging out with her husband and children, creating recipes in the kitchen, and reading fiction. She also loves camping and jumping into lakes whenever possible. Learn more about Andrea on LinkedIn or check out her website.