In yesterday’s email, I talked about creating a study system that you can have confidence in.
I also gave a practical example of how I use textbook dialogues to start building my foundation in a new language.
But the best activities in the world are no good to you unless you actually do them!
So in this email I want to talk about staying focused and scheduling your study time so that you keep improving.
Focus, focus, focus
One of the things that I used to struggle with a lot was sitting down to study, and thinking: “What should I do today?”
Keen to get started, I would pick up a textbook, browse a language website, watch a YouTube video, and before I know it I would find myself confused, slightly overwhelmed, and with no idea what I should actually be doing.
I would waste huge amounts of time because I didn’t have a clear idea what to do.
To avoid this problem, you need to have a strategy.
It doesn’t have to be a complex one, but you have to know what you’re going to do BEFORE you sit down to study.
So I want to do right now is give you a clear system for how to do that.
The three pillars of daily study
There are three “pillars” of language learning that you have to cover on a regular basis with your studying.
We don’t have the space to go into detail about all of these here, but to over-simplify:
- Input is when stuff goes in – “learning”. You could be listening to a dialogue on a podcast, studying a chapter from a textbook, or reading a book.
- Output is when you use the language for something – “practice”. This could be writing a diary or speaking with a language partner.
- Revision is consolidation – “learning x2”. This is when you set aside dedicated time to go back and look again at what you’ve been learning. You might go back to a textbook chapter you studied last week, or review vocabulary on flashcards.
(My email from Day-2 was all about input)
Now the important thing about the 3 pillars is that you’ve got to make sure you cover all of them.
Not occasionally, but consistently.
But which one of the three do you think is most likely NOT to get done?
For most people it’s output – specifically: regular speaking.
The simple reason that this gets left by the wayside is that it involves arranging a dedicated time with another person.
You know what it’s like! Speaking just gets put off. You tell yourself: “I’ll just study a bit more first with the textbook – it’s easier. I can do it on my own.”
…and then speaking never happens.
…and sure enough, your speaking never improves!
Plan the difficult stuff first
So when I set about planning my week, the very first thing I do is to schedule my speaking sessions in advance, for the whole week.
I recommend you have at least two speaking sessions during the week (ideally three or four), but even if you can only manage the one session… it’s vital that you schedule it in to ensure it happens.
If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen. (It’s a concept called pre-commitment that I wrote about in a blog post recently.)
So once you’ve scheduled your speaking sessions, your week already has structure, and you’ve taken care of one of the three pillars: output.
All you have to do then is fill in the gaps during the week, using activities that touch on the other two pillars – input and revision.
A great place to start would be to take the textbook dialogues that I wrote about in Day 2 and work on those after work on your non-speaking days (input).
You could also set aside 10 minutes every lunchtime to study flashcards, or go back and review dialogues from earlier in the textbook (revision).
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Hopefully, you can see how approaching your study in this way can form the basis of a sensible language learning system that you can have confidence in.
Many people report having huge difficultly scheduling activities in this way. But that’s because they have no system to follow, no principled way to decide what to actually do. Overwhelm and confusion isn’t far behind.
But with a simple system like this, based on the three pillars, you can remove the confusion and the stress altogether, because all you’ve got to do is make sure you’re covering each of the pillars consistently.
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If you like this simplified approach to language learning, my new Language Learning Foundations course might be for you.
The aim is dead simple – to show you exactly how to study a new language in the early stages to make fast progress and become fluent as quickly as possible.
It’s the same proven system that I follow myself when I learn a new language, and that has helped many others to learn too.
But don’t take my word for it:
“There have been so many mornings that I found myself confused as to how to proceed with my study, but your suggestions always put me right on track. I try to apply all of the techniques that you recommend, and I’ve noticed significant gains in my language acquisition.” – Orren T.
It’s a video course in 10 parts, with over 2.5 hours of beautifully simple, practical training.
There are also some fantastic bonuses, like 2 hours of expert video interviews where I grill some well-known polyglots on exactly what they do when they start learning a new language.
(These are great, because I really make them go into more detail than ever before about the early stages of language learning.)
I’ll send you some more information about this in the next few days, but if you’re keen to get started just click the link below: