The Focused Filler, a Simple Language Learning Habit

This is a simple refinement of my Tricks and Triggers for Opportunistic Language Learning. Those are great, but even they call for some advance planning to be of optimal use. As the academic year has begun and projects have been rolling in, I’ve needed to make my opportunistic language learning even simpler and more automatic.

The Tweak

domingo-vellajo-tweet-pradoFrom my master list of triggered language learning activities, I establish one IN ADVANCE–either at the beginning of the week or at the beginning of the day–as that week’s or day’s triggered filler. This way I don’t need to spend any time deciding what activity to engage in during already short language learning opportunities. The important thing is to choose something that I can quickly adjust to without needing to settle into the context, and that I can move on from without needing the closure of, say, finishing a chapter.

For example…

This week’s go-to filler is the Twitter account of Domingo Vallejo (@breviaria), a Latin teacher in Valencia, Spain, who tweets in Spanish about both classical and modern topics that tend to interest me. Depending on my time and interest, I can just read the tweets, or I can follow Domingo’s links to news articles or to his own blog.

I still follow my routines–currently, reading Cicero’s De Oratore before starting the day’s work, listening to the Notes in Spanish podcast while making and eating lunch, reviving my Greek habit right after the kids go to bed, enjoying a German novel at my own bedtime–but the pre-selected activity of Tweet-reading has really helped me focus my opportunistic language learning between daily tasks.

As always, I’m not trying to create busyness for myself or you. We need real breaks, we need times to relax, we need times to do nothing. All I’m trying to do here is enhance focus during times when I might otherwise putz around.

What might you choose as your go-to language learning filler for the rest of the week?


See also: The Savvy Language Learner (infographic)
Posted in Learning and tagged , , , .


  1. Thanks for sharing the Notes in Spanish podcast! I am listening now and can’t wait to share it with my Spanish classes!

    • [note: I discovered on 12/15/2017 that the following reply from 09/14/2016 had posted to a different page.]

      Sure thing! I love that podcast (but note that I haven’t tried the “Inspired Beginners” series, only the Intermediate and Advanced) and am eager to hear how it works for your students.

      I realized that I hadn’t included the link in the post; I’ve added it now.

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