Limiting your language learning–on purpose

The best journaling advice I ever got was to follow a firm rule not to write more than a single page per daily journaling session. The prediction was that this limitation would actually increase my total writing because it would make the task less daunting and would therefore make me more likely actually to sit down and write every day. The prediction proved true.

I am learning to maintain a similar practice in my language-learning. Calling me a highly motivated language learner would be like calling my five year old a highly motivated builder of forts. Neither of us needs outside motivation. It’s not just that I really want to learn languages. It’s that both the prospect of living in another language and the tasks involved in getting there give me singular pleasure. On top of that, it’s my job to help other people learn languages joyfully and successfully, and a key part of doing that is being a joyful and successful learner myself.

So, I have plenty of reason to spend a lot of time on languages. What I don’t have plenty of is time to spend on languages. (You may feel similarly. If you feel like you have “plenty of time,” please let me know so that I can write a book about you.) I have a family, a business, a community, and interests other than language-learning. And when I feel like I’m not going to have as much time as I need or want on something, I’m sometimes inclined not to start.

The problem of trying to becoming proficient in languages other than my primary community’s, even when there’s a lot of other stuff to do, is a big part of why I developed the concept of indwelling language and the #indwelli in the first place. But sometimes I just need to limit the time I spend on other languages. If you’re overwhelmed, either by life in general or by language-learning itself, I encourage you to define the time you explicitly devote to it, and to make that time pretty limited. And I encourage you to define what you put into your language-learning at least partly in terms of time. In other words, instead of committing to reading an article a day or learning ten words a day or watching one video per day, commit to 20 or 45 or 15 or 60 or 30 minutes a day, and stop when the timer goes off.

You’ll find that limiting your time

-makes you more likely to start at all.

-makes you more excited about your language time.

-makes the time itself more focused.

-leaves you wanting more.

-helps you know what’s realistic for you.

-reassures you that what you’re putting into language is not irresponsible.

-reduces your stress about language-learning and life in general.

-is part of fostering a generally more responsible and healthy life.


Some other tips:

-Your time limit doesn’t have to be the same every day. Maybe you devote 10 minutes on Monday and Wednesday, 30 on Tuesday and Thursday, and 20 on Friday. Such a scheme may be part of a larger scheme to watch youtube videos in your target language on a certain day, read a chapter on another, read some explanations about the language on another, and so on.

-If you’re working on multiple languages at the same time, you might spend a different amount on each language each day and rotate. Let’s say you are learning languages F, S, and L and you can devote 50 minutes a day to language study. On Mondays, you might spend 25 on F, 15 on S, and 10 on L; on Tuesdays, 25 on S, 15 on L, and 10 on F; and so on. You might decide that you are more eager to learn one of these languages and give it the longer slot more often.

-Incorporate #indwelli and similar habits into your life in order to make the most of time.


Happy Indwelling!

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