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#Portuguese365 Update 6: fast and flexible language learning?

language study muscle, how to get fast and flexible language learning?My one-year adventure with studying Portuguese is becoming a more grown-up thing now: I need to fit language study around my work! Doing this requires good time management but also (crucially for polyglot wannabes) setting priorities. So how to get your foreign language habit alongside your busy life?

1. What matters now?

This is a good question to ask with anything you study. And learning Portuguese is no exception. What are you supposed to be doing now? In my case, I know I’m still in “input stage” – not expected to talk or write a lot yet, but it would help if I got the pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar now.

So this is what I’m doing – and this is the most important thing in my language study plan. If I find something else related to Portuguese – I make a note of it an will return to it later. For now, I stick to my priorities.

2. When can you do it?

There’s a great post by Guy Kawasaki, which urges us to “stop the Glorification of Busy.” In other words, being busy – or appearing to be busy – shouldn’t be regarded as a good thing of itself. This matters to those who are becoming bilingual: just because you feel you’ve got no time, this doesn’t mean you’re right – or on the right track.

In my case, Tube journeys became an unexpected source of quality study time! Good headphones and plenty of material mean that I’ve got my pronunciation, grammar, listening and vocabulary with me.
In your case, this may be connected with waiting for your next appointment – or for your family to come home.

Here’s a useful way of making note of these moments. Think of a thing you usually resort to when you’re bored (TV, comics, news pages). Then, whenever you find yourself doing those, think: is this when language learning could take place? If so, how?

3. How can you make more / less of it?

The optimistic scenario is this: your next meeting is cancelled and you’ve got an hour to yourself, in your office, with no distractions. That’s great: how can you suddenly “power-up” your language learning to have 60 good minutes with what you’re going to learn? Can you call your tutor and have a quick impromptu chat? Do you have letter paper at hand, and a dictionary to help out with that long-overdue Portuguese missive to a penpal? Or is there an “emergency” stash of podcasts just for this occasion?

The pessimistic option is this: your 20-minute routine gets squeezed to just 6-7 minutes. What’s the minimum dose of language learning you could do then? Is there a list of vocabulary that can get reviewed and revised, no matter what? Or is there an easy way to compose and send out a quick message to your bilingual friend?

These things happen. If you think they won’t happen to you – think again. It’s reasonable to expect both of them to happen – and to treat your language study flexibly. Be prepared for long and short language workouts!


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