When you’re in school, it’s normal to spend hours each day studying and completing homework assignments. It’s a built-in part of your daily routine that takes priority over other aspects of your life. Once you’ve graduated, secured a full-time job and eventually started a family, however, learning tends to take a backseat. So how are you expected to find the time to study and learn a language? And how much time do you need to spend studying each day to reach your goals?
Much like the question of what time of day is best for learning, how much time you should spend learning largely depends on your needs. If you have the time and motivation, you’re welcome to spend hours and hours studying every day, but after a certain point, you may stop retaining the information.
For people who already have a packed schedule, a few minutes per day can be just as effective. Why? It all comes down to a methodology called “microlearning.”
The Power Of Microlearning
Researchers from the European Conference on Ambient Intelligence describe “microlearning” as an e-learning technique in which “a difficult learning task is broken into a series of very quick learning interactions, distributed over time.” In other words, information is delivered in short, manageable bursts at regular intervals. Generally, microlearning takes the form of online quizzes, short articles or app-based learning exercises like matching a foreign word to its translation. In order to be considered microlearning, an activity should only take between 5 and 15 minutes to complete.
Microlearning is still a relatively new concept, so there isn’t a lot of empirical data on its effectiveness. However, a number of e-learning companies have written articles raving about the benefits of learning in small chunks.
The Half Hour Theory
Other experts say 30 minutes is the optimal time to spend per day on learning something new. Strategist and life coach Zoë B came up with “The Half Hour Theory.”
“The general idea is that you do one small thing every day for half an hour, and then as time goes by, you gradually improve,” Zoë B writes.
Learning a language has a lot of similarities to learning to play an instrument, and many music teachers advise practicing for about 30 minutes per day. Shorter periods of learning have the added bonus of making you more likely to stick with it and keep up a consistent schedule.
The Bottom Line
Babbel’s language lessons take approximately 10 to 15 minutes each, so tackling a couple of lessons daily will put you on the right track toward language proficiency.
The bottom line: whether it’s five minutes or two hours, choose a learning strategy that fits into your daily routine and that you’ll actually commit to following.