Holding down a job is task enough. Keeping up with your language lessons while you’re in between Zoom meetings can sound like an even taller order — but only until you get a little strategic. As it turns out, you don’t have to sacrifice your sanity to fit language learning into your work from home schedule.
The biggest reason why? You don’t actually need to carve that much time out of your day. If you can only manage 10 to 15 minutes a day, that’s still plenty. It might seem counterintuitive to say so, but you’ll learn more if you commit to just doing a little bit at a time (and sustain this effort over the long haul, versus burning out after two all-night study sessions).
It’s part of the reason Babbel’s lessons are short and sweet. This “microlearning” approach helps your brain skip past the cognitive overload that happens when you try to feed it too much new information at once. Instead, you only introduce as much as it can handle at once, and then our Review Manager will reintroduce that material to you in strategically timed intervals to help make sure it moves into your long-term memory.
The other reason: there are things you can do to learn on autopilot without even thinking about it. For example, you can change your phone settings to your learning language and get an automatic mini-lesson every time you pick up your phone (that’s 2,617 times per day for the average person).
Though we’ve got plenty of other ideas for creating an environment that allows you to learn by osmosis, this article is primarily here to help you build your work from home schedule intentionally around your language learning goals.
To do this, we’ve compiled a number of “opportunity windows” — those little 10 to 15 minute lulls in your day — and organized them into morning, afternoon, and evening categories so you can build the ideal work from home schedule. We’ve also added some additional suggestions of things you can do during that time besides “take a Babbel lesson on your phone.” Depending on how much bandwidth you have, you can aim to complete one lesson or task per day, or who knows — maybe you can even engage with your new language as regularly as you eat meals.
Let this template inspire you to keep up your good work, and feel free to cherry pick the suggestions that work for you — you can always adapt it further to suit your needs!
Fitting Language Learning Into Your Work From Home Schedule
Let’s assume you’re not firing on all four cylinders when you start your day. Perhaps you prefer to ease into your day by going through your inbox, reading the news and sipping your coffee. You could take a lesson first thing in the morning if you feel up for it, but you can also take an even more gentle approach.
- Take a lesson while you’re: waiting for your coffee or tea to brew, drinking your coffee or tea, after you’ve completed your morning meditation (but before you’ve cracked your inbox), or just before you sign on to Slack.
- Listen to a short podcast episode in your language while you’re getting breakfast and coffee ready. If you’re not sure where to start, we produce our own selection in Spanish, French and Italian.
- Read the news in your learning language after you’ve answered your most pressing emails.
- If you’re a fan of journaling, do a 10-minute morning free write. If you need a little more structure than that, try writing about how you feel and what you think your day will be like.
A lot of studies seem to agree that midday is the best time of day to learn new things. Of course, that means different things for different people. If you wake up earlier, your “midday” will probably be earlier than your night owl neighbor’s.
We have more suggestions on optimizing your learning times according to your sleeping and eating rhythms, but, generally speaking, you want to avoid doing anything during your post-lunch slump (you know the one). Instead, aim for the time in the afternoon when you’re fully alert and caffeinated, but perhaps ready for a natural break in your work from home schedule.
If you can afford a nap during your post-lunch dip, a little rest can actually help you consolidate what you just learned, too.
- Take a lesson while you’re: eating lunch, stretching, stepping outside for a breath of fresh air, waiting for your laundry load to finish, or fighting your usual tendency to get sucked into Twitter. This is probably the ideal time of day to focus on learning new information.
- Play foreign-language music while you work (how’s that for multitasking?). For starters, check out our beginner playlists in German, Swedish and Spanish.
- Get sucked into Twitter anyway, but make it productive by tweeting in another language.
- Speed up your transition into a total shut-in who has forgotten how to exist in the world by practicing your conversation skills with yourself (even better if you do it during your afternoon walk or virtual exercise class). Yes, you can carry both sides of the conversation, and it’ll probably help you when you’re doing it for real!
Notice we didn’t say “night.” This is the part where we advise you against all-night cramming because, wonder of wonders, sleep is actually one of your best learning allies.
If you’re not convinced, a study from the University of Notre Dame tested two groups of students on their ability to memorize pairs of words. One group went to sleep immediately after learning, the other did not. When they were both tested on their recall 24 hours later, the well-rested group significantly outperformed their sleepy peers. Sleep helps your brain consolidate what you learned, which ultimately helps with retention!
- Take a lesson while you’re: decompressing on your couch, waiting for the pasta to boil, waiting for your takeout to arrive. Or, right before you get sucked into a Netflix spiral or right before bed. This is probably the ideal time of day to focus on reviewing what you’ve already learned.
- Get sucked into a Netflix spiral, but opt for a TV show that has subtitles in another language or is voiced in the language you’re learning. Hint: you can search by subtitled language on Netflix.
- Watch a foreign-language movie before bed. Depending on your level of proficiency, you can watch with English subtitles or try doing it with the training wheels off.
- Connect with someone who speaks (or studies) the language you’re studying on the phone, WhatsApp, Zoom, or any other communication medium of choice. Maybe it’s a friend you’re eager to catch up with anyway, or maybe it’s someone you intentionally sought out for study buddy purposes. Either way, it’s a good opportunity to weave in conversational practice at a time in the day when you might normally give someone a call.