How To Marie Kondo Your Language Studies

Thought you’d seen every possible application of the Kondo method already? Hold my beer.
marie kondo kneeling with eyes closed

Marie Kondo photo courtesy of Netflix

Marie Kondo has been kind of a big deal for some time now, but when her Netflix series aired at the beginning of 2019, the internet exploded with hot takes, memes and backlash to the backlash against the show.

Many people saw the light, however. That is, the light emanating from the “spark of joy” your possessions should bring you. As a result, thrift stores around the United States have been overwhelmed with donations, and people still riding the high of purging their undergrad papers are now looking for other areas of their life to declutter — or to “Marie Kondo,” since her name is now functionally a verb, too.

For the uninitiated, Marie Kondo is a Japanese entrepreneur who founded one of the most talked-about tidying and organizational methods of the 21st century. Her method doesn’t emphasize minimalism for minimalism’s sake, but rather a mindful approach to belongings that gently encourages you to let go of things you’re holding onto for the wrong reasons. By holding objects in your hands, you can assess whether they still “spark joy” for you. To lessen the guilt you might feel for getting rid of things that don’t serve a purpose or make you happy, you simply thank them and send them on their way.

If you’re into all of this and you’re feeling pumped to trim the fat from other aspects of your life, allow us to present you with some tips for Kondo-ing your language studies.

Marie Kondo(nate) Your College Textbooks

If your Spanish IV primer is, as of yet, the gift that keeps on giving, then by all means, keep using it! But don’t fall into the trap of sticking with the first learning method you were ever exposed to just because you think it’s what you’re “supposed” to do.

Learning on your own is inherently different from learning in school, and partially because you can personalize your learning approach. Another reason to let the book go is that you now have other viable options, many of which take the form of app-based learning (and we happen to have one that’s got a pretty good efficacy rate).

Take stock of your current learning tools. In fact, lay them out in front of you physically and hold each one in your hands. Does the feeling of the book or journal in your hands fill you with excitement and possibility, or does it feel like a dead weight you dread returning to?

You can do this for intangible things, too, like podcasts and websites. Bring them up on your screen and notice how your body reacts.

Be Nice To Your Schedule

One big concept that Marie Kondo returns to over and over again is the notion of treating your belongings with kindness. Your socks work hard throughout the day to protect and warm your feet — don’t you think they’d prefer to be folded, rather than balled up and stretched out?

Your time, or your day-to-day schedule, can also be approached like a conscious entity. Rather than stretch yourself thin trying to cram your studies into the busiest parts of your day, try to have a dialogue with your own free time and ask it what it wants from you. Maybe you’ll be surprised to realize that your morning commute is actually not the part of your day that “feels best” for drilling your Turkish vocab.

Even the busiest among us can find 10 to 15 minutes a day to complete a language lesson. Here are some common times you could be learning a language on your phone.

Dump The Vocabulary That Doesn’t Spark Joy

Here’s the other cool thing about learning a language as an adult: you literally don’t have to drill vocabulary that has no purpose or appeal for you.

If you’ve been stuck on the “sports vocabulary” section and you’re in no way interested in soccer, you might find that skipping over this category entirely will make the rest of your language studies zip along brightly like, oh, I don’t know, a spark of joy.

Focusing on the vocabulary that’s pertinent to you is actually a language-learning hack that accomplished polyglots recommend.

Break Up With Languages You’re Just Not That Into Anymore

Well, this is kind of a sad one, but it really doesn’t have to be if you approach it with the right perspective.

Not all language relationships are meant to last forever, and that’s okay. Maybe your flirtation with the Dutch language was only meant to last for five beautiful months. Maybe Russian is the one you’ll marry.

Finding a learning language is kind of like dating, in a way. You might cycle through a couple false starts before you find one you think you can really commit to. You didn’t fail at learning just because you lost interest in one of them before you reached fluency.

Be honest with yourself about what you’re learning, why you’re learning it, and if you think there’s still enough love in the game to keep you going. You’ll need that motivation in order to persist when you feel stuck or discouraged, so it’s important to follow your joy in this regard, too.

Ready to ditch your textbooks?
Try Babbel Instead