You have to take the kids to school, work all day, rush to the supermarket, put away the groceries, unload and load the dishwaswer, prepare a meal, help with homework, answer e-mails, log on to Facebook, phone your mom… So, naturally you don’t have time to study Italian, right?
Learning a foreign language certainly takes a lot of time and effort, but it doesn’t have to mean giving up precious days off, or sacrificing time with family and friends.
The trick is to exploit gaps in your daily routine to study Italian when you might otherwise be doing nothing or wasting time on things which are less important to you.
First, take a look at a typical day in your week. Can you identify “dead time”? Brief periods in which, if you got organised, you could be studying?
Your journey to work, for example, or that part of your lunch hour which you don’t actually spend eating or socialising but just hanging around.
What about the time you spend on TV programs that don’t really interest you, but which you somehow end up sitting through anyway because a family member has the remote?
Or could you spend a little less time surfing the internet or on Facebook? Or get out of bed half an hour earlier?
Now, look at the other days of the week. Of course, some days will be more intense than others, but take a piece of paper and try to identify at least some “dead time” for each day of the week, including your busiest days.
Done that? I bet you found quite a few potential study periods, didn’t you?
Next, get a new piece of paper, spreadsheet, or whatever would work best for you, and list all the slots that you have identfied as possibilities for your Italian study program.
It might look something like this:
0830-0850 (bus to work)
1345-1400 (after lunch)
1830-1850 (bus home)
2100-2130 (kids watching TV)
Now identify your intended study periods. Try to find at least one each day, and choose those periods of time that you feel you will “miss least” from your normal life.
You definitely shouldn’t try to study in EVERY moment of “dead time” for the whole week. It would be unrealistic, and also unnecessary. Even just 3-4 hours a week should be more than enough to ensure excellent progress with your Italian.
Also, don’t be tempted to only schedule study sessions for evenings or weekends, even though that is when you will probably have longer uninterupted periods available. Studying in the evenings or at weekends means giving up other activities that are important to you (relaxing, socialising), and so makes it more likely that you will find excuses not to study.
You should now have a timetable for the week, showing a number of periods when you will be able to study Italian without disrupting your normal life!
The final step is to decide what study activities to schedule for each period so as to maximise the effectiveness of your study plan.
This part is more difficult than you might imagine. Deciding WHAT and HOW to study is the part you might normally expect the teacher to take care of for you…
You’ll need to make sure that your study activities are appropriate to be squeezed into “dead time” such as bus rides and lunch hours, but also that there is a suitable balance of different activities: working through a grammar book, for example, is not likely to be an effective approach.
Watch out for the next article on this site, which will cover precisely these issues: how to optimise your Italian study program for success!