You Can Learn a Language on a Busy Schedule!

I am the leader of an international animal protection organization. My job is really fulfilling but also consumes a really big part of my life. My schedule is irregular, prone to last minute changes and I need to travel a lot.

Reading all this, you could easily suspect that I would be one of the people who always say that they would love to learn new languages but it’s just impossible to ever find time to do it. But I’m not. I prioritize language learning and I believe I have very good reasons to do that.

I try to learn at least the basics in all the languages where we operate. The minimum I want to be able to do is to pronounce all the names and surnames properly, as a sign of respect for the people I work with.

But it’s more than just trying to be polite. I strongly believe that part of my job as a leader is to inspire and motivate employees and volunteers so that together we can change the fate of millions of farmed animals. If I am able to do it in my native language: great. If I learn to use another language effectively, my impact doubles.
This was a goal I gave myself when I started learning Russian: I want to be able to give good presentations that move people. I am not there yet, but I am making steady progress and I am confident this goal is within my reach.

Russian is the first language I decided to learn on my own and I am really glad that I discovered Glossika when I started researching my options:

🇷🇺 Try Glossika Russian for free 🇷🇺

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What I've Learned While Improving my Russian

Here are 6 things I've learned while working on improving my Russian:

1. Don’t Be Too Ambitious.

This is probably the hardest part, especially for people like me, whose job is to be ambitious. Planning a routine that was way too optimistic slowed my progress  because I was learning a lot, burning out, making long breaks and then slowly getting back on track. I finally learned that I am able to progress much faster when my plan is more conservative. Consistency is the key.

2. You Will Fail to Be Consistent.

The secret of achieving fluency is not to never fail but to always come back to your routine. It is easy to think that if you were meant to acquire this new skill that you really want, you would always be motivated and never skip a lesson. But it’s just not true. We are all imperfect: we forget, we become overwhelmed and sometimes we are just too lazy to do something. There are no perfect perfect people who are unceasingly motivated. People who achieve success in anything struggle with very similar challenges. They just don’t give up.  

3. Make it Easy to Learn Anywhere.

Since my schedule is really hectic, it is much easier for me to find time to learn if the materials are always handy. I keep my handbook in my bag and I scan pages with a smartphone app whenever I travel. Ebooks are also a great help for people who learn languages because looking up words take almost no time and does not disturb the flow of reading. The less challenging it is for me to spend some time learning every day, the more likely I am to do it consistently. There are studies showing that we eat more candy if it’s near us on the desk, and less, if it’s in the same room but on the shelf. My experience says that it’s almost the same with learning. It’s really embarrassing how many times I was too lazy to go to another room to bring my notes.

4. Set the Timer.

I noticed that it’s much easier for me to commit to something if I plan to do it for a certain amount of time. For some reason it just makes it more manageable. Setting the timer is what helps me to survive all the chores. Since I don’t have much time, it’s much easier to commit to 15 minutes of reading than for example. reading the whole chapter, because it makes it easier for me to plan my day. At this moment I know exactly how long my daily routine takes.

5. Make a Plan.

This is where learning a language resembles going to the gym. My work is much more efficient when I know exactly what I am going to do every day. Just like when I go to the gym I know which weights I should use and the number of reps on each of them, when I learn, I also follow a similar plan. I list skills I am working on and for each skill, I plan a bite-sized portion of practice. Listening to Glossika is one portion, but my plan also consists of some reading, some writing and some workbook grammar practice. I have to admit: it’s rare for me to tick everything off the list. But because I know what the list consists of and that each activity takes between 10 and 20 minutes, it’s easy for me to find time for my language practice in between some other commitments. I might not tick off all the aims on the plan, but I make sure my progress is not stalled by analysis paralysis: I make it easy to do at least something every day.

6. Enjoy the Language.

Even if you learn for very pragmatic reasons - just like I do - learning more about culture, history and art makes me enjoy the whole process much more. That’s why I added learning poetry by heart to my daily routine. It helps me practice vocabulary, but also gives me a chance to experience the language as an art and not just a tool. I noticed that it made me appreciate Russian much more when I saw what the language is capable of in the hands of true masters. I choose only one poem per month, print it and paste it in my calendar, and then I do nothing more than read it once a day. It takes me almost no time at all but works wonders on my commitment to improve my skills.


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