by Jack Askew
Are you too busy to learn English?
If so, you are not alone. I receive dozens of emails each week from learners who tell me that they don’t have time to study.
This is a real problem. In order to improve, you need to spend time studying and using English. If you don’t have enough time, you won’t make any progress.
Luckily, I have some actionable advice for you. Let’s get started…
Know Why You Are Learning English and Make it a Priority
Saying that you’re too busy to learn English isn’t actually true. What you’re actually saying is that English isn’t a top priority for you at the moment.
To give you an example, I had a student from Spain who told me that he was too busy to do things outside of class.
However, in our lessons, he told me that he spent his weekends watching football, playing computer games, and socializing with his friends.
He prioritized these activities over learning English.
Another student of mine had more important priorities. She had a job with long hours and she had three children. Her job and her children were more important to her than learning English.
We all have priorities. Some priorities are more important than others. There is no right or wrong here.
But what you need to do is to take a look at your daily routine and look at how you spend your time. Can you fit more English learning into your routine? Can you make it more of a priority?
Additionally, think about why you need to learn English and how having a high level would change your life. Doing this might make you realize how important it is for you.
Action Step: Make a list of priorities and see where English fits into this. Think about how important English is to you and try to make it more of a priority.
Learn English without Changing Your Routine
In addition to making it more of a priority, you can also learn English without changing your daily routine.
This is especially useful if you really are super busy. And I recommend doing this even if you have lots of time to study.
Here is how to do it: simply do what you do now, but do it in English instead. More specifically…
Change your devices into English: This small change makes a big difference. Every time you use you phone, you will be reading and using your English.
Only follow English-speaking people and brands on social media: Make your newsfeed English only. Follow people and pages that interest you.
For bonus points, write comments in order to practice.
Play computer games in English: One of my old students loved a football management game. I told him to play it in English instead. If you like computer games, play them in English.
Read and watch TV in English: You probably already do this. But if you don’t, start doing it. There are so many books and TV shows to enjoy. If you already read and watch TV, continue doing it, but do it in English instead.
If you find TV too difficult, there are three things you can do:
- Watch something that’s easier to understand like the news or programs for made for children
- Rewatch something you didn’t understand
- Watch something that you’ve already seen in your native language
Research and learn new things in English: Make Google.com your homepage and always do your searches in English. Read reviews in English. Research your next holiday in English. Take your next course in English.
Do things with your kids in English: Spending time with your children will always be a priority over English. Instead, read English books to your children and watch children’s TV shows with them.
Doing the above gives you the input you need to improve. It helps you immerse yourself in the language without having to make drastic changes.
Action Step: Take a look at your daily routine and think about what you could do in English instead.
Always Be Listening
The average learner doesn’t get enough listening practice.
The good news is that it’s easy to get more. The key is to always be listening to English. Listen on the way to work. Listen while walking the dog. Listen while exercising. Listen while you work.
By having English playing constantly in your ear means that you will:
- Get used to how English is spoken
- Get massive input
You might not be focused on what you are listening to all the time. That’s okay. You will still benefit from it.
Listen to things that you enjoy. If you like football, then listen to football podcasts. If you’re into music, listen to music in English.
Listening while doing other things is another way for you to get more practice while keeping the same routine.
Become an Efficient Learner and Learn English that is Specific to You
Listening more and creating an English-centric environment will help you get more input.
But you also need to spend time doing what I call focused English. This includes:
- Taking lessons
- Working on your pronunciation
- Learning new words and phrases
- Getting speaking practice
If you have a limited schedule, then how you spend your time is vital.
You need to use methods that work. And you need to make your learning specific to you.
If you are a regular reader of Shanthi’s blog, then you will most likely be focusing on English for business. If that is true, then spend most of your time learning business English. If you have to write emails at your job, spend time improving your writing.
Think about how you use / will use your English and focus on things that will help YOU.
Here are other tips to help you become a more efficient English learner:
Learn English in context: Learn new words and phrases from the context of a sentence, and take sentences from books, conversations, TV shows etc.
Get repetition: To remember words and to internalize grammar, you need lots of repetition. Use the Sentence Method to do this efficiently.
Speak and learn from your mistakes: If you can afford a private tutor, get one. If not, make English speaking friends so that you can practice as much as possible. Know that you will make mistakes (everyone does!) and learn from them.
Improve your pronunciation: Because most schools focus on grammar lessons, learners don’t get the pronunciation training they need. Improving your pronunciation not only helps your speaking skills, it also helps your listening skills.
Action Step: write down how you are going to use your English and create a plan that is specific to you.
Get Up Early
This might be controversial but…
… the best way to ensure that you get more practice in English is to get up 20 minutes earlier than normal.
I know, I know, sleep is important. And you probably hate getting up early. But watch the following video that I made that explains why this might work for you:
In summary, here is why this is powerful:
- Learning English first thing in the morning helps you make it a priority
- If you do something in the morning, you are more likely to do it again later in the day
- This might be the only time of the day that you can spend studying English
All you have to do is try it. If it works, great! If not, at least you tried it.
Action Step: Choose a day within the next week to get up 20 minutes earlier than normal. Spend that time studying English.
Have Fun and Enjoy the Journey
We only do things that we enjoy. And if you don’t enjoy learning English, you won’t make it a priority.
Equally as important, studies have shown that we learn faster when we’re enjoying the learning process. You are more open to new language and grammar if you are engaged.
Due to the huge amount of resources available to you, there is no need to do something you don’t enjoy.
If you find a book boring, choose another one. If you don’t like the TV show, turn over the channel. If you don’t enjoy your lessons, find another teacher or course.
When it comes to focused learning, a good question to ask yourself is, “How can I do this while having more fun?”
For example, a powerful way to improve your pronunciation is through mimicking native speakers. You can make this more fun by choosing songs you like and singing at home.
Action Step: make your fluency plan as fun as possible. Enjoy the journey.
You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy.
But no matter how busy you are, you can get still improve your English if you follow my advice above.
Try to make English more of a priority and make changes so that you can do more in English without having to make drastic changes to your current schedule.
Jack is an online English teacher. He helps English learners reach a high level through his website tofluency.com. He has a free book for you to download. It’s called, “The Five-Step Plan for English Fluency.”