Do I really have to practice every day?

Ahhh, a very common question. I ask everyone before we start working together: “are you willing to commit at least 15min every day or 45min every other day to improve your language skills?”

The answers are usually this question. Do I really have to?

Before I get into the shoulds and musts, I’d like to tell you about my own experience when it comes to habits.

About a year ago I read Hal Elrod’s “Miracle Morning”. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the book (and movement), the author shares his secret to reaching goals in life. He starts the day about an hour or 90 minutes earlier, and fills that time with meditation, journaling, visualising, exercise… Everything he needs to start the day off doing the things he finds important, but would otherwise not find the time for.

Am I saying this is the time you should be spending on your language goals? No no. Still talking about myself here, gimme a minute!

I had been going to retreats and seeing the importance of a regular practice, not only my daily meditation, but also a series of exercises in self-love, breathing, yoga… I knew I wanted to incorporate these into my life in a more consistent way. My teachers called this the “golden hour” and during retreats or holidays this had been my favourite part of the day.

I wish this is what my mornings looked like!

Nonetheless, as soon as I got back into an established routine, I told myself I couldn’t get up that early, let alone move my body at that time of the day!

This book however, addressed all of these questions and had really good tips when it came to beating that morning dread, like drinking lots of water so your body wakes up, or brushing your teeth straight away so you feel fresh.

The best thing I got out of it was to write myself a little letter with all the things that I wanted to do and experience in that first hour of the day. I got so excited about finally doing that 45min yoga video, experimenting with a new breath technique and also, taking the time to write in my journal and decorate it, while watching everything outside slowly illuminating fully. Writing it down and looking forward to it was my ticket to actually getting up for it!

These days I only miss a morning routine when I haven’t clearly stated or even thought about what I want to do the next day, the activities I’m anticipating with joy.

So, what I want to say with this story… If you set some clear goals with your language practice, if you know what you want to train, it’ll be much easier to respect the time that you carved out for it. And if planning that time is your sore spot, you might want to read my next article: it’s not a lack of time, it’s a lack of priorities!

Of course no one’s going to come and find you if you haven’t practised every (other) day, but you’ll notice it yourself: it’s much easier to disengage if you don’t have an established routine. It’s a pity to decide to go for it, and then lose momentum.

What can be some interesting language goals for a 15-30 minutes practice?

  • read an article and highlight all the words that you don’t fully understand or don’t use actively yet
  • write some phrases with the new words you recently put on your word list, or a paragraph summarising an article or describing something you love
  • watch a video or listen to a podcast or song (tip for Flemish: find some cool videos with exercises on www.nedbox.be
  • go out for a language challenge (leads to a conversation with somebody)
  • read out loud from an article or phrases you’ve recently learned
  • making exercises, either the ones that you found yourself or are included in good material, or the ones I gave you as part of my programme!

There’s plenty to do, and the idea is that you feel delighted about doing it. Sure, not every single part of language learning is amazing, but if all of what you’re doing is uninspiring to you, you might need to shake things up a little 🙂 If you’re looking forward to your 15 minutes, if they often end up being longer or if they just seem so short, you’re definitely there.

I’m curious to hear if you have a daily practice, when that is, and what you do during that time?

For me it’s different every day, but my favourite 15 minutes are reading an article in my favourite German magazines, called Happy Way and Herzstück. I usually plan it in at 16h, and have a little tea and sometimes even a piece of chocolate to go with it – adding to the comfort!

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