How much time should I spend learning German?
Time is the most precious commodity we have—and once it’s been spent, it’s gone forever. When you’re learning German, you of course want to know how much time you need to put in to really learn it! It’s vital that you use the time that you have wisely. Thus I say:
Think in terms of learning sessions,
not in minutes of study time.
This helps you break down the work you need to do related to the time you have available. Schedule the work that needs to be done, not the time you think you should spend doing it. In other words, focus on the work, not on the time. And the time you have available is likely to be different depending on the day of the week. So the first thing to do is…
1. Schedule your learning sessions by activity.
Let’s suppose you look at your schedule for the week and you see it’s wide-open Monday night, Tuesday you’re at the gym so you won’t have much time, Wednesday is completely booked, Thursday’s open, Friday’s iffy, and then you’ve got the weekend free.
Thus you schedule the big activities, like long worksheets and tough grammar topics, on Monday, Thursday, and the weekend.
The vocab work you need to do gets broken up into small chunks. If you have 35 vocab words to learn, break it down into 3 groups (12 words, 12 words, and 11 words) so you can tackle those separately: 1 set on Monday, repeat set 1 on Tuesday after the gym, add set 2 on Thursday, and then add set 3 and repeat all of them on the weekend.
See? You’re getting the hang of it already!
2. Schedule days off.
This is just as important as scheduling the learning sessions themselves—schedule study-free days. When you’re slogging through Konjunktiv II or unregelmäßige Verben im Perfekt you’ll want to know when you’re going to get a break. So make sure you know when—it will motivate you more when you know that Thursday you’re only doing vocab and that worksheet, but the tough grammar stuff was on Monday and will be on Saturday.
3. Be kind to yourself when life goes awry.
This is a lesson I gratefully learn from my clients over and over again: be kind to yourself when your life spins out of control. Sometimes a family member gets sick, you get called in to work, or some other unexpected event magically vacuums up your study time, your energy, and all the battery life on your phone. It happens to all of us! So remember it’s part of life, schedule a learning session, and keep it simple.
4. Make progress with this handy scale:
|1-2 learning sessions
If you’re making time for 1-2 learning sessions per week, you can expect basic maintenance of your German skills and minimal progress. This is the level of commitment you can expect when you’re being kind to yourself because your life has gone awry. Gut!
If, however, your life is plugging along peacefully and this is all the effort you put in, then you’ll make as much progress as a glacier. And that’s on you.
|3-4 learning sessions||This is the realm of progress. These 3-4 learning sessions allow you to repeat some material, tackle new topics, finish your homework, and keep you moving steadily through the vocab. Sehr gut!|
|5-6 learning sessions||This is serious movement towards your goals. With 5-6 learning sessions per week you’re getting all your homework accomplished, you understand the rules and the exceptions, and you are hopefully exploring some of these grammar topics on the internet to gain another persepective. Ausgezeichnet!|
7+ learning sessions
|At this point, everyone is envious of you. You’re focused, committed, making swift progress, and you probably need to stop and take a break. Möchten Sie einen Kaffee?|
5. And if you're sick of all this counting?
If you’re like me and you’ve spent so much time quantifying your habits, counting your steps every day, etc. that you can’t take it anymore and you just want a break from the numbers, then follow this rule-of-thumb:
Learn German on more days than not.
This means you’re spending time with your German books & homework on more days than when you aren’t spending time with your materials, and you are making appropriate progress.