How to Learn a Language as a Full-Time Student

Ramisa Sharif
Edited by Sophia Patane
Published on
November 22, 2023


According to, 43% of the world is bilingual, with only 17% being multilingual. The increase in demand for bilingual and multilingual workers has more than doubled between 2010 and 2015, with employees earning between 5%-20% more when advantageously using their multilingualism. Knowing this, it is not a surprise why many people are trying to pick up a new language, whether it’s to understand natives easily on vacation, to communicate with their relatives better, or just to add a new skill to their arsenal. You might be wondering: how do I learn a new language as a student who barely has time to do anything?

Listen to podcasts when doing absent-minded tasks

Whether it's listening to a podcast on your commute to school, or playing one out loud while you are doing the dishes, there are many moments when you can squeeze in a short episode of a foreign podcast. Absent-minded tasks refer to daily tasks that you do that don’t require much thought, such as going for a run, cleaning your room, or taking a train to university. While it is great to listen to podcasts in the background, I don’t suggest listening to one while doing a task that requires your full focus, such as studying, as you may pay too much attention to one task over the other, thus making your experience less effective. There are a range of different podcasts you can listen to depending on your skill level in your target language. I would suggest listening to podcasts that are mostly or entirely in your target language if you are a bit more advanced. However, if you are just starting, listening to beginner grammar and vocabulary videos and podcasts is a great way to get the hang of the basics.

Use flashcards

Nowadays, there are tons of websites that allow you to make online flashcards. Examples include Quizlet, a simple-to-use, popular flashcard app, and Anki, an old-fashioned flashcard app that uses the principles of spaced repetition to help you remember what you study. These apps are great ways to review vocabulary and grammar rules on the go. Traditional paper flashcards are also a great way to incorporate practice on the go. Each type has its benefits, with digital flashcards being more accessible as they are all on your device. The downside of this is that you can get distracted easily. You also need a device that has a good charge and sometimes a stable internet connection. Paper flashcards, on the other hand, can be accessed almost everywhere you go. However, taking out your flashcards and studying them can be a hassle, especially on public transportation.

Watch and listen to media in your language

One great way to incorporate language practice in your free time is by utilizing media in your target language. Such examples include shows, movies, music, and more. There are many benefits to watching shows in other languages, with two important ones being extra listening and reading practice, as well as new vocabulary and grammar.

Journal in your target language

If you like to write or journal often, this is a great way to practice formulating sentences in your target language. As a beginner, you can use your mental grammar and word bank to practice common skills, while more advanced learners can get the benefits of expressive writing while practicing their target language.

The “Shadowing and ghosting” method

Although there isn’t an official name for this method, this exercise involved routinely repeating words and phrases in your target language. In other words, next time you have a moment to yourself try explaining what you are doing or what you are thinking about out loud in your target language. This exercise targets your speaking skills, which is a fundamental that can help you improve your language ability overall. You can also practice reading out loud sentences and phrases from your target language, which is especially helpful if you are learning a language that does not use your native alphabet.

Take classes

Many high schools and colleges offer language classes for the most common and popular languages in your country. These classes provide a great opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the language that they choose.  Taking classes, whether in school or privately, gives you access to many resources that you may have otherwise not been able to use.

Use efficient resources

If you are someone who can dedicate some time every day to sit down and study, you must understand how to study efficiently. Utilizing methods such as spaced repetition can help you remember words in the long term. In addition, if you understand videos better than textbooks, maybe it’s time to ditch them for YouTube video lessons. 

Talk to natives and other language learners

If possible, you should always try to talk to native people who can give you feedback on your language ability. Speaking face-to-face or through a call is always best, but  people tend to prefer texting, which is OK when practicing the language, especially since it gives you more time to formulate your words.


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