How to use your journey to work for language learning

How to use your journey to work for language learning

Now that I have my own business, I don’t have a long journey to work. However when I still worked as a communications manager, I spent 3 hours travelling each day.

First I had a 30-minute walk to the station. Then I had a 45-minute train ride into the centre of London and then a 15-minute walk to work. In the evening, I repeated the journey in reverse. That was a lot of time out of my day but it’s not unusual for people who live in and around London.

In the end, I decided I didn’t want to do it any more but while I was doing it, I wanted to make the best of the time that I had.

Sometimes it feels as though we can’t fit anything else into our already busy lives. That’s why it’s good to make use of periods of time that are already built into our schedule but when we may have capacity to do other things.

I often used the time for listening to podcasts. I don’t like listening to things when I’m walking, but I had 90 minutes each day in which I could learn. As I’m used to absorbing audio information at high speed, I play most podcasts at double speed, so that’s a lot of information. I can’t do this for Turkish podcasts because I really need to focus on the language, but it’s fine for English and German material.

I have to say that I don’t miss my commute – particularly when the weather is bad or when I hear of delays and strikes. Still, many of my customers spend time commuting each day and I’ve gathered together some of their ideas on how they use this time to develop their English.

1. Podcasts

I’ve already mentioned these but they are a great way to work on your listening skills. You can either listen to podcasts that are specifically created for language learners, or you can find podcasts in English about your interests. You’re more likely to listen to the content if the subject interests you.

There are also podcasts about the news. Listening to these can be helpful because you may already be familiar with some of the stories.

One of my students listens to podcasts in her car on the way to work. She’s found one podcaster who creates episodes that are about the same length as her journey to work, so she can listen to one episode per journey. Of course this would also work if you’re on the bus, train, cycling or walking (although I don’t like to cut myself off from the world around me when I’m walking).

2. Reading books

This isn’t an option if you’re driving to work but it would be fine if you’re on the bus or the train.

Whether you’re reading a physical book or downloading books onto a tablet device, you can have concentrated time to read.

One of my students reads English books on her Kindle on the way to work. She says that it’s useful because she can make use of the in-built dictionary if she doesn’t know a word.

3. practising vocabulary

Another of my students has the Quizlet and Vocabulary trainer for GDocs apps on her phone and she uses them to test herself on vocabulary when she’s out and about. Again this is not something you can use if you’re in the car or on a bike but it is fine for bus or train journeys. There are plenty of other apps for vocabulary learning, so you can shop around to see which ones you like and which ones enable you to learn effectively.

4. social media

Many of us check our Facebook or Twitter feeds throughout the day. If you build English content into your newsfeed, it will be delivered to you along with all the other updates and content on your timeline. So, if you use your journey to work for checking these apps, you could also make sure that you’ll see some articles in English.

5. audio books

These can be downloaded onto your phone or mp3 player and they are easily obtainable through places such as Audible or iTunes. Also, some libraries have a supply of audio books that can be borrowed.

I listen to audio books all the time when I’m doing other things such as travelling, doing housework or working out. When I’m travelling, I just have to make sure that I don’t get so engrossed in my book that I miss my stop!

Final thoughts

Even when you’re really motivated, it’s sometimes hard to give as much time to language learning as you would want. I hope this article has given you some ideas about how you can build language learning into your day!

By the way, I have also made a podcast based on this article. If you would like to hear it, you can go to episode 2 of my podcast.

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Kirsty working with students