I remember one day when I was sitting in class with one of my students in my 8:00 p.m. class. He and I were talking about life, and he had actually just finished taking his exam, so he was expressing to me how he felt about his exam, and how he did on the exam.
As we were talking, he told me that he had a loving wife, and he also had a son. He seemed to be a man who really loved his family. Then he told me his work schedule. He said, “Teacher, I get up very early in the morning, and I leave my house about 7:00 a.m. just so that I can get to work on time. I normally don’t get off of work until 7:00 or 7:30 p.m.” He was getting off at that time because he was trying to come to my class, which started at 8:00 p.m. He usually got there a little bit late, because he would run from his office trying to get to my class.
So as we continued to talk, I realized that his schedule was jam packed. He really didn’t have any free time throughout his day. He had no time to study, basically. Even though he really wanted to improve his English ability, he really had no time to focus on it. The problem was he didn’t know where to find the time to study, and he even contemplated quitting my class because of that.
You see, the fact is, some of you have this same problem. You have a strong desire to learn English. You have a strong desire to improve your English speaking ability, but because of life, whether it be family, or work, or school, or just other things going on, you can’t seem to find the time in your busy schedule to study English. Well, that’s exactly what we are going to talk about today. I’m going to give you 10 ways to study and learn English when you are busy.
Welcome to the Speak English with Tiffani podcast, a podcast especially created for intermediate and advanced English learners. In this podcast, you will learn the specific English tips and tricks that will make you a better English speaker. This podcast will take your English ability to the next level, and help you to be more confident and more fluent when you speak English. Are you ready? Well then, let’s jump right in.
Hello. This is Teacher Tiffani, and welcome to another episode of the Speak English with Tiffani podcast. I want to remind you again, if you want to follow along with the transcript for this episode, go to speakenglishwithtiffani.com/episode30, and you can read the transcript there.
Now, today I’m going to talk to you guys about 10 ways to study and learn English when you are busy. I’ve mentioned to you before how many of my students in the past, I’ve taught thousands and thousands of students, have mentioned how difficult it is to find the time to actually study English. They can’t find the time in their day to actually put aside for the purpose of English study.
Well, I’m very excited to give you guys 10 ways. Now, these are ways that I have actually used personally when I was studying Korean to help me learn the language, because I also had a busy schedule. I was working and studying at the same time. So I hope to help you, so let’s jump right in. Let’s get started with number one.
The first way is to carry around a little notebook, and write down all of the unknown words you see during that day. So let me explain this in a little bit more detail. So there are two ways you can do this. You can start your day by saying to yourself, “I want to learn three new words today.”
Now, all you’re going to do is throughout your day, if you see an English word that you don’t know, simply write it down in your notebook. You can be working, you can be at school, you can be doing something else, but as soon as you see the word, take out the small notebook, and just write it down.
At that point in time, don’t look for the definition, don’t do anything else, just simply write the word down. As you’re going throughout your day, your mind will be ready and looking for new words that it doesn’t know. What will happen is when you get home in the evening, then you go back to your little notebook, and then you look up the words to see what their meaning is.
Now see, what’s going to happen is, the reason why you don’t want to look up that word at that moment is because your brain is going to have a connection from earlier that day that it can connect to to later on in the day or in the evening when you look up that definition, because you visually saw the word somewhere in some context, whether it was in a book, whether it was on a website that you were looking at during your time at your job, or whether you were walking around outside and saw the word. There’s an immediate connection in your brain with that word visually.
Then when you go home in the evening, there’s a connection to the word’s meaning in the dictionary, so now you have a visual connection, and actually the written connection that you find in the dictionary. So again, number one, carry around a little notebook, and write down all of the unknown words. Remember, you can choose the number of words you want to do each day, okay?
All right, number two. Make sentences every hour on the hour. Now, don’t get scared. It’s easier than it sounds. This is what you’re going to do. You’re going to pick a time that you want to start, so let’s say for example, you want to start at 8:00 a.m., and then you pick a time that you want to end. Let’s say you want to end at 5:00 p.m. So every hour on the hour, you’re going to make one sentence. You heard me. One English sentence. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be super long, just make one sentence.
So for example, let’s say I’m sitting at my desk at my job, and boom, it’s 8:00 a.m. Okay, what sentence am I going to write? Immediately, my brain starts to go in overdrive. It starts to try to produce some information that I can use to make a sentence in English. Maybe I write down, “I ate a bagel for breakfast.” Done. A very simple sentence, but I wrote it down in English.
Okay, then an hour goes by. I’m working hard, I’m just focused on what I’m doing, and then boom, 9:00 a.m. “Okay, man, what do I write down now? It’s 9:00 a.m.” Again, my brain starts to work. “Okay, Tiff, what did you do for the last hour? Ah, I had to work on a project.” So what’s my sentence? “I worked on a new project.” Done.
Then I continue for the next hour working, and I do this every hour on the hour between the times that I have selected, so you can do this. You see, what’s happening is your brain just needs an opportunity to think in English. Even though you are busy, it will only take you about two to three minutes to make one short sentence.
So throughout your day, depending on how long you’ve chosen, you are making sentences that could equal up to 15, or 20, or if you pick a shorter time, eight sentences every single day, and when you move forward, that’s going to be a lot more sentences per week, and your English will improve because you’re thinking in English. So again, number two, make sentences every hour on the hour, okay?
All right, number three. Write for five minutes every morning. Now, this is a timed period. Now, I used this personally when I was studying Korean, and I saw amazing results. You see, what happens is because there’s a set amount of time, you don’t feel stressed. Usually students, especially my students in the past, they would tell me, “Teacher, I want to improve my English and I want to write, but when I sit down to write, I get writer’s block.” Writer’s block just means they don’t know what to write, and their pen just stays in their hand, and their paper remains blank.
But the brain is very interesting. Once you set a specific time, your brain immediately goes into actually. So the first day, set it for five minutes. Don’t go over five minutes, and just continue to write. So maybe the first day you may only write three sentences. That’s okay. Give yourself a break. Don’t be so hard on yourself. The first day you may only write three sentences. Good. Stop.
The next day, turn the five minute timer on, and start writing. What you’ll realize is you’re going to start writing longer, but I want you to remember for that first week especially, only stick to the five minute timer, okay? After that first week, you are going to want to write for a longer period of time, and that’s okay. You can set the timer for a little longer, maybe six minutes, or seven minutes, but go in increments. Don’t try to do too long the first day, because you will get stressed, and it’ll be too difficult for you. Keep it simple.
Five minutes in the morning of writing in English is going to help your English improve so much, so even when you are busy, you can do this. So once again, number three, write for five minutes every morning, okay?
All right. Number four, listen to a podcast in English, and write three things you learned. So remember, there are thousands and thousands of podcasts available online. You can use iTunes, or you can use Spotify, or any other podcast provider online. They’re usually free. What you want to do is find an episode or a podcast about a topic that you’re interested in. If you’re interested in cooking, find a podcast about cooking. If you’re interested in politics, find a podcast about politics.
Now, when you’re listening to this podcast, you’re not writing any notes, you’re simply listening. So you can be at work, you can be at school, you can be doing something else and have it in your ear listening. Now, as soon as the podcast is over, take out a sheet of paper or a notebook, and quickly write three thing you remember from the podcast. Three things you learned, okay? It doesn’t have to be long, just three things that you remembered from the podcast, and what you learned, and then stop. Close the notebook, and keep moving on with your day.
So again, since it’s a podcast and it’s an audio file, you can listen to it while you’re doing other things, and at the end when you do have to write, that should only take you about five to 10 minutes to write down three things you remember or you learned from that podcast. Okay? All right, so again, number four, listen to a podcast, and then write three things you learned or heard during the podcast, okay?
All right. Number five, find an Instagram account you like, and read five to 10 comments out loud about their pictures. This one’s kind of unique, right? Very creative. Now, you know that Instagram is getting very, very popular across the world, so there are many different accounts on Instagram, but Instagram is a visual platform. I personally follow many photographers, many artists, and it’s really interesting to look at their pictures.
All you have to do is find an Instagram account that you’re actually interested in, then find a picture you like, and immediately go to the comments and read five to 10 of the comments. Find the ones that are in English, and read them out loud. Just read them out loud. That’s all you have to do. Don’t memorize, simply read them out loud. What this is going to do is help you with your natural English speaking ability.
It will also teach you slang, and also kind of the words that are used online, because as an American, when I speak to you guys, I speak in a different way than I would speak when I’m typing online. However, the slang that I may use online is also slang that I will use when I’m speaking to my friends in English. This is going to help you expand your understanding and your ability to use the English language properly. So again, number five, find an Instagram account you like, and read the five to 10 comments below it out loud below one of the pictures, okay?
All right. Number six, pick one letter per day and find one new vocabulary word, one new idiom or expression, and make one new sentence using that letter. This is also a creative one, so I’ll explain exactly how to do this. Let’s say for example the letter that I want to use today is the letter A. My job for today is to find a new vocabulary word that starts with the letter A.
Okay. Then I also need to find one new idiom or expression that starts with the letter A, and then I need to make a sentence that starts with the letter A. So let’s say for example throughout my day, the word that I found, probably on the internet or in the dictionary, was able. Now, this is an easy word for many of you. Able. It means, “to have the ability to do something.” Well, that’s my word, able. That’s the word that I have learned for today.
Then an expression that starts with A. Okay. Well, there’s an expression in English, an idiom that says, “A drop in a bucket. A drop in a bucket.” Now, this expression just means it’s really not that big of a deal. It means it really wasn’t that effective, or it doesn’t have that much influence on what is being done. It’s really a small part of something, okay? A drop in the bucket.
Then now I need to make a sentence using the letter A. Okay, so I can say, “Alex walked down the street yesterday with his mom.” Well, Alex starts with the letter A. So you see how simple it was. One sentence, one idiom or expression, and one vocabulary word. For that day, I am done. The point is to get in the practice of doing this. So again, number six, pick one letter per day, and find one new vocabulary words, one new idiom or expression, and make one sentence using that letter for the day.
All right. Number seven, write down every English word you see during the day, okay? Now, this is a little similar to number one, but as you’ll notice, I said write down every English word you see during the day. For number one, I said that you can choose the number of words you want to write down. You can set a goal. But for this way, it’s literally writing down every single word that you see throughout the day that’s an English word.
One day you may only have two words, but the next day you may have about 15 or 20 words. The point is, getting in the habit of recognizing words that you don’t know, and trying to find out what their meaning is later on in the day, okay? So again, number seven, write down every English word you see during the day.
All right, number eight. Spend 10 to 15 minutes simply reading an English article or a blog post out loud. That’s exactly what I said. Out loud. Remember the goal for this is not to memorize, not to search for meanings, it’s simply to read out loud. The thing is, you need practice. Your mouth and your tongue need practice for speaking in English for proper pronunciation, and also for certain words that you’re learning. So spending 10 to 15 minutes, again, a timed period, reading an article or a blog post written by an American, or a European, or a native English speaker, will help you improve naturally without stress.
So again, even if you are busy, take out 10 to 15 minutes of your day, set a timer, and simply read out loud. You’ll be amazed how your English will improve, okay? So again, number eight, spend 10 to 15 minutes simply reading an English article or blog post out loud.
All right, number nine. For number nine, you’re going to pick three new words for the week, and try to apply them to your day every day for that week. Now, this is a very interesting thing to do, because it’s going to cause you to be very creative as you go throughout your day, and throughout your week. Let’s say for example, at the beginning of my week, I pick three words. Eliminate, excited, and around. Okay, again, eliminate, excited, and around.
Those are the three new English vocabulary words that I have learned and that I want to apply every day throughout my week. So let’s say I start with Monday, and I’m sitting at my desk at my job, and I have these three words in the back of my head, constantly reminding me to use them. As I’m sitting there, I’m working on a project, and there are certain things that I have to take out of the project, so I can say, “Ah, eliminate. I need to eliminate this part of the project.” So boom, for that day, I’ve used the word eliminate.
So you’re going to go throughout your day trying to figure out how to use each of those three words. You can do this in your mind. You don’t have to write it down. Again, this is just practice for you using the three words, the same three words, every single day for one week, okay? So I know you may be asking yourself, “But Teacher, three words in one week? That’s not really helpful.”
But in actuality, it is, because you’re not just learning the definition, you’re learning how to apply each of these three words to your life every single day for a week. So much so that after that week, you will be able to naturally use those vocabulary words, and they will become a part of your vocabulary bank, or the vocabulary words that you know well, as you move forward in speaking English. Okay? All right, so again, number nine, pick three new words for the week, and try to apply them every day throughout that week.
All right. Finally, number 10. Every day, write the five Ws about your day. Now, those of you who have studied with me for a long time, you already know the five Ws. Who, what, when, where and why. Now, this is another good one, because it’s going to help you with assessing your day, and being able to be concise in explaining what happened throughout your day.
So you’re going to spend the entire day, whether you’re at work, or school, or whatever you’re doing, just living a normal life. However, when you come home in the evening, your first job is to take out your notebook, and very quickly, it doesn’t have to be long, who? “Oh, today I was with my boss a lot. Okay.” What. What were you doing? “Ah, we were working on a project.” Where? “At the building next to our office.” Okay? Why? “Because the project needed to be taken care of today.”
You see, so I’ve answered the Ws that I wanted to for that day. So again, this is what you want to do with this method, okay? So once again, number 10, every day, write the five Ws about your day.
So again, very quick review, number one to number 10.
Number one, carry around a little notebook, and write down all of the unknown words for that day. You selected the total number you want to write down though. Have a goal. Number two, make sentences every hour on the hour. Number three, write for five minutes every morning. Remember to time yourself. Number four, listen to a podcast, and write down the top three things you heard or learned. Number five, find an Instagram account you like and read the first five to 10 comments out loud about one of their posts.
Number six, pick one letter per day, and find one new vocabulary word, one idiom or expression, and also make one sentence using that letter. Number seven, write down every English word you see during the day, okay? Number eight, spend 10 to 15 minutes simply reading an English article or a blog post out loud. Number nine, pick three new words for the week, and try to apply them to your day every day for a week. Finally, number 10, every day, write the five Ws, who, what, when, where, and why, about your day.
All right. Remember, if you want to see the transcript for this episode, go to speakenglishwithtiffani.com/episode30. I hope these 10 ways to study English when you are busy really help you reach all of your goals. This has been Teacher Tiffani with the Speak English with Tiffani podcast. Until next time, remember to speak English.