“I don’t have any bad habits. They might be bad habits for other people, but they’re all right for me.” — Eubie Blake

In my last article about learning a language when you’re tired, I mentioned a few points about sleep, nutrition and hydration.  Well, interestingly enough, I got quite a few responses from my readers who wanted to know more about my successful habits for effective language learning. 

Granted, I am far from perfect and I have my own bad habits, but as the quote above sarcastically claims, they’re “all right for me.”

Over the years, I've discovered several key practices that have significantly improved my language learning process. If you want an even deeper dive into the language learning side of those habits, then pick up a copy of 10 Essential Rules for SMART Language Learning.

In this article, I've borrowed a little bit from acclaimed author, Stephen Covey, to give you a list of 7 highly effective habits to ensure you can learn a language the SMART way.

Whether you're just starting or looking to enhance your current routine, these tips will help you build a solid foundation for success.

1. Sleeping Beauty

It may sound strange, but I believe the most beautiful organ we possess is the brain.  And yet, to take full advantage of it means we have to get enough sleep. 

Quality sleep is crucial for memory consolidation and cognitive function, which are essential for absorbing new vocabulary and grammar rules. For example, I cannot function without my mid-day siesta.  It’s my “secret sauce” that keeps me going throughout the entire day. 

I’m an early riser and doing so means that I’m up and out of bed between 5-6 a.m. The advantage of living in Rome is that the weather is absolutely gorgeous all year round and that means I wake up to the natural sunlight of the rising sun. 

My mind and my body start shutting down in the afternoon, so between 3-5 p.m., I'm recharging my batteries with a power nap.  Sometimes half an hour is all I need and other times, I’m barely able to drag myself out of bed after an hour and a half. 

I know this is not practical for most people, but it keeps me sane.  Find a sleep pattern that works for you! 

2. Meditate to Enter the Flow State

Incorporating meditation into your daily routine can have a profound impact on your language learning progress. Spending 10-30 minutes each morning focusing on your breath helps clear your mind and set a positive tone for the day. This practice enhances your ability to concentrate during your study sessions.

I used to do guided breathing exercises and now I’ve discovered the magic of Wim Hof breathing.  Luckily, one of my close friends is a Wim Hof Method instructor and he created a personalized session for me that I listen to for the best possible start to my day. It boosts my mood, keeps me energized and allows me to declutter my mind from any intrusive and obnoxious thoughts.

You could even try listening to some guided breathing in your target language, combining a healthy habit with your passion for language learning. To take it one step further, why not create a text version of the audio and use it as study material via LingQ

The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to do the activities that bring a little more balance, focus and clarity into your life.  If meditation isn’t your thing, don’t force yourself into doing something you’re going to hate.

Try to find an alternative that is an effective way of kickstarting your day! 

3. Movin’ and Groovin’

As brain coach Jim Kwik likes to say, “When the body moves, the brain grooves.” 

Physical activity is another critical component of effective language learning. I spend a lot of time running. I mean, how could you not when the picturesque Park Pamphili beckons you on a daily basis? Running not only keeps me fit but also stimulates my brain. Typically, I like to go running in the afternoon and while doing so, I’m always listening to a podcast in a foreign language. This activity often sparks a lot of creative ideas (personally and professionally). 

Take some time to learn on the move. Whether you're walking, running, or doing any other form of exercise, you can listen to language podcasts, audiobooks, or practice speaking out loud. This habit turns your exercise time into a productive language learning opportunity.

4. Nutrition and Hydration

When we boil down something as complex as learning a language or losing weight, it becomes almost stupidly obvious what you should be doing.  The problem is that good advice is easy to repeat, but hard to follow. 

If you want to lose weight, from a big picture perspective, you have to eat less food and move around a lot more.  If you want to learn a language efficiently, you have to listen a lot more than you speak and use the language consistently.

And if you want to live, you should probably drink lots of water.  Not hard to understand, right? Well, I’m not here to give you diet advice, but the shape you’re in impacts your confidence and motivation to learn languages. 

I try to have a light breakfast, a salad-heavy lunch and I reward myself with a nice dinner but I hold off on dessert.  Also, no smoking and no alcohol for this Roman boy, because those days are over. 

It ain’t easy to do or follow that routine, but when I do, I feel like I can conquer the world! 

5. Tidying Up

The state of your physical environment can greatly impact your ability to learn. A clean and organized space promotes a clear and focused mind, while a cluttered space can lead to distraction and stress. Take time to tidy up your study area before you begin your language learning session.

I personally have a desk that’s only used for language learning.  It has a lamp, a pencil sharpener, 2-3 pencils, my notebook and my language learning resource of choice. Nothing else besides my laptop is allowed on that desk. If I do find something else on that desk, I hunt down the person who put it there and make them feel my clutter hating fury.  

Having a dedicated, neat space for studying helps signal to your brain that it's time to focus. This simple habit can make a significant difference in your productivity and the effectiveness of your study routine.

6. Find Your Focus

In our digital age, distractions are everywhere. To maximize your language learning efficiency, it's crucial to minimize these interruptions. Get rid of digital devices and other distractions by putting them in a different room or turning on silent/airplane mode during your study sessions.

This is one reason why I love writing as opposed to typing and it’s also why I am able to avoid getting distracted when I study.

However, if you are all in on the digital craze, then use something that’ll keep you engaged and focused like Lingopie

Creating a distraction-free environment allows you to fully immerse yourself in your language learning process. This habit helps you maintain a deeper level of focus and retention, making your study time way more productive.

7. Learning to Say No

One of the most powerful habits I've developed, especially recently,  is learning to say no. It's important to make your priorities stick and recognize the value of saying no to things that waste your time, deplete your energy, and take you away from your goal of fluency. By protecting your time and energy, you can dedicate more resources to your language learning routine.

It’s not easy, but anything that will make you a better person in the long run, usually isn’t. 

Learning to say no helps you establish boundaries and ensures that your language learning remains a top priority. This habit fosters a sense of commitment and discipline, which are essential for long-term success (and mental health). 

Taking Consistent Action Matters the Most

You don’t have to incorporate all 7 of these habits, but rather, adapt and use whatever complements your lifestyle. I hope that applying even just one of these habits can revolutionize your language learning prowess and significantly enhance your progress. 

From ensuring adequate sleep and proper nutrition to tidying up and getting moving, each habit contributes to a holistic and effective language learning process.

Remember, consistency is key. Stay committed to your language learning habits, and over time, you'll see remarkable improvements. 

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
—Some successful person, probably

Happy language learning,

Luca

Written by Luca Lampariello

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you make a purchase through these links.


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  • Hi, Luca!
    Great list of helpful tips. Thanks!
    The final quote is from Aristotle. It’s in The Nichomacean Ethics if I remember correctly. Good words to live by especially when it comes to language learning.

  • It’s a great inspo when it comes to all these pieces of advice and it could be a good intro for a book of the same title like this article 😛

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