Do you ever feel like learning a language should be a top priority in your life, but when the time to actually learn the language comes… you’re simply too tired?

We’ve all been there.  Whether you’ve got kids and a full-time job, or classes all day, or some other must-do thing taking up your precious language learning time, you’re eventually going run into the wall known as learning on empty (aka no energy). 

Well, while I can’t offer you a performance enhancing substance to magically recharge your batteries, I can provide you with practical tips on how to force yourself to learn a language even when you're tired, helping you maintain your language learning progress and sticking to your language learning schedule.

Note: To get the most efficient methods I know to acquire a language, I highly recommend checking out the 10 Essential Rules for SMART Language Learning

Back to your regularly scheduled reading.

To give your (tired) self a fighting chance, we’ll break down the art of learning when tired into categories:

  1. Energy Management
  2. Learning to Let Go 

Energy Management

Nutrition

The first “bite” of advice I have for you is based on one of the fundamental aspects of managing your energy levels, proper nutrition. The food you consume plays a significant role in how well your brain functions. 

For optimal language learning, it's important to fuel your body with the right nutrients. Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats can provide sustained energy throughout the day.

To ensure you’re not too tired to study throughout the day, avoid chowing down on too many carbs for breakfast and lunch. In the evening, consuming carbohydrates can help you wind down and prepare for sleep - the opposite of what you want happening during your peak “waking hours.”. 

Carbs increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and sleepiness. By eating carbs in the evening, however, you can ensure a restful night, which is crucial for effective language learning the next day. 

Speaking of which…

One bonus that anyone who signs up for my Speak Easy course gets, is my personalized daily routine.  It’s an in-depth look at how I chain together healthy habits with my passion for language learning.  

Sleep

Adequate sleep is essential for cognitive function and memory consolidation, both of which are critical for language learning. Going to bed at a reasonable time, ideally by 10 pm, allows your body to complete its sleep cycles, including the deep sleep phases where most memory consolidation occurs. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule can significantly improve your ability to retain new vocabulary and grammar rules.

If you're struggling to learn a language, assess your sleep patterns. Are you getting enough sleep each night? If not, then I suggest you get enough rest! A well-rested mind is more capable of tackling the challenges of language learning.

Hydration

Proper hydration is another key component of energy management. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, and difficulty concentrating, all of which can hinder your language learning progress. Drinking enough water (and electrolytes) throughout the day helps maintain optimal brain function and energy levels.

To stay hydrated, carry a water bottle with you and set reminders to drink regularly. Additionally, be mindful of your caffeine and alcohol intake, as both can contribute to dehydration and one of the two can also lead to “potential short-term memory loss.” Staying hydrated will help you stay alert and focused during your language learning sessions.

Outside of those three key factors, another important energizer is mastering the art of self-reflection.

Monthly Self-Reflection

To keep track of your energy management and language learning progress, conduct a self-reflection exercise every month. Evaluate how well you're adhering to language learning goals. 

Note any improvements in your energy levels and language skills, because this will allow you to identify when you’re naturally at your most alert for soaking up some language goodness.  For me, it’s all about winning the morning and getting my language learning in before the rest of the day swallows me up and spits me out in a flurry of unexpected events. 

If you’re a fan of reading, LingQ does an excellent job of tracking your daily learning time and giving you a monthly summary of how much you did (or didn’t) do. 

In addition to keeping track of your progress and reflecting upon it, it’s vital to share your results with someone else.  It could be a friend, a fellow language learner or even a friendly community. 

An engaging and feedback driven community is one of the cornerstones of my SMART Language Learning Academy, because it helps people stay motivated and keeps them focused on their goal of fluency.  Just recently, we had a number of students claim they were taking language exams and/or had taken them.  One person inspires another and so on. 

Be open and share your honest results and experiences with another person to see how much this language learning thing really means to you.  You’ll see the feedback you receive can give you a brand new perspective on the process and in turn inspire you to take more action.

And if you don’t happen to achieve your goal as soon as you had anticipated? 

Learn to Let Go and Forgive Yourself

Reviewing Familiar Material… Literally 

When you're tired and struggling to learn a language, it's essential to be kind to yourself. If it's late and you need to cram in some language learning, opt for the easiest task possible. 

Rewatching or re-listening to something you've already seen or heard before can be a great way to reinforce your knowledge without straining your brain. Especially if you use streaming services like Lingopie to get target language subtitles and interactive exercises based on your favorite Netflix shows.

The key is to choose material that you've previously understood. This allows your brain to operate on autopilot, reinforcing what you already know without requiring intense concentration. It's a low-stress way to keep your language learning schedule on track.

Not to mention, have you ever randomly gone back to something you’ve previously learned and noticed how much more you understood the second or third time around?  It’s amazing how motivating and energizing that experience can be. 

This happened to me recently when I visited Prague with my Serbian-American colleague Aleks. I had put a pause on my Serbian learning recently and when Aleks and I happened to be hungry, we sat down at an Italian restaurant in Prague (forgive me, my Czech friends) and soon discovered the waiters were from Macedonia.  

I understood 80-85% of the conversation Aleks had with the friendly staff and then when I got home, I listened to an old episode of the Ivan Kosogor Podcast.  It blew my mind how much I was able to comprehend, so now I’m back at it with my good ol’ pal, the Serbian language. 

Taking a Break

Sometimes, the best way to get “untired” is to step away from the language.  Language fatigue is no joke and if we don’t take a reprieve from our foreign friend, it can quickly spiral into an unforgiving state of extreme burnout. 

Taking a shower, going for a walk, meditating, or engaging in any other relaxing activity can help reset your mind. The important thing is not to feel guilty about taking a pause. As mentioned earlier, rest is a crucial part of the learning process.

Personally, I find that taking a nap or doing some deep breathing exercises (like Wim Hof breathing) can work wonders. These activities can help rejuvenate your mind, making it easier to return to language learning with renewed focus and energy.

Find what works for you and you’ll see that even a little break can lead to miraculous momentum shifts in your mood and energy levels. With that being said, don’t go overboard and turn your break into a Netflix binge over the weekend.  Not speaking from personal experience or anything… 

Refuel and Recharge by Taking Care of Yourself

Learning a language when you’re tired isn’t ideal, but you can make it work.  The best way to learn while tired is to simply lower any standards and expectations you may have set for yourself. 

Truth be told, rather than focusing on methods to study while tired, you should probably optimize your priorities to make language learning a part of your day when you do have the time and energy. I know that can be difficult, but it’ll lead to the best results. 

Above all,  learning to let go and forgive yourself for needing breaks is essential for avoiding burnout and sustaining your ever changing motivation.

Remember, language learning is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient with yourself and celebrate your progress, no matter how small. 

And if you take a little break from learning your target language?  Don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody but just remember… get back to learning! 

Happy (exhausted) language learning,

Luca

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

Written by Luca Lampariello

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