How to fit 11 languages into your daily routine

I get asked that question a lot, so I thought it could be helpful to keep a log for a week and let you know what I do to incorporate languages into my daily life – with all ups and down, changed and dropped plans … Life as it is, basically.

This is just a random week, all depends on how much work I have – that determines how much time I have for language learning. The languages I study, are also determined by the italki classes I have the upcoming week. The day before the class, I focus on that particular language. This week I had only 2 classes.

As you may know, I am a translator. I work (in theory) with French, English, German, Danish, Spanish, Italian, Afrikaans and Luxembourgish, but in reality it is mainly French and some English. During working hours, I am already exposed to languages on a daily basis.

You will see that although I plan certain things, life doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes another language pops up and I change plans, sometimes other things come up and I have to cancel my language learning plans. I am not a big planner, I tend to follow my mood and study whatever language I feel like studying, although I do take care to be in touch with all of the languages during the week.

Today is Saturday. I always have a lot of plans for the weekend, but I hardly ever manage to do all the things I want to do. I woke up early today (7 am) and enjoyed the quietness of the house. I watched some YouTube videos on how to build a WordPress website (I am making my own website instead of the one you are on right now) and other stuff. I also checked social media. Both of these in English.

Then I baked pancakes – you may have read my previous blogpost on language learning burnout, where I talk about baking pancakes and studying. So yes, this morning as well. Some French reading (Au secours, il veut m’épouser).

I have a 1 hour Bulgarian italki lesson coming up and I wanted to have the review of A1 Bulgarian for refugees finished this month, so I went ahead with that. 3 chapters remaining, piece of cake. I did chapters 9 and 10 in the afternoon, with in between a break with some English YouTube, because focussing for such a long time is very demanding. All in all this was bits and pieces here and there during the afternoon, because I did some family things as well.

After dinner, I decided to do some German reading (Männertaxi). Later that evening, I picked up my Aula Internacional B2.2 Spanish textbook and leafed a bit through chapter 1, wrote down a few translations and went through the grammar – all not in depth though, it was getting quite late.

I had planned on doing some Afrikaans and Yiddish this afternoon, but Bulgarian took longer than expected and in the afternoon other things came up. Not a lot of time tomorrow afternoon, so it will be a morning crammed full of language learning.

Sunday morning, but no sleeping in (pas de grasse matinée – I love this expression). My son has a student’s job at the bakery’s and starts at 7 am today, so I woke him up and drove him. The good thing is, a loooong morning and a few hours before the other family members are up. As always, the first thing I do is checking my social media, in English. I had planned to watch another episode of the Spanish Netflix series Perdida this morning, but then I saw an ad for The Dig and decided to watch that, in English. So you see, it doesn’t always go as planned, and that is just fine. I watched it with my youngest son (he’s 12), without Dutch subtitles, good practice for him.

Later that morning, I did go back to the Spanish chapter I started yesterday evening. Went through everything again, checked the grammar, wrote down some translations and that was pretty much it for the morning – I also had to cook lunch and check my son’s homework!

In the afternoon, I had others things to do. I could only go back to language learning around 6 pm. I watched an episode of Perdida in Spanish and then went through a chapter of Teach Yourself Afrikaans (on and off). I didn’t do half as much as I had hoped to this weekend, but well … That’s just how it goes sometimes and that is just fine. I have quite a bit of work lined up for the week, so we’ll have to see how much time I have to squeeze in some language learning. Tomorrow I plan on doing only studying/reviewing of Bulgarian – still 1 chapter to review and then randomly go through some pages in preparation of my 1 hour italki class on Tuesday morning 9 am.

Today was Monday and to start the day off, I did a bit of English social media. Then I started with work. I was doing the final editing of a book on the beer brand St.Bernardus (you may know that Belgium is famous for its beers brewed in old abbeys, this is one of them). The final editing is done in Dutch, my native language, but that is fine. I also consider this practising, even though it is my native language. If you want to be a good translator, you have to have perfect knowledge of your mother tongue.

After that, I revised a translation from French to Dutch.

In the afternoon, I reviewed the last chapter of my Bulgarian A1 course. Later that night I watched 1,5 episode of the Spanish series Perdida.

Second day of the week, Tuesday, and I started with a revision project from French to Dutch. This means I go through the translation of my colleague and take out all the mistakes (spelling mistakes, but also translation mistakes – but she has done a good job!).

This morning I also had a 1 hour Bulgarian conversation class. I prepared by reviewing a bit here and there half an hour before we started (while having breakfast …).

After the conversation class, I continued with the final editing of the English version of the beer book that I proofread on Monday. More revision work in English for a big part of the afternoon. I also did quite a bit of French translation work. Confirmed jobs, but also some new jobs with deadlines of today and tomorrow morning.

To be honest, after a whole day of translating and revising, I feel mentally exhausted and I need to relax for a while. I went through my English social media, stumbled upon Afrikaans and Luxembourgish texts, so I started reading in both languages (about covid, but also about funny things in Afrikaans, such as the little boy that came home with a deer, you might have seen the cute picture). After that I watched a bit of MasterChef Australia with my sons, being very lazy, I know, but still, I picked up a nice English expression: this is where the rubber hits the road. You can really learn anytime, anywhere …

In the evening I leafed through unit 1 of Nuovo Espresso 4, my Italian book.

My plan for Wednesday was to study Afrikaans as much as possible, in preparation of my conversation class tomorrow and to finally spend a considerable amount of hours on this language – it has been neglected far too long.

I had a lot of projects to finish today: the English revision of the beer book, the French revision I already worked on on Monday and Tuesday, and then some more French and English translation and revision projects.

When finished, after lunch, I watched a bit of German YouTube. During my afternoon walk, I listened to Afrikaans radio for 1 hour. Whenever I go walking on my own, I listen to audio in one of my TL’s, that could be a course, a YouTube video or, as in this case, a local radio station. I had planned to study Afrikaans in the evening and I did start, but then my husband and I decided to watch a series together, in EnglishDanish, Swedish and Greenlandic (o my polyglot heart loved that!).

Again a change of plans, that would be the third day this week that I don’t follow my own planning.

I started Thursday with an Afrikaans conversation lesson, which went quite well! After that, time to work … As always: English and French.

I have no more conversation classes for the week, which means I can do whatever language I feel like. And it turned out that is Afrikaans! However, this afternoon I had many things to do, cooking, biking (without my TL, because I need to switch channels sometimes and while biking, not easy).

In the evening I studied/reviewed more lessons in Teach Yourself Afrikaans. Quite pleased with that. And then we watched a bit more of the Danish/English series.

Friday, almost weekend yay! I began with some Danish (looking for a textbook B1+) and Spanish (someone tagged me to watch a movie review, so I did). All my English work for the week is done, so this morning, only French (again the beer book, the French edition this time).

This morning I also have a doctor’s appointment. I know there will be a long wait, so I took my Yiddish book to study from. In the afternoon, more French and after a long walk, I nested in the couch with my Yiddish Colloquial. I kept an eye on the news during studying, because new measures were taken regarding the lockdown. I was very happy with my Yiddish study today, I really did a lot (3 chapters). That evening we watched the Danish/English series again.

I knew Saturday was going to be a difficult day for language learning. My stepson came over, so in the morning I made vol-au-vent (if you don’t know that, look it up, it is a local recipe, very good, but requires a lot of work if you make the chicken stock from scratch – which I do, afterwards, we make chicken soup with the leftovers). And in the afternoon, we enjoyed each other’s company.

I managed to squeeze in a bit of French reading (finally finished my book, it took me ‘only’ 3 months for a mere 283 pocket pages …). In the evening, we watched the final episode of the Danish/English series, I watched a bit of YouTube in English and German and then read a chapter in my Luxembourgish version of Pippi Longstocking. Tomorrow another early morning, so probably I will be able to make up for missing out on languages today.

My plans for Sunday are watching Spanish Netflix (Perdida), study chapter 1 in Aula B2.2 and maybe read a bit more in my Spanish novel. In the afternoon I want to do a lot of Icelandic and hopefully some more Luxembourgish as well. Conversation classes for the upcoming week are Spanish, Danish, Icelandic and Italian – hence the languages I want to focus on today.

In the morning I did watch Spanish Netflix – I had a very early morning again, got up at 6 am, so a few episodes were in order to wake up properly. After that I studied chapter 1 of Spanish Aula, just like I planned. Lots of new vocabulary, the grammar is already known. I will go over this with my italki teacher in our class tomorrow.

I am following an Afrikaans account on Twitter and I read a few of the newspaper articles they posted. I also watched a French YouTube video (les astuces de Margaux, in case you are looking for a French channel). Later that afternoon I studied a few chapters of Islenska fyrir allaIcelandic, while also sending text and voice messages to my Bulgarian and Spanish conversation partners on tandem.

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