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Surviving Language Student Life: Scheduling

Jess Henrys

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Studying for a language degree is no mean feat, with what can seem like endless grammar tasks, vocab lists and verb tables. For this edition of Welfare Wednesday, one of our Welfare Secs, Jess Henrys shares her top tips for scheduling to help you stay on top of your language learning.

The life of a language student is harder than it looks. Although learning another language leads to the joy of cultural exploration and creative expression in more than just your native tongue, the road to proficiency seems to be full of obstacles, and more often than not, just pure hard work. I’ve certainly found that learning a language is less like a straightforward road, and more like a mountain. Whether it’s a grammar point you can’t seem to make sense of, an impossibly long list of irregular verbs to learn, or a fear of actually speaking in the language, preparing for those treacherous paths can be disheartening.


In fact, with exams and essay deadlines around the corner, it can feel outright impossible. And there is no quick fix for that: language learning takes hard work. But it also takes rest. If you’re climbing that language mountain, remember that your brain may not be a muscle, but it needs time to rest too.


So, how do you do that? How do you ensure that you are reaching your language goals and giving yourself space to breathe? How do you balance that new Netflix show you’re just dying to binge with an impending essay deadline for that French book you still haven’t read? How do you make a dent in your Spanish vocabulary lists without being a stranger to your friends?


The answer may be obvious, and yet it’s something you and I so often overlook. It’s scheduling.


Perhaps you have tried scheduling before, and it didn’t work for you. You couldn’t stick to it, or it felt too restrictive, or it takes too much time to create that you would rather spend actually working. These are all the problems I faced before. Struggling with workload-related anxieties, drowning in deadlines, I didn’t believe what my therapist said: that creating a schedule could make even one iota of difference. But it did.


And maybe, if you’re anything like me, it’s worth a shot for you too.


So, where do you begin?


1. Choose the form of your schedule


Would you prefer a physical schedule on paper, that you can see and touch with your own hands? Try creating one with your classes and tasks on post-it notes so you can easily visualise and even rearrange your tasks from week to week, staying flexible for those Thursday afternoon coffee dates, or that one Saturday morning shift you can’t get out of.


If you would prefer a digital schedule to access wherever you go, why not try Google’s hourly schedule template? Or for something looser and more flexible, try our own general schedule with morning, afternoon, and evening blocks.


2. Schedule your fixed tasks


The first things to schedule in are any regular, fixed obligations. This means blocking out your regular classes, work shifts, fitness classes, or any other recurring task that you would consider of highest importance.


3. Schedule your rest times


Your rest is just as important as your classes! Schedule in something fun or relaxing every day, maybe even highlight it in your schedule in a different colour to remind you that you have something to look forward to. This could be:


  • Lunch with a friend

  • A walk in the fresh air

  • An episode of your favourite tv show

  • A phone call with a loved one

  • Going out in the evening


Or anything else you can think of.


4. Schedule homework time


In your language degree, there may be homework you have regularly every week, such as preparation for a seminar, reading for a lecture, or grammar exercises for your language classes. My top tip is to choose a day when you will do a particular homework task every week. It will never take you by surprise, never be forgotten, and you won’t have the “night-before” stress of trying to get it all done at once.


Schedule these tasks around your rest time, not the other way around. You don’t have to earn your rest. You rest and recharge in order to have the energy to do these tasks.


5. Schedule independent language tasks


Finally, write down those tasks you feel you never have time for – vocab, grammar points, independent reading or listening. Even watching TV in your target language can be a great way to subtly improve your language independently of your classes and assigned work.


6. Try to stick to it (but be kind to yourself!)


The only way to make this schedule work is to do your best to stick to it. But be kind to yourself. If you need to rearrange a task to make way for new obligations or extra rest time or if you’re just having a bad day and need a change, do it. Your schedule should help you, not hinder you, on your learning journey. And if this doesn’t work for you, don’t panic! We are all different, and we learn differently, and it’s simply about finding methods of learning that resonate with you!


If you would like to discuss any concerns with our welfare team, please do not hesitate to get in touch at lingomagwelfareteam@gmail.com so we can signpost you to some of Nottingham’s many, helpful support services.


And remember, it’s a long way to the top of this language-learning mountain, but the view is spectacular!

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About the Author

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Images provided by Jess Henrys.


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Language Learning Jess Henrys Mental Health Scheduling Time Management

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Welfare Language and Linguistics Language Tips

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