I am starting to learn a new language. My aim is to be able to read simple written news reports, follow television or radio news bulletins and hold simple conversations. In the long term, I may hope to achieve one of the lower levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. I would like to learn modern and practical aspects of the language. My aim is not to become perfect in spelling or grammar or learn old or literary forms of the language. I can read the alphabet of the language, so this is not something I need to learn.

I have previous experience of language learning and work professionally in two languages, can read general and technical texts in a third and have some knowledge of other languages. But I have always started learning a language in a formal environment.

I cannot take a physical course or travel to the area in which the language is spoke for long periods due to my family and work commitments. These commitments also mean that I would probably not be able to keep up with a formal online course running within a fixed time frame. This is because some weeks are very full and just do not leave any time for studying. In other weeks, I expect to have the following time available:

  • four periods of 20 minutes without internet connectivity or desk space (on public transport).
  • four periods of 20 minutes with a tablet with internet connectivity (in the evening, so I will be tired).
  • one period of 60 minutes at a desk with a laptop computer and internet connectivity.

I have bought a text book, but feel that the content is old fashioned. I have started reading the text book on public transport, watching online videos (youtube) in the evening and listening to recordings of children's songs when time allows.

I hope to buy a bilingual dictionary soon. Other resources do not have to be free. I can spend a modest amount of money (say 100 euros a year).

I would like to read about strategies for independent language learning with these aims and practical constraints. I am particularly interested in how I can use the 60 minutes study time to tie the other aspects together.

1 Answer 1


You estimate that you can spend 3 hours and 40 minutes a week studying your language, and you say that your main goals in learning the language are to have basic reading skills and intermediate speaking and listening skills. If you spend the time wisely, you can make great gains each week.

The best course of action is to use the time on public transportation to use an offline resource to study vocabulary each day. If you're really on focused on speaking or understanding, I would use a word frequency list that will show you the most commonly used 2000 words in speech in your target language. By studying just those, you should be able to understand much of what is being discussed in normal conversation. You could perhaps make flashcards for each one of these words, or instead just print out a list and study from that.

Use some of your periods with internet access to study grammar. I would suggest using a textbook (either the one you purchased or a newer one). Search for language-specific grammar resources on the Internet (perhaps videos) and make use of this during this time as well.

You should then use the remaining periods with internet access to communicate with native speakers (through a Skype or a phone call). If you can't find any native speakers, use an app like Busuu to have your pronunciation rated by native speakers. You should also make use of a website like Forvo to check the pronunciations of any words you're unsure of.

Using this method should ensure that you have a strong basis in both vocabulary and pronunciation. Grammar might be more difficult to acquire in such a short period of time, but having real conversations with native speakers will definitely help speed up that process as well.

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