Everyone works, thinks and learns differently, even when it comes to the time of day that we’re at our best.
It’s no different for language learners.
And with the amount of memorization, practice and communication we need to master our target language, it only makes sense to try and get the most out of every minute we spend studying.
Let’s weigh the benefits of learning at different times against your own learning style so you can select the right schedule for you.
- Rise and Shine: The Benefits of Morning Studying
- Post-lunch Crunch: The Benefits of Afternoon Studying
- Midnight Oil: The Benefits of Evening Studying
- What’s the Best Time of Day for You to Learn a Language?
- 1. Experiment with different times to see what works best for you.
- 2. Try studying different topics at different times of day.
- 3. Try breaking your studying into short bursts throughout the day.
- 4. Set a schedule.
- 5. Take into account the task at hand.
- 6. Remember that more language exposure is better.
Rise and Shine: The Benefits of Morning Studying
You may learn more efficiently.
One study suggests that morning might be the most productive time to learn. While the study doesn’t explore possible causes of this increased productivity, it does indicate that it can lead to more efficient learning.
Since studying more efficiently can help language learners save time, reduce stress and, ultimately, get fluent faster, this is a very valuable benefit.
Natural light is easier on the eyes.
Artificial light can lead to eye strain, so taking advantage of daylight is beneficial. After all, reducing discomfort like this can help make it easier to read textbooks, study vocabulary lists or do reading practice without having to take breaks.
You’re more likely to be able to study with others or reach out for help.
Language learning is often a social endeavor. Talking to others can provide helpful speaking practice or help you clear up any issues you find challenging. If you study in the morning, you might be able to reach out immediately. If not, you still have the rest of the day open to try to get in touch.
This could be especially relevant if you’re trying to coordinate some conversation practice with native speakers in a different time zone, depending on where you’re both located.
You’re better rested.
Capitalize on your night’s sleep! Without a whole day of work, chores or general stress behind you, morning studying can be great for language learning focus. If you happen to be a morning person, you might even be more alert.
Post-lunch Crunch: The Benefits of Afternoon Studying
You may support long-term retention.
One study notes that afternoon learning may improve long-term memory recall. Of course, language learning requires significant long-term retention of everything from vocabulary words to conjugation rules and more, so this could be important for many learners.
You aren’t overly tired yet.
Since it’s not yet terribly late in the day, you probably still have some energy. In language learning, some studying tasks can seem tedious, so it’s important that you have enough energy to maintain your focus. Studying in the afternoon should still allow for this.
Midnight Oil: The Benefits of Evening Studying
There may be fewer distractions.
Since the evening is generally “you” time, you might be in a better position to minimize distractions. Having fewer distractions can lead to improved focus, allowing you to engage more fully in your language study.
It may improve retention.
Research has shown that studying before bed can help you better remember what you’ve learned. In this study, participants memorized word sets. The study ultimately found that participants who studied just before sleeping remembered the word sets better.
Therefore, studying vocabulary before bed might be a useful way to memorize words more effectively.
What’s the Best Time of Day for You to Learn a Language?
1. Experiment with different times to see what works best for you.
If you haven’t noticed, there’s research to support that any time of day is the best time to learn. Believe it or not, researchers have also found that the best time of day to study is specific to the individual. Especially since learning a language is a complex task with various factors, you need to do what works for you.
Everyone learns differently, so try to schedule your studying for when you learn best.
The only way to know what works best for you is to experiment with studying at different times of day. What feels best for learning a language? What seems to yield the most results? What makes you feel the best about your language skills?
2. Try studying different topics at different times of day.
As you experiment with studying at different times, you should also try studying different topics at different times of day. You may learn different topics more effectively depending on the time.
For instance, since one study shows improved retention of word sets for evening study, you might want to try studying vocabulary before bed to see if you remember more the next day. Since another study suggests increased productivity in the morning, this might be a good time to hammer away at some of the nitty-gritty grammar rules that you struggle with.
Additionally, soft natural light might make morning an ideal time for reading practice since it will be easier on your eyes.
You can use whatever logic makes sense to you, but over time, you might notice that you prefer to focus on different topics at different times of day.
3. Try breaking your studying into short bursts throughout the day.
Another trick you might want to try is breaking your studying into short bursts at various times. Studying a language can start to feel repetitive, so you might tune out if you try to study for too long in one stretch. However, if you break your studying into shorter chunks, you might have better focus.
For instance, maybe you want to learn 20 vocabulary words. You might set aside 40 minutes to try to memorize them, but by the end, you’ll probably be much less focused.
However, if you dedicate just two minutes to each word and stagger memorizing them throughout the day, you’ll probably have an easier time focusing on each word.
You can manually decide how to segment your learning within a given day, considering your own study preferences and typical memory retention. Consistently experiment with how many words or concepts can be studied within a given amount of time. It should be enough so that a given study chunk feels both productive and comfortable.
Alternatively, you can utilize the conveniences offered by digital learning programs which can prepare lessons that are both manageable and custom to you. They also commonly include built-in progress trackers to document your studies. One such program is FluentU, which lets you learn with bite-sized authentic videos equipped with tools such as interactive subtitles, flashcards and personalized quizzes.
Remember that learning your study habits can be just as important as learning your target language! Be receptive to your progress and make adjustments so that every study moment feels worthwhile, but not stressful.
4. Set a schedule.
Once you’ve experimented with what time of day works best for you, it’s helpful to set a schedule. Studying at the same time each day will help ensure you consistently remember to do it. After all, it becomes a part of your daily routine.
For instance, if you get used to reading a chapter in your favorite textbook each day at 4 p.m., you’ll always remember to do it.
Without a routine, it’s very possible that you’ll have every intention of studying but you’ll simply forget.
5. Take into account the task at hand.
When deciding what time of day to study, it’s also important to take the task at hand into account. After all, it may directly point toward or away from certain times of day.
For instance, if you’re busy, you might cram listening practice into your commute. If you’re doing speaking practice, you might not want to do it when people you live with are sleeping to avoid their wrath. If you’re moving about and frequently going to different places, then you may want to download a language learning program with on-the-go learning capabilities like FluentU. In the case of FluentU, you learn with bite-sized authentic videos enhanced with learner tools like interactive subtitles, flashcards and personalized quizzes.
Considering your lifestyle and the task at hand will help you find the right time for you.
6. Remember that more language exposure is better.
Some times of day may be less effective than others for studying a language, but exposure to the language is still incredibly valuable. The more you interact with a language by studying it, using it, reading it or simply hearing it, the less foreign that language will seem.
Because of this, there’s no “wrong” time of day to study. Even if you don’t remember what you attempted to learn, the very act of exposing yourself to the language is beneficial.
While there are a lot of factors to consider when learning a language, choosing the right time of day doesn’t have to be a hard one.
Keeping all the benefits in mind, choose whatever time works best for you!