Let’s face it—since we’re all busy people, it’s hard to find time to devote to self-improvement. As much as we’d love to broaden our horizons and do things like learn Chinese, when we have to juggle work, our obligations, and our social lives, it can feel impossible to fit anything else into our daily schedules. With only so many hours in each day, someone who wants to learn Mandarin Chinese might wonder if it’s even possible while having a full-time job.
This is a great question because frankly, it’s downright hard to find adequate time to learn languages effectively when you also have work responsibilities. This is true whether you’re working in your home country or internationally as a digital nomad.
The good news? It is possible to learn Chinese while having a full-time job. You just need to study smart to make sure you’re making the most of your time. So, for all the working people out there who want to know how to learn Chinese, below are 5 tips that can help you learn Chinese fast while working full-time.
Have a goal and a plan to learn Chinese
This first tip sounds pretty basic, but it’s important enough when you’re trying to learn Chinese while having a full-time job.
It is more than possible to learn a foreign language while working. Still, because your time is limited, you need to clarify your priorities. Start by identifying the reasons why you want to study the Chinese language.
For example, let’s say that at your job, you work with material that has been poorly translated from Chinese into your working language, so you want to learn Chinese to be able to read the source texts in the original language.
Once you know your reasons for wanting to learn Chinese, you should set your goal. In this scenario, you would identify strong reading skills as your goal and make it your priority, and once you know your priorities, you can make a targeted plan. To improve your Chinese reading skills and improve your reading comprehension, you might want to build up a wide range of Chinese vocabulary.
For best results when making your plan, it’s important to be aware of your habits, routines, and interests. This awareness allows you to form the most effective plans for yourself.
For example, if you know that you love sports and regularly listen to sports podcasts, throw a Chinese-language sports podcast into your queue. This sort of planning makes integrating Chinese study into your schedule much easier and more likely to stick long term.
Integrate Chinese language learning into your daily routine
When you have a full-time work schedule to manage, it can feel difficult or even impossible to set aside at least one hour each evening to study. With everything there is to get done in life, how do you fit enough study time into your day to learn Chinese while having a full-time job?
If your goal is to study Chinese for one hour every day, then break up that hour into smaller pieces. Even if you can’t get through a full hour of study in one chunk of time, you can still accumulate that hour of study throughout the day.
Think about how you spend your time outside of work. Perhaps you can think of some routine activities you do, such as washing the dishes, ironing your clothes, or commuting to work on the bus or train. These activities don’t require your mental effort. While you go about doing these activities, you can also learn the Chinese language.
For quick practice while you commute, try downloading a language learning app. If you want to learn Chinese for business, read articles in Chinese about your chosen industry. For entertaining company while you’re cooking, try turning on some Chinese-language radio or a Chinese podcast. While you stir your sauce at the stove, you can direct your attention to the program and practice your listening skills.
If you want to learn Chinese, you need these bits of time to add up. How many hours to learn Chinese? About 2200 class hours. To work towards this total, you should accumulate minutes of practice wherever you can find them!
Nowadays, one of the biggest distractions we all face is social media. If you’re not careful, social media can take away from your precious language-learning time, so be mindful of how much of your time you’re spending scrolling through feeds.
You don’t need to cut social media entirely out of your life to learn Chinese. In fact, social media can even be used to keep you learning. For example, you can follow and turn on notifications for Chinese-language social media accounts so that they appear in your feed first when you open your social media apps. This way, even when you are checking your network’s latest updates, you’re guaranteed to see accounts that keep you on track to learning Chinese.
Pro Tip: Change the language of your work computer and phone to Chinese. It’s incredible how much new technology-related vocabulary you learn by doing this!
Watch Chinese-Language movies on the weekend
There’s no need to read that again.
Yes, learning Chinese on the weekend is actually a great idea because continuous learning is the key to successful language learning! If you already watch a few movies after work or on the weekend, just be sure to include a movie in Chinese every so often.
This is a really fun and easy way to learn Chinese with only a minor change to your habits.
Learn while at work
The time you spend at work takes up to a third of your day, and if you’re trying to find extra ways to fit Chinese study time into your schedule, this is one more area of your life you can tweak to learn Chinese while having a full-time job.
We’re not advocating that you study Chinese during the workday to the detriment of your work quality. Nevertheless, if you think about what your workday looks like and allow yourself to be a little creative, you should be able to find ways to fit Chinese practice into your schedule without it impacting your overall productivity.
To give you some ideas on how you can learn at work, here are a few activities you can do to improve your Chinese language skills while at work:
- If you drive to work or drive for work, turn on some language podcasts in the car.
- If you take coffee breaks, use the time to update or review your vocabulary lists with your favorite Chinese flashcards app.
- If you can listen to music while you work, why not listen to Chinese songs?
- If you have a job that has a lot of downtime, try working through a language-learning app while you wait.
These have been five tips to help you learn Chinese while having a full-time job. It might not always feel easy, but it is doable. If you follow these learning tips, you will be better positioned to integrate Chinese learning into your busy schedule. Once you get into the habit of it, it can even come to feel like a seamless part of your day!