Not every week needs to look the same – learning languages naturally

The pressure we face

With apps that push streaks, YouTubers showing their highly productive morning routines, and social media pushing hustle culture, it’s easy to start to think that we need to perform at the same level of productivity each day. 

I’ve found that my energy levels and mental health differs from week to week and I can’t have the same day or same week in terms of language learning results. For that reason, it’s stressful to create a very structured language learning plan where every day or every week looks exactly the same.


What 4 weeks of languages looks like in my life

Week of 10 May: 13 hours total studying
Focused on French, Hungarian, Spanish and Japanese
I met a Japanese friend and practiced speaking Japanese for the first time in almost a year!

Week of 17 May: 4 hours total studying
Focused on French, Hungarian and Spanish
I didn’t do a lot of active learning this week, but got to practice my French speaking more than usual

Week of 31 May: 5 hours total studying
Focused on French, Hungarian, Spanish and Korean
Usually Hungarian hours logged here reflect the time spent on italki lessons. This week, I spent some extra time studying and doing homework.

Week of 7 Jun: 8 hours total studying
Focused on French and Spanish
No Hungarian lesson because I was exhausted from the previous week

App I use to track: Toggl


Going with the flow

Some weeks I’ll be on a streak doing the same amount of learning each day, and other weeks I might not even touch a textbook!

It’s OK to take a break. Learning a language is like going to the gym – you do need some rest days and it’s impossible to give 100% every day, especially if you have a job or other responsibilities outside of languages.

I try to let my language learning be natural to me – if I feel like “this is a French week” then I’ll just do what’s fun for me – watch French content, listen to podcasts, talk to French friends, and change my apps and phone language to French.

The most important thing for me is to keep it fun. Language learning is a hobby, not my job. If I put so much pressure on myself to do the same thing every day, it’s not fun anymore.

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How do we build consistency, then?

We all want to have routine, but we’re not robots. Having a routine within flexible bounds can be helpful. That can look like setting a goal of reading a book in a week, but not limiting yourself to a certain amount of pages each day. As long as you do it when you feel like it, and if the goal is important enough to you, you can work it into your day depending on the time you have and how you feel.

Instead of setting a daily to-do list (e.g. 1 lesson on an app, read 10 pages, review vocabulary every single day), I try to think about overarching tasks I want to do in a week and fit it in whenever I feel like it. For instance, I might want to read 100 pages in a week – but don’t want to do be pressured to read 14 pages every single day. If I tell myself to read whenever I feel like it, I’m more likely to complete this task within the flexible guideline of doing it in a week, and not every day. The same applies to every week – not each week in a month should look the same. Some weeks, you might feel under the weather and other weeks might be very productive for you. 

If I’m too strict and prescriptive about the amount of time and the language I need to study, I won’t feel like it’s a hobby anymore. If my to-do list is intense that it stresses me out, and I decide to do something else, miss a day, or some emergency comes up, I’m bound to feel upset and disappointed that I didn’t complete my lofty list of things to do. 

I try to keep it fun and light, and that’s why not every week or every day looks the same.


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What does your learning routine look like?

Leave a comment below to let me know how you balance your to-do list and your time!





8 responses to “Not every week needs to look the same – learning languages naturally”

  1. Rebecca Avatar

    I totally agree with this Lindie. Especially when you are learning multiple languages it sometimes just gets a bit too much. Streaks and reminder emails and strict daily targets often cause stress rather than fun which can be fatal for the learning process. Like everything in ife, it’s good to have focus but it’s important to be kind to yourself and just go with the flow sometimes.

    1. toldbyharris Avatar

      Right! So true, I never really realized this about the streaks and emails that said “we havent seen you in two days.” It’s just been two days lol

    2. Lindie Botes Avatar

      For sure! Sometimes it feels weird or against the grain to just take things easy when all we see is pressure around us to perform and advance. Thanks for reading!

  2. toldbyharris Avatar

    Thanks for your insight Lindie! I didn’t realize how much pressure the streaks did have on me until I read this and just put the two together. I believed it was just holding me accountable to make sure I got some vocab, grammar or story reading in. However when I lost my 233 day streak I fell off using it because I felt like I disappointed myself or sabotaged my goals. So I thanks for reassuring me that everyday doesn’t have to look the same, as long as we just keep going right!

    1. Lindie Botes Avatar

      Thank you for sharing! The pressure is real, and usually it’s just coming from ourselves! I am sorry you felt down when you lost your streak, I can imagine that feels really frustrating – but at least you didn’t lose the time or effort you put into the language! All the best with your learning!

      1. toldbyharris Avatar

        Yes, that’s true I havent lost what I’ve learned so far. Thanks Lindie

  3. isa Avatar

    I’ve started adopting this attitude recently with my attempt to learn Japanese, maintain what Arabic I have and improve my Indonesian.
    It definitely takes the pressure off, keeps things exciting and interesting, and one’s language development becomes clear again, instead of jumbled in confusion and stress.
    Thanks again for the article.

  4. James Murdock Avatar
    James Murdock

    I agree with Lindie, we should try not to stress out too much about streaks and things, especially since this sort of attitude can prevent us from doing what is more beneficial than keeping up a streak. e.g. my duolingo streak is probably less useful than an impromptu opportunity to speak with a native speaker of my target language.

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