The crib notes if you don’t want to go back: For a month, I listened to or read 10,000 words a day. It worked really well and I saw a noticeable improvement in my language.
If you want to experience those results yourself, here are five tips for incorporating 10,000 words a day into your studying.
1. Just do it.
The easiest way to get in 10,000 words a day is to just do it. Just say, “I’m going to listen to or read 10,000 words a day” and then do it. Watch TV. Read novels. Listen to the radio. Listen to podcasts. Read online newspapers.
Then repeat the next day.
I know that sounds glib, but I do think people tend to over-complicate things. The nice thing about 10,000 words in general is that once you try this, you’ll start to identify some of the complications yourself and can make minor adjustments.
With that said, there are some things you can do to make things easier…
2. Use dead time.
In my life, there are plenty of periods of “dead time” throughout the day, when it’s not exactly scheduled time and not exactly free time. Here are examples from my daily routine:
- My commute to and from work.
- My short drive to and from the grocery store, mall, and gym.
- The half-hour before my son goes to bed, when he and my wife are watching TV, brushing their teeth, and getting pajamas on.
- My lunch break and coffee breaks at work, which I often take at my desk.
All together, this adds up to about three hours a day that would otherwise be wasted. Instead, I can use some of this time to listen to podcasts, catch an episode of a sitcom, or read a few pages from a novel. It only takes an hour and a half to get in 10,000 words, so I could very realistically use dead time alone to get those 10,000 words in.
(By the way, for a while I tried listening to German podcasts while walking on the treadmill or using the elliptical machine at the gym. I kind of hated that, though, and realized I preferred keeping my workouts and language learning separate. Still had plenty of other dead time, so it wasn’t an issue.)
3. Be entertained in your target language.
How much do you read, watch TV or listen to the radio in your native language? I know people differ, but I take in a lot of media throughout the day.
I only have so much attention budget, though. For example, I get sick of watching TV after a while and have to get up off the couch and do something else.
When I watched TV in German, I had to cut back on my TV in English. Best way to explain it: I watch TV to get entertained. I can only watch so much TV. So I got my TV entertainment needs filled by watching German TV shows (or English shows dubbed into German).
Same with reading. I only read so many pages a day–25 to 50 tops–in any language. To meet my 10,000 words a day goal, I put aside Tom Clancy and saved my reading energy for novels written in German.
4. Don’t try to understand every word.
I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but it bears repeating: Don’t try to understand every word. Try to understand the main idea. If you’re watching a movie, watching a TV show, or reading a novel, try and follow along with the plot. If you’re listening to the news, try to understand the basic events.
If you can’t understand anything, then choose easier texts. Watching some kids shows, such as “Pocoyo,” in your target language is probably easy enough for even rank beginners, and you’ll get benefits from just following along.
However, if you can understand basic ideas but not every word, just hang in there. Let your mind process the language subconsciously while your attention is on understanding the general idea. This is where the magic happens.
5. Add in other activities.
One thing I learned last month is that an input based, volume heavy routine, such as 10,000 words a day, can be extremely effective as the bedrock of a language-learning routine. But it’s a little incomplete. You’re going to need to build other skills.
Easy solution? Get your 10,000 words a day, and then do something else. Try stuff like:
- Speaking practice
- Grammar drills
- Vocab building exercises
That’s what I’m going to try for the next couple months, in fact. I’m going to maintain this level of volume, and then I’m going to “build” my language skills with more intensive, targeted activities.
If you’re curious, give this and a try. But if you do, please let me know how it goes for you so that others can benefit from your experience.