The Best Time to Learn a Language

The optimal time of day to learn a new language is one that matches your preferences and fits into your daily life.

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Let’s not pretend there’s some magical golden hour for learning a language. Because there isn’t. Everybody is different, so it’s impossible for any specific time of day to work for everybody.

But there is a perfect time of day for you. A time of day that suits your personality, schedule, and other responsibilities. This article will help you find the best time, so you can make a solid study plan.

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When is the best time of day to learn a language?

The best time of day to learn a language is one that suits your chronotype (when you’re naturally most energetic or sleepy), fits into your schedule, and works around your other responsibilities. The best time to study takes into account your natural rhythms and your day-to-day responsibilities. There is little research saying that certain hours of the day are better than others for learning. What works for someone else might not work for you. Everybody has different responsibilities and commitments. Like much of language learning, what works for you is personal.

How to find the best time for you to study and practice your new language

Follow the below steps and you’ll be able to create a study plan that’s both effective and suitable for you.

1. Understand your personal rhythms

Finding the best time for you to learn a language, starts with understanding when you perform best. Answer these questions: When are you most energetic? When is your concentration highest? When do you prefer to sleep?

Answering these questions helps you identify your chronotype. Chronotype is your body’s natural preference for sleep or activity. When people talk about being an early bird or a night owl, they’re talking about their chronotype. This isn’t about preferences — it’s about how your body naturally works.

Dr. Michael Breus defined four chronotypes: Bear, Lion, Wolf, and Dolphin.

  • Bears wake up when the sun comes up, and sleep when the sun goes down. They’re most productive from 10 AM to 2 PM.

  • Lions are early risers. They wake up at around 5 AM and sleep before 10 PM. They’re most productive before noon and often have little energy late in the afternoon.

  • Wolves go to bed late and wake up late. They’re most productive between 10 AM and 4 PM, but can also have energy in the evening.

  • Dolphins struggle to sleep. But they’re most productive between 10 AM and 2 PM.

Not everyone fits into these categories, of course. You might be in between a Bear and a Lion, for example. No problem. As long as you have a rough idea of when your performance and energy are at their highest, you can start planning your study.

And remember, the time periods quoted above are optimal. They’re when you’re most productive. But they’re not the only times throughout the day that you’ll have enough energy and focus to study. Use these chronotypes and what you know about your natural rhythms to paint a full picture of your days.

Action step: Make a note of the times each day you feel most energetic and focused.

2. Balance language study with daily life

Now, here’s where it gets tough. Let’s say you’re a Bear who is most productive between 10 AM and 2 PM but you also have good energy between 5 PM and 7 PM. They’re the perfect times to study. But (and it’s a big but) many people work five days a week from 9 AM to 5 PM and need to feed and bathe their kids in the evening.

There’s a good chance that your most productive hours are already full. Daily life and your responsibilities take up a lot of your time. Unfortunately, there’s little you can do about this. So you have to find ways to fit learning into your life without overwhelming yourself or causing (even more) stress.

If you're busy working or caring for family members, quick study sessions might be easier to fit into your day. These can be as short as 5-10 minutes. It might not sound like much, but if you do it consistently day after day, you’ll see progress.

Action step: Make a note of your responsibilities and commitments ( work, family, friends, hobbies, etc). Identify any gaps in your schedule. And look for gaps that overlap with — or are close to — your most productive hours. Build your study plan around these times.

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3. Be flexible

One guaranteed way to harm your motivation is by being hard on yourself when things don't go to plan. And things will go wrong — it’s almost certain your circumstances will change, or there’ll be some kind of emergency. Life happens. You might get a new, busier job. Or you might meet a new person you want to spend more time with. Whatever it is, you can be certain something will happen that takes focus away from your language study. This is completely natural (and completely OK).

Instead of stressing when you miss a planned session, include flexibility from the start. Here’s how.

When making your plan, say to yourself “I feel productive and have free time between 5 PM and 6 PM so I will study Spanish every day for 45 minutes at that time. But if I miss a session for whatever reason, I’ll add a 25-minute session between 8 PM and 9 PM later that day, or 7 AM and 8 AM the next day.”

Sure, studying between 8 PM and 9 PM might not be optimal. But my advice is don’t worry about what’s optimal. When you’re busy, good enough is good enough. 25 minutes of less-productive study is better than no study at all.

Action step: Look at your plan and identify backup times you can study if your original plan doesn’t work out. Don’t worry if they aren’t in — or near — your most productive times of day. These are just backups.

4. Remember your health

Learning isn’t only about what’s going on in your brain — your body’s condition has a big effect. Not getting enough sleep, for example, hurts your learning. And physical activity has benefits for your concentration and short-term memory. So when you try to cram study sessions into your busy schedule, don’t forget to leave enough time for sleep and exercise.

Action step: Make sure there is enough time in your schedule for sleep and physical activity because they are important for learning.

There’s no universal “best” time to study — but there is a best time for you

Personalization is key in language learning. You need to find the methods that are effective for you (just because something worked for a YouTuber who speaks a bunch of languages, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you). This means experimentation should be a part of your language learning process. Experimenting to find the best methods and the best times for you.

When making a study plan, think about when you perform best, and when you have other responsibilities. Add flexibility to your plan — because something is guaranteed to get in the way at some point. A healthy body is a great way to improve your chances of learning so make sure your language learning doesn’t take time away from sleep or physical activity.

The busier you are (for example, a person with a full-time job and family to look after), the more difficult it is to find time to study. So you need to be creative as well as flexible. Find those free five-minute periods to squeeze in some vocabulary review, or listen to podcasts when you do chores.

Whether you have a lot or a little free time, being consistent is key. Don’t worry about studying at the “optimal” time of day — for most people, good enough is good enough. Non-productive practice is better than no practice at all, so don't sweat it if you can only do twenty minutes in the evening because of family or work commitments. Fit language learning in with your daily life — not the other way around.

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