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making time for hobbies

Here’s the Secret to Finding “Hidden” Time for Your Hobbies

making time for hobbies

“If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend your time?”

Your answer to that question can tell you a lot about yourself, and it’s fun to think about.

But the reality is: 24 hours is all you get. (Sorry!)

You can’t quit your job. You can’t ignore family commitments and responsibilities. If you want to learn a new skill, improve your current talents, or work toward a big learning goal, it’s up to you to make that happen. So how do you balance that with a busy schedule?

It’s simple: learn to budget your time the same way you budget your money.

Here are the steps you can take if you feel like you’re too busy to learn or take up a new hobby, proven to work by some of our top students.

1. Decide you WANT to learn.

find time to learn

The first step to financial success is deciding to have a budget. And that budget is often dictated by your short- and long-term goals. Maybe you want to pay off your student loans or mortgage within five years. Or maybe you just want that new jacket you saw at Nordstrom.

Now let’s translate that into learning: what are your goals there? Do you want to be able to sing confidently in front of a group? Play guitar at a friend’s wedding? Speak Spanish fluently on an upcoming vacation? Write these down, and put them somewhere you can see them every day.

Excuses will always come up. And heck, life will sometimes get in the way. But if you’re excited about improving your skills, that’s the first step.

2. Be realistic.

finding time in your schedule for music lessons

You wouldn’t set a $300 budget for going out to eat if you only had $50 discretionary cash per week. Similarly, be realistic about the time you can commit to practicing and taking lessons.

If you’re juggling a busy schedule, a 30-minute lesson once per week may be all you can find time for. Or maybe you can’t even commit to that — fortunately, you can find teachers who are more flexible week-to-week, and rescheduling is always an option if something comes up.

Once you have your lesson time penciled in, then it’s time to schedule your practice time. But be realistic about that, too! You may not be able to practice for hours every day, and that’s OK. Even a short practice session will help you stay on track, if you make it efficient.

3. Find the right hacks.

skype with language exchange partner

If you’re a super-budgeter, you probably know all the tricks. You hold out for great deals, look for coupons and discount codes, and so on.

Same goes for budgeting your time. If you break down your schedule, you may find you have extra time in your day for your hobbies. And yes, that may mean skipping the Netflix marathons, or cutting back on the time you spend browsing social media.

You were probably expecting that advice, right? But look: there are even more hacks you can try. Here are some ways TakeLessons students have made time for their hobbies:

  • Take online lessons. Ordering takeout for dinner is a great time saver. What if you could get music or language lessons delivered to the comfort of your home, too? Turn on your computer, pull up the TakeLessons Classroom, and you can meet with your teacher instantly — no travel time required.
  • Take advantage of your workspace. If your company allows it, consider taking your online lessons during your lunch break. If you prefer in-person lessons, find a teacher close by your work, so it’s not a hassle to get to. You can also use your time going to and from work. As a language learner, for example, you can practice listening to your target language during your commute!
  • Find a flexible teacher. If you need to reschedule a lesson every now and then, don’t stress. While a designated lesson time each week will help you stay accountable, we understand that things come up! If you have unique scheduling needs, feel free to use our Ask a Question feature before booking your lessons, to find a teacher who can accommodate.
  • Use your guilty pleasures to your advantage. Learning a new skill doesn’t have to be all work, no play! Musicians: jamming with community groups or going to karaoke is a fun way to add music to your day. Language students, consider changing the language settings when you’re watching TV, or pick a foreign movie with subtitles.

4. Adjust as needed.

practice guitar

Budgets ebb and flow — unplanned bills show up, salaries go up and down, and can’t-miss opportunities arise. The best financial advice is to stay flexible and adjust your budget often.

Similarly, sometimes the time you’ve budgeted doesn’t go as planned. We get it: life gets busy. So don’t beat yourself up if you need to reschedule a lesson or if you miss a practice session. Stay positive, and fit in what you can!

Planning ahead can help, as well. Work with your teacher to create a 15-minute practice routine, if you’re short on time one week. Or, make a list of ways to fit practice into your everyday life.

Even the most successful people have “off” days. Get back on track when you can, review your goals again, and envision where you’d like your skills to be in one year.

5. Pay yourself first.

pay yourself first

One of the best money tips out there is to pay yourself first.

What does that mean, exactly? In terms of finances, it means setting aside funds for your future self before anything else. (Think: emergency funds, retirement accounts, and so on.)

So, apply the same strategy to how you’re spending your free time. Want to stay sharp? Learning a musical instrument is linked to improved memory, concentration, and IQ. Want to get ahead in your career? In today’s job market, learning a second language will make you a more valuable employee, and may even lead to a higher salary.

Or maybe it’s a more personal goal. Many of the adult students we talk to mention they took music lessons as a kid, and wanted to bring that joy back into their lives.

So the question is… do you want to invest in yourself? When you think of it that way, making time for your hobbies seems like a no-brainer.

Readers, how do you make time for yourself? Have you ever felt like you were too busy to learn something new? Leave a comment below and share your experience! 

Photo by Will Foster

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3 Things to Do When You’re Lost in Conversation

Feeling Lost in Conversation? 3 Helpful Tips for Language Learners

3 Things to Do When You’re Lost in Conversation

Whether you’re practicing conversational French, Spanish, or another language, chatting with a native speaker can be daunting. Here, language tutor Jinky B. shares some tips to keep in mind if you’re feeling lost…

 

Congratulations, you have been taking language classes and diligently studying all that you have learned on your own time. Now you’re ready to go out and have a conversation with a native speaker. The conversation is going well and everything is flowing when you suddenly realize that, well, you’re lost! You feel as though you’re hearing a completely foreign language.

First of all, breathe! Here are three things you can do when you are starting to feel like you’re at your first language lesson, unable to understand anything the other person is saying.

1. Listen for context clues.

Think about what you are finding difficult to understand. Is it a single word? Is it a whole phrase?

Some languages are filled with homophones, words that sound the same but have completely different meanings. Once you hone in on that, think about the context of the conversation. If you’re talking about weekend plans to go to a picnic, think through everything else that was said prior to the misunderstanding.

  • In French, la mer (the sea) and la mère (the mother) sound nearly exactly the same. Think about whether the speaker is talking about a trip to the beach or describing his family.

If it’s an entire phrase, it might be an idiom, one that is more common knowledge to the native speaker so it might not make sense to a language learner.

  • In French, the idiomatic expression Il pleut des cordes does not actually mean that it’s raining rope, but that it’s raining a lot.

Regardless of whether it’s a word or an entire phrase, try to determine the meaning based on the conversation.

See also: French learners, take a look at these additional tips for translating French to English.

2. Ask for repetition.

When in doubt about what you have heard, ask the other speaker to repeat the word or phrase in question. Sometimes hearing the specific word might bring an epiphany to the unknown word(s). Below are some phrases in our most popular languages to ask “Repeat, please.”

Spanish: Repita por favor.
French: Répétez, s’il vous plait.
Japanese: もう一度おねがいします。 (Mōichido onegaishimasu)
Korean: 제발 반복합니다. (jebal banboghabnida)
Italian: Ripeti prego.
German. Bitte wiederholen.

repeat_please

See also: Check out additional Spanish phrases to use here

3. Relax and be honest.

Take a deep breath. Politely let the other person know that you are having trouble understanding. If you aren’t honest with yourself, you’ll find it difficult to follow and participate in the conversation.

And if you aren’t honest with your language partner, they will continue the conversation. Below are ways that you can use to indicate to the other person “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”

Spanish: Lo siento, no entiendo.
French: Je suis désolé(e), je ne comprends pas.
Japanese: ごめんなさい。わかりません。(Gomen’nasai. Wakarimasen)
Korean: 죄송 해요. 이해가 안되는 데요. (joesong haeyo. ihaega andoeneun deyo)
Italian: Mi dispiace. Non capisco.
German. Es tut mir leid. Ich verstehe nicht.

im_sorry-_i_dont_understand

See also: 11 Tips for Improving Your Conversational Spanish [Infographic]


Language learning is the same across all languages. You build a foundation of vocabulary and grammar. You learn to put those words together to form sentences. You perfect your accent and comprehension skills. Then, you venture out and practice what you have learned.

Don’t stop at your first obstacle. Just relax and remember to listen for context clues, ask for repetition, and be honest with yourself. Most importantly, have fun! The best way to learn is to enjoy the process.

Want more conversational Spanish or conversational French practice? Sign up for one of our online group classes, or check out our other blog tutorials

Post Author: Jinky B.
Jinky B. teaches French and ESL. She has her Bachelor’s of Arts in French, French Literature, and Psychology from Florida State University and has more than five years of teaching experience. Learn more about Jinky B. here!

Photo by Brian Roberts

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learning a language as an introvert

How to Survive (and Thrive) as an Introvert Learning a Language

learning a language as an introvert

Are extroverts better at learning languages? Au contraire! Learn how to survive (and thrive) as an introvert with these tips from Alexandria, VA tutor Elisha O...

 

 

There’s been a lot of hype lately about introverts and extroverts. And no matter which side you identify with (or if you’re a little of both!) there are definitely advantages and strengths on both sides of the spectrum.

As an introvert myself, my most productive and creative time is the time I spend alone. However, I’ve found that there are also many skills that simply cannot be done alone — and learning a new language is one of them.

Sure, you can stay home and read, study, and watch movies in your target language. But in order to really improve, communicating with others needs to be part of your learning strategy. While some extroverts jump at the opportunity to go out and socialize in a foreign language, the same idea leaves many introverts shaking in their boots.

So, does that mean that extroverts are better at learning languages? Not at all. But introverts may need to try different strategies along the way.

Here is a list of the most common obstacles introverts face when learning a language and how to solve them.

Problem: The thought of a “language meetup group” makes you cringe
Solution: Ease into learning from the comfort of your home

If you’ve never felt like your best self at networking events or mixers, your instinct will probably be to avoid group language meetups. Walking into a building and breaking the ice with one person after another in your first language is scary enough, let alone doing it in your second or third!

Well, there’s good news for us introverts. These days, the internet offers opportunities to connect with others no matter where you are — even from your own home. This makes a lot of students feel more comfortable, since you’re not in an unfamiliar location. Technology provides just the right amount of distance to feel comfortable and secure. 

I recommend easing into a new language with online, private language lessons with a tutor, and then progressing to online group classes to get conversation practice.

Problem: You’re good at reading, writing, and listening, but struggle with speaking
Solution: Practice speaking without people around

While this may affect introverts and extroverts alike, introverts are less likely to seek out speaking opportunities and get out of their comfort zones, which furthers the gap.

Before you delve into a new language (whether for the first time or after a long hiatus), try listening to music in your target language and singing along as best you can. You’ll get a feel for vocabulary as well as how to pronounce the words, which can help you feel a lot more confident the next time you speak out loud.

You can also try talking to yourself throughout the day in your target language. For example, try narrating what you’re doing as you get ready for work or school in the morning. The trick to overcoming your nerves is often just practicing speaking more!

Problem: Breaking the ice is not your forte
Solution: Prep yourself with conversation starters

“You mean I have to… think of stuff to say?”

No! Not necessarily. As introverts, we often prefer for others to set the tone and pace of the conversation, at least at first! If starting conversations isn’t your cup of tea, and talking to strangers makes you queasy, consider requesting more structured classes from your teacher.

My ESL students also enjoy the seasonal book clubs that I coordinate. With this format, students don’t have the pressure of responding to small talk questions or improvising. The book provides a context in which they can frame the conversation, and they can even prepare responses to discussion questions ahead of time.

Problem: You’re afraid of looking “dumb”
Solution: Find a tutor you feel comfortable with

If there’s one thing I hear from students the most, it’s this. Sure, learning would be so much easier if we could travel back in time and return to being children, when our brains are like sponges and our pride could never be hurt! But learning a language as an adult can be a totally different experience. We often fear that we will appear less intelligent and articulate than we really are when we speak another language.

My advice for these students is to find a tutor who has actually learned a second language or lived in a foreign country. These teachers get it. They know first-hand the courage it takes to learn a new language, and will support and encourage you every step of the way!

Introverts, what other tips have you found helpful for learning a new language? Leave a comment below and share it with us!

Photo by uoeducation

ElishaOPost Author: Elisha O.
Elisha teaches English, ESL, Essay Writing, and Grammar in Alexandria, VA, as well as online. She earned her degrees in Psychology and Spanish from Western Washington University. Learn more about Elisha here!

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books for language learning

Here’s Why Fall is the Perfect Time to Learn a New Language

Even if you’ve been out of school for many years, back-to-school season is the perfect time to pick up a new hobby and learn something new. If you’ve always wanted to learn a new language, why not start now? Read on for tips from tutor Joan B

 

Remember going back to school as a child? Or perhaps you have children now that you’re sending back to school? It’s an exciting time for all ages. And if you want to learn a new language or resume your study, the back-to-school season is an ideal time to do so!

Here’s how to make the most of this time of year:

1. Use the season change to set a new schedule or routine.

language learning in the fall

Now that you’re well-rested from lazy summer days, you can focus and choose a new routine for the fall. Learning a new language requires consistent practice, so you’ll need to carve out time for it in your new routine. Commit to a minimum amount of practice or study time (it doesn’t have to be a lot – just make it doable), and then get to it! As you work toward your goal, you’ll feel energized, capable, and efficient.

2. Motivate yourself by creating your own syllabus.

Back-to-School the Best Time to Start Learning a Language!

This tip is especially effective if you studied the language in high school, or if you have some previous experience with it. You probably have some goals in mind, whether you’re learning for business opportunities, an upcoming vacation, or just for fun. Work with your language tutor to write up a simple syllabus, based on those goals. Taking control of your learning will keep you motivated and excited to learn. (Struggling to stay on track? Check out these tips for a busy schedule.)

3. Search for back-to-school specials for supplies you need.

french dictionaries

Most stores have back-to-school sales around this time, so take advantage of the specials. Remember how you used to love picking out erasers and pencils, and notebooks with cool covers? You can still enjoy the back-to-school frenzy by shopping for any supplies you need or keeping your eye out for money-saving deals on lessons and classes.

4. Make studying fun.

conversation partner for language

Just like children form friendships and find study buddies at school, adults need to form a community for learning. Working with a private language tutor ensures you’ll get weekly conversation practice, but practicing beyond that lesson time is also important! If you don’t have a conversation partner already, try attending an online class to e-meet other students.

And if you have kids who are in school, study alongside them! As they complete their homework, you can catch up on your language learning time. Not only will it be effective, you’ll be an inspirational model of hard work and integrity for your child(ren).

5. Check out your local library.

Harry Potter in Spanish

Did you enjoy the smell of books as a child, or the hours in the library with a cup of coffee as a college student? You can relive that nostalgia by going to your local library to study or check out new materials. Libraries are an incredible source of information and materials for foreign language learners! You might find CDs with audio, foreign music and films on DVD, online resources, and much more. Using the library is a frugal and enjoyable way to learn your new language.

6. Plan a trip.

travel to learn a language

Fall doesn’t have to be the end to vacation time! Consider taking a trip to jumpstart your language learning. Scheduling it midway through the fall will allow you time to learn conversational phrases, so you can speak to the locals. Fares are often cheaper in the fall, too, after the summer rush. Examples of convenient trips include Mexico, Cuba, or Puerto Rico for Spanish learners, and Quebec for French learners. Practicing with native speakers is only a skip, hop, and a plane ride away!

I hope these tips will inspire and motivate you to get started today. May the fall be a rich time of learning, growth, and improvement for you in the language of your dreams!

Photos by Tim GreenKatie Armstrongjpmatth

Joan BPost Author: Joan B.
Joan B. lives in Carmichael, CA and has been teaching high school Spanish for more than 18 years. A lover of language, she’s studied French, Arabic, and Italian and spent time living in Spain. Learn more about Joan here!

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efficient language learners

8 Characteristics of Successful Language Learners | Language Tips

efficient language learners

What do the most successful language learners have in common? Find out eight common traits in this post from Spanish tutor Jason N

 

When you first start learning a new language, it might seem frustrating. There are tons of new vocabulary words and new grammar rules to learn, and listening to native speakers may make your head spin.

But don’t give up! You successfully learned one language well so far (or you wouldn’t be understanding this post!), so you can clearly learn another. And the fact that you’re even reading this article shows me another important factor — that you’re motivated to learn!

Outside of that, though, some people seem to learn languages faster than others. More often than not, it’s because they possess certain traits and characteristics that help them along the way. I’ve been tutoring for a while now, so I started thinking about what these traits are.

Here are the characteristics I see in my most successful language students:

1) Observant

The most effective language learners spend time and energy outside of classes and lessons trying to understand the language’s clues, patterns, structure, and organization. Along with this, you should keep notes to monitor what you’ve learned, and come prepared with questions for your tutor, teacher, or professor.

Learning Tip: As you learn, immediately apply new words and grammatical concepts/rules by writing or speaking. You’ll likely already be doing this with your tutor, but continue practicing in between your lessons, too. Pay attention to contextual clues as you speak with others, and write down any patterns you notice.

2) Pragmatic

My best students know what works and what doesn’t for their personal learning style. This includes an active approach in tailoring your personal preferences and needs in all learning situations, so you don’t waste time on what is ineffective for you.

This characteristic also involves thoughtfulness, including picking up on the objective of a given in-class exercise and why it’s important to your overall language learning.

Learning Tip: Figure out your learning style, and make sure your tutor knows it too.

3) Dedicated

Super-learners believe they can always learn something, even if they dislike or struggle with a given concept, topic, or rule. They steadfastly seek learning environments that facilitate their unique needs and goals.

They also know there are no shortcuts when it comes to learning! Efficient language learning requires a combination of a great teacher or tutor, the right learning resources, and a commitment to practicing on your own time.

Learning Tip: Supplement your lessons with other ways of interacting and learning. This could include taking an online group class, playing a language-learning game, or listening to a podcast during your commute to and from work or school.

4) Fearless

My best students frequently seek out opportunities to chat with native or experienced speakers, with the aim of communicating and understanding before accurateness. Down the road, while temporarily prioritizing communication, super-learners know they will learn to balance communicating with accuracy as they improve.

Learning Tip: Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone! Seek out opportunities to chat with others, whether they’re native speakers or another student learning the same language. If you get nervous, check out these conversation tips.

5) Patient and centered

Research has shown the best way to learn is with a relaxed, yet alert inner-posture. In my five years of experience as a tutor and 12 years as a Spanish language learner, I have seen that one’s attitude, including patience with the process, can be more important than your initial skill level and intelligence!

Learning Tip: If  you’re feeling frustrated with your progress, take a step back. Learning a new language takes time, and some concepts and rules may seem easier than others. Let your tutor know if you’re struggling with something, and spend extra time on that.

6) Realistic

Most languages are highly complex. Efficient language learners are realistic, systematic, and goal-oriented in their approach. The involves an active long-term commitment, effective organization, and knowing that it’s unrealistic to aim for perfection.

Learning Tip: Think about your short- and long-term goals, and write them down. Make sure they’re realistic and reachable! If you have a busy schedule, you may not have a ton of time to set aside — and that’s OK. Just make sure you’re noticing consistent progress, no matter how small.

7) Personable

As trait #4 mentioned, consistent contact with experienced and/or native speakers is key. Super-learners have the social support needed to continually practice the language, in all types of settings.

Learning Tip: Get as much practice as you can speaking in your target language! Chat with other students online, find a language exchange partner, or teach a family member what you’ve learned so far.

8) Worldly

Lastly and most importantly, efficient language learning requires embracing the culture of the new language! They know that a language is much more than vocab and grammar; it’s an entirely new way of conceptualizing and seeing the world.

Learning Tip: If you have the resources, consider traveling to a country where the language is spoken. Immersion is proven to help you learn faster, as you’ll get real-life practice.

Recap – 8 Characteristics You Need for Effective Language Learning

8 characteristics of effective language learners

As you can see, there’s nothing inherently special about these students — these traits can all be mastered throughout the learning process.

Getting started is the first step. Find a language tutor today and you’ll be on your way to speaking a new language!

Photo by Nazareth College

JasonNPost Author: Jason N.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Athens, GA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here!  

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save money on music lessons

Private Lessons Don’t Need to Be Expensive – Here’s How to Save

save money on music lessons

Want to learn how to play guitar? Speak a second language? Step up your selfie game with new photography skills?

These days, there are plenty of ways to get started and many routes to reaching your goals.

But if you want the best learning experience, there’s no question that hands-on lessons and classes are the way to go. Sure, you’ve got options for online programs and video series that cost next to nothing. But for most students, working with a teacher — one who will hold you accountable, correct your mistakes in real-time, and customize your lessons just for you — is well worth the price.

Worried about your budget? Here’s the good news: private lessons don’t need to cost an arm and a leg! Keep reading to find out some of the ways our budget-conscious students decrease their costs and make room for music lessons, language lessons, and more.

Opt for online.

save money on online music lessons - 1

Many TakeLessons teachers and tutors offer online lessons — and our research has shown that, on average, students taking online lessons spend 20% less than those taking in-studio lessons. It’s a convenient option for both student and teacher: there’s no need to commute anywhere, which saves you money on gas or public transportation.

Moreover, online lessons allow you to work with teachers from all across the U.S., giving you more options for finding the right teacher, at a lesson price that works for you.

Money-Saving Example: If you’re in a major city and want to find cheap lessons, you might see a teacher charging $35 for a 30-minute lesson, while an online teacher in another location might charge $25 for the same duration. If you take lessons once per week, this saves you $520 over the course of a year.

Here are some example prices from TakeLessons teachers:

juliaTeacher: Julia H.
Lesson location: In studio — Seattle, WA
Price: $35 for a 30-minute lesson
kevinTeacher: Kevin M.
Lesson location: Online
Price: $25 for a 30-minute lesson

Choose your teacher based on price.

find a cheap teacher for music lessons or language lessons

For some students, finding a teacher who offers the right availability is important. For others, price is the most important. That’s why we leave it up to you: we let our teachers set their own prices, so you can find the one that best suits your needs.

And with our handy search filters, finding those teachers is easier than ever. Once you run your initial teacher search, you’ll be able to see their starting price for lessons immediately; click into their profile to see how their rates change by location and duration.

Money-Saving Example: If budget is a concern, even a $5 difference will add up over time. In fact, if you’re taking weekly lessons, this saves you $260 over the course of a year.

Keep in mind, though: the price a teacher sets doesn’t indicate whether one is better than the other. Your specific needs and goals should also influence your decision. Aiming to be the next breakout singer? Working with a vocal teacher in Los Angeles or New York with experience in the industry might be non-negotiable for you. For others, you might work best with a teacher who doesn’t have 20+ years of experience, but is still enthusiastic and knowledgeable.

Here are some examples of how violin lesson prices can vary by teacher:

leannaTeacher: Leanna L.
Lesson location: In-studio — Austin, TX
Price: $35 for a 30-minute lesson
meganTeacher: Megan C.
Lesson location: In-studio — Austin, TX
Price: $25 for a 30-minute lesson

Adjust lesson length & frequency.

save money on music lessons and language lessons

Yes, learning a new skill takes time. But that doesn’t mean you need to cram it in as a beginner!

While some students can certainly benefit from an hour (or longer!) lesson, most teachers agree that starting with a 30-minute lesson, once per week, is perfectly fine. (You can always bump it up when you’re ready!)

A shorter lesson time gives you the opportunity to really gauge your interest in the subject, without overwhelming yourself or overcommitting. It’s also ideal for younger students, who have a shorter attention span and tend to get antsy during lessons.

Another option, although risky, is to switch your weekly lessons to every other week. Here’s the kicker: if you must go this route, most teachers will recommend upping your commitment to practicing outside of the lessons. To stay on track, you’ll need to supplement your lessons with other learning methods, such as online classes or apps.

Money-Saving Example: If you’re looking for cheap lessons, consider booking a 30-minute timeslot to start. You’ll likely see a $10-$15 difference in price compared to the 60-minute timeslot, which saves you $780 over the course of a year.

Here is an example of guitar lesson prices based on lesson length:

brianTeacher Brian P.
Lesson Location: In-studio — Culver City, CA
Price: $40 for a 30-minute lesson
$45 for a 45-minute lesson
$55 for a 60-minute lesson

Shop around for your materials and gear.

saving money on music lessons materials and gear

Most hobbies require some additional purchases: instruments and books for music students, cameras and software for photography students, mats and workout gear for yoga students, and so on.

And those materials can add a good chunk of change to your learning expenses, there’s no doubt about it.

The good news is, it’s totally OK to start out slow and postpone the pricey purchases until later, after you’ve been learning for a while.

As a beginner music student, for example, it’s not necessary to buy a brand new top-of-the-line instrument. Used instruments can be just as good as new ones, depending on how well the previous owner cared for it. Younger students can also rent instruments from local music shops. Ask your friends or family if they have extra instruments they aren’t using, or look on eBay, Craigslist, or Amazon for used instruments at heavily discounted prices.

Your teacher can also be a great resource for this; before you book your lessons, feel free to use our Ask a Question feature to get their insight and recommendations.

Hold yourself accountable.

save money on lessons

The best way to save money on lessons is to avoid wasting your money. We’ve shared how to stop wasting money on language lessons, specifically, and that also applies to music lessons, art lessons, and everything else!

Hold yourself accountable and commit to practicing in between your lessons. As you practice, take notes of what you’re struggling with, so you can review it with your teacher. And during your lessons, stay focused! You’re paying for your teacher’s time and expertise, so make the most of it.


Mastering a new skill can be a fantastic experience. And when you’re speaking Spanish fluently, performing a killer guitar solo in front of a crowd, or simply feeling confident at karaoke night, you’ll realize those lessons were money well spent.

Thousands of students have started new hobbies and reached their goals with TakeLessons teachers — will you be next?

Photo by Andrea Rose

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How to Stop Wasting Your Money & Time on Language Lessons

are language lessons worth it

Are language lessons worth the money, or should you learn another way? French tutor Jinky B.  shares her tips here… 

 

Thinking about taking a language class or working individually with a language tutor for French, Spanish, or another language? With so many resources available these days, it can be a daunting task to pick the right way to learn. And it’s no secret that signing up for private language tutoring is usually one of the pricier options.

Aspiring learners often ask, “Are language lessons worth it, or are they a waste of money? Do they even work?”

Here’s the thing: while private lessons can be more expensive than using a free app online, the benefits of individual lessons can pay back tenfold.

Yes, those language lessons can be a waste of money — if you’re not taking learning seriously.

Language lessons and classes work — if you put in the effort.

In order to reach your language learning goals, here are five things you can do to better maximize your progress and not waste your money.

1. Determine your objectives and goals.

Let’s take a French student, for example. Why do you want to learn French? Do you have an upcoming ski trip to the French Alps? Are you moving to the south of France for graduate school? Do you want to perfect the French accent?

Decide the reason for your language lessons. Saying that you want to become fluent is too broad of an objective. Narrow down the specifics. When you’re on the ski trip, would you like to be able to talk to the ski instructors about une piste (a ski trail)? For your move for graduate school, would you like to be able to carry on a 30-minute conversation with a colleague about the lesson?

With your final objective in mind, this is why private lessons are so much more effective than other learning methods. Together with your tutor, you can break your objective down into manageable (and measurable) goals. Then, he or she will know exactly how to organize your time together. Reaching your goals and seeing the direct outcome of the money you’ve spent will help you understand that your lessons were worth it!

2. Practice every day.

Most students take language lessons once a week, but you’ll also need to commit to practicing on your own — every day. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to take up a ton of time, and you can even incorporate it into your daily life. If you like to drink a cup of coffee every morning, for example, use that 15 to 20 minutes while drinking your coffee to go over any new words or phrases that your teacher introduced that week.

If you’re not setting aside this time each day, you risk forgetting the information you’ve learned, which can set you back. Make the most of your money by committing yourself to at least 15 minutes every day. At your next lesson, your tutor will review your progress — and you’ll get direct feedback and corrections so you stay on track.

3. Make that practice time efficient.

Many students balance language lessons with work and other responsibilities — so the trick is to make sure the time you are spending on practice is efficient! For vocabulary in particular, the best way to learn is through rote memorization. Flashcards are a great way to do this: each week, create new flashcards using the new vocabulary words you’ve learned, with a picture on one side and the word on the other side. With this method, it’s best to not write out the English translation on the card, so that you’re training yourself to recognize your target language. Here’s an example for a French vocabulary word:

Apple Flashcard - French vocab

4. Talk out loud.

Another one of the biggest benefits to working with a tutor is having someone to talk to in your target language, who can also correct any mistakes you’re making. Staring at vocabulary words alone isn’t going to make you fluent. Instead, you need real-time conversation practice, and that’s what your language lessons and classes are for.

However, you should also be talking out loud when you’re practicing on your own. Pronounce each word as you review your flashcards, and with longer words, tap each syllable out. The more you actually speak the language, the better progress you’ll make.

Also, try to start conversations in your target language when you’re out and about! Here are 20 conversational Spanish phrases, and 25 conversational French phrases to get you started. If you want to go the extra mile, you can also find a local or online language learning group to practice with!

5. Review and prepare for your lessons.

Lastly, to really make the most of your language lessons, make a habit of properly preparing for them. During the week as you’re reviewing what you’ve learned, note items that you have difficulty mastering (pronunciation, grammar rules, translations, etc.). This way, you’ll have a list handy to go over with your tutor during the next lesson — which is exactly what they’re there for!

Your tutor will prepare lesson plans with your objectives and goals in mind, however, it’s important to communicate any obstacles that may be hindering the learning process. In the end, you’re the one in charge.


So there you have it: five tips for NOT wasting your time and money on language lessons. And in the future when you’re speaking in your target language with others — whether you’re on vacation, at your job, or meeting with new friends and family — you’ll realize that was money well-spent!

Make the move and commit to learning with a trained and experienced tutor who not only speaks another language, but wants to share their love for languages. Good luck!

Photo by Luka Knezevic – Strika

Post Author: Jinky B.
Jinky B. teaches French and ESL in Jacksonville, FL. She has her Bachelor’s of Arts in French, French Literature and Psychology from Florida State University and has over five years of teaching experience. Learn more about Jinky B. here!

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4 Ways to Learn a Language Like a Kid (and Why It Works)

learning a foreign language like a kid

As an adult, learning a foreign language can be tough. But it’s certainly not impossible! Check out these tips from French teacher Carol Beth L. to bring out your inner kid and make learning easier…

 

Last week, we shared how learning a language as an adult is different from what you may have experienced as a high school student (or even earlier on, if you were raised bilingual).

While recognizing the challenges and advantages is a great first step, it’s also important to put things into action. If you’re interested in learning a foreign language, whether it’s just for fun or for career prospects, you’ll need to put in some time and effort — there’s no way around that! In this article, I’ll share a few actionable tips to try, but with a twist.

It’s time to let out your inner kid, and have a little fun!

How to Learn a Foreign Language Like a Kid

First, let’s address the common question: Is it really true that kids have an easier time learning languages?

Early on, it probably is. Many psychologists and educators speak of a critical window during a child’s life (usually between birth and age 12) when it is easier for them to learn a foreign language. Generally, the earlier the child learns the language, the better the chance at complete mastery.

So, why is that?

During the early stages of life, children are able to recognize and distinguish the sounds that make up their native language or languages, and their brain is primed to acquire new words and grammatical structures. In short, a large part of what contributes to a child’s ease in learning is developmental. Provided the opportunity for exposure to a second language, the child will learn to make sense of what they hear.

As we grow older, however, the brain develops and “weeds” itself out. It adjusts to use the knowledge we have within a certain framework, rather than to quickly intake knowledge as it did previously. The way in which many adults learn is thus in many ways fundamentally different from the way children learn.

We can still learn from children in their approach, however. Instead of getting frustrated, why not try out a child-like mindset? You may feel silly, but these strategies can really help. Here are my tips to make language-learning both easy and fun.

1) Incorporate humor.

Children love to laugh! And in fact, neuroscience research has shown that laughter and humor can help you remember things better. Learning a foreign language doesn’t need to be all serious; in fact, it’s often best if it’s not. Learn silly phrases in French, tongue twisters in Spanish, and funny songs in Japanese. Amuse yourself. Look for the bright and cheerful side of life!

2) Incorporate play.

When children play, they find a topic or activity that is relevant to them, including when they play make-believe. Adults may not typically play in the same way that children do, but we can imagine, and we do have activities we like to do.

So when you practice talking in your target language, imagine real-life situations that you might find yourself in. Or, take a class in something you enjoy — cooking, playing music, sailboarding, etc. — entirely in your target language. In some cases, this is easier to do abroad. In other cases, you may be able to find a teacher locally or online who speaks your target language and teaches the activity you enjoy. This type of “play” can even help stimulate your mind and boost creativity.

3) Immerse yourself in the language.

Children are surrounded by their native or target language. So for this strategy, you’ll need to create a similar environment of immersion. This could be through an immersion program, or a trip to a country that speaks your target language. It could also be by surrounding yourself with friends, classmates, colleagues, and acquaintances who also speak or are learning the language.

4) Learn with stories and songs.

Find children’s songs and books in your target language or that are bilingual. This could be something super simple, or even a series like Harry Potter, which has been translated in 74 different languages. If it’s something you’re familiar with, you’ll find it easier to pick up new words from context.

Children also love to read or listen to stories again and again… and again! Doing the same as adults allows us the opportunity to reinforce what we’ve learned, so we can better understand the story and remember new vocabulary with each repetition.

 

Children are natural learners, but given the right tools, adults can be, too. Some of the most accomplished people are life-long learners, continually seeking out new knowledge. Learning a foreign language later on may sometimes be more difficult, but age certainly never puts it out of reach.

Photo by woodleywonderworks

CarolPost Author: Carol Beth L.
Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She has her Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

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4 Surprising Hobbies That Prep Your Brain for Language Learning

how to learn a language fast - 4 hobbies that help

Want to learn a new language? There are a few hobbies that can actually make learning easier! Find out what they are in this guest post by Liisi Pajula…

 

It’s widely known that being fluent in two or more languages is good for your brain and your well-being! The benefits of being bilingual run the gamut from increased problem-solving skills to improved memory and creativity, and speaking another language can even help slow the brain’s aging and delay dementia.

Obviously learning a new language requires consistent practice, including listening, speaking, and writing in your target language. But did you know that there are also other hobbies and skills that can help you on your way to fluency? Let’s take a look at a few of them.

1) Music can help you process languages better

We’ve all heard the benefits of learning a musical instrument; studies have shown that children who learn an instrument at an early age develop larger vocabularies and a better sense of grammar, for example. And the benefits you gained as a child (or now, if you’re learning music as an adult) can also translate to your language learning!

When you study music, both sides of your brain work together to learn the complicated finger movements and process sounds. It’s the latter part that really helps you acquire a new language – since all speech is essentially sounds, the better you are at deciphering them, the easier it will be to remember new vocabulary and understand what is being said.

Prep your brain – tip #1: Sign up for music lessons (whatever instrument interests you!), or simply dedicate time to listening and analyzing sounds to make language learning easier!

2) Making sense of language through logic

Have you ever tried memorizing a poem that you didn’t really understand? We’re guessing it didn’t go very well. To really learn something, you need to have a deep understanding of it. And languages are no different – to learn a new language and become fluent, you need to analyze and understand the building blocks before you move on to more complicated phrases and sentences.

This is where logic comes in very handy. Although there are always exceptions, most languages have clear grammar rules that govern how particular words behave in more complex sentences. If you can analyze and make sense of those rules, learning a new language will much easier.

Prep your brain – tip #2: Dedicate time to solving puzzles, learn to play chess, or practice complicated math equations to improve your logic and insight into how languages are built.

3) Meditate your way to fluency

Meditation has been proven to be an all-around great idea to help you increase your concentration and brain function. Not surprisingly, this means that meditation can also help you learn a new language quicker.

With meditation, you can learn to switch off distracting thoughts that would otherwise stop you from concentrating on your language learning efforts. This means that you’re more focused on the task at hand, making it a lot easier to memorize new vocabulary or recall old information.

Prep your brain – tip #3: Practice meditation or yoga through classes or private yoga sessions. Even just a few minutes every day have been proven to increase your brain’s capacity to learn new information!

4) Become a great observer

If music can help you acquire a language through recognizing its sounds and processing them better, great observation skills can do that through visual analysis. If you are a natural people-watcher or have spent hours looking at stars through a telescope, you have already given yourself great tools to simplify learning new languages.

Being a great observer means that you pay attention to what is happening around you and critically interpret that info. That is something that is vital for language learning as well. For example, you can look at native speakers (or videos) of your target language and make out what is being said, or detect patterns where more casual onlookers see none.

Prep your brain – tip #4: Hobbies like astronomy or computer games can help you improve your observational skills.


Luckily for all learners, our brains are hard-wired to make sense of the languages that surround us – just look at how easily babies pick up their native tongues. Although this process becomes increasingly difficult with age, the hobbies listed above can make learning easier for you.

Take the time to exercise your brain, and you may become fluent faster than you thought!

 

A lifelong language learner herself, Liisi turned her love for languages into a way of life when she co-founded Teacher Finder. Having studied six languages herself, Liisi finds great pleasure in helping students around the world on their way to fluency. 

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skype with language exchange partner

6 Challenges & 4 Advantages Adults Have Learning Languages

It’s never too late to learn a second language! Sure, kids may have those “spongy” brains… but the reality is, there are many advantages to learning a new language as an adult. Here, Spanish tutor Joan B. explains… 

 

If you studied a language in middle school or high school, you might recall the days of memorizing verbs and vocabulary for your exams. Maybe you also recall learning with ease as you familiarized yourself with foreign sounds, words, and experiences.

As an adult, on the other hand, learning a new language is definitely a different experience. It’s not all bad, though: there are some big advantages, too! Understanding how adults learn differently will help you stay aware of possible challenges, while taking advantage of the benefits of being an adult learner.

Let’s start with the challenges of learning a new language as an adult:

1. You’ll need more discipline to make time for lessons and studying. 

schedule time for learning a language

“Adulting” takes time, and it can be hard to fit in regular lessons and study, both of which are essential for consistent progress in your target language. While you might not have afternoons free like you did as a child and young adult, I recommend blocking out times in your schedule that are distraction-free and one hundred percent focused on language learning. Even if the chunks of time are short, consistent study will lead to noticeable progress, so keep it up!

2. Losing your American accent completely can be difficult. 

speak with accent

When children learn a new language, they naturally assimilate the unique sounds, inflection, and rhythm of the language. As adults, it can be harder to completely master the accent, as the foreign sounds can be challenging to assimilate completely since speech patterns are already set.

There’s good news, though: if you were exposed to the sounds of foreign languages as a child, that can be enough to make learning a new accent easier, as studies have shown that just exposure as children, even without speaking, can familiarize us with the sounds at a later date.

And even without that exposure, there are many ways your tutor can help you improve your accent if it doesn’t come naturally to you. Working with a language tutor — as opposed to relying on prerecorded courses, videos, and apps — is key, as you’ll get feedback and corrections as you’re speaking.

3. You might not have the time for a thrice-weekly or daily class like you had in middle or high school. 

daily language class

You may have counted down the minutes until the end of the school day, whereas now you dream of uninterrupted time for study and self-development as a working adult. The upside is that there are many opportunities for adults to pursue intensive, serious study, as well. You might even benefit more as a serious adult student than you did as an adolescent.

Examples of study you could undertake include summer or winter intensives during time off of work, night classes, online group classes, and private tutoring sessions, all of which can fit into the busiest of schedules. With these ideas, you’ll be learning your target language in leaps and bounds!

4. Spontaneity is often tempered by fear of making mistakes. 

learning language kids

A big difference between adults and kids is that the latter group is often unhampered to try new things, even if it means looking a little ridiculous and making errors. Adults can be intimated by trying new things, and making errors is frowned upon.

This can make it challenging to learn well, as an inherent part of language learning is to make mistakes and experiment! You can remain aware of this downfall and work to overcome fear of mistakes by staying open, having fun, and trying new things.

5. Vocabulary acquisition needs targeted practice. 

spanish vocabulary

As an adult, it’s often not enough to just rely on exposure to acquire and memorize new vocabulary. As you learn, you’ll need to make a targeted and concerted effort to memorize new vocabulary. Children and adolescents can often pick up new vocabulary simply through exposure and repetition; the advantage adults have is that they can choose to focus on specific vocabulary sets that interest them. These could be highly specific (i.e. Spanish vocabulary for healthcare) or general; either way, you’ll be learning exactly what you want to learn, which should feel good! 

6.  Grammar won’t come naturally. 

learning grammar

Children learning new languages often pick up sentence structure and other grammatical points simply by listening and interacting. Adults, on the other hand, may struggle with structures that are different in their native language. Because of this, grammatical exercises and dedicated study are usually necessary.

However, adults can use the grammar rules they already know and understand as a jumping off point for learning a new language’s grammar. This can be advantageous as well as an interesting exploration if you have an interest in how languages function. To sum it up, adults can often explain the “why” behind a usage in a language, while children can only execute the grammatical function without the capacity to explain.


We’ve alluded to a few of the advantages already, but did you know there are more? The next time you’re worried it’s too late to learn a second language, keep these four things in mind.

1. Adults posses greater comprehension ability and organizational practices. 

learning language as an adult

Many parents choose to raise their child bilingual, since young brains can rapidly absorb new information. However, as an adult you will be empowered by your ability to organize, summarize, and comprehend things on a macro-level. Translation: you can see the smaller details within a language, as well as the bigger points you need to master to speak well.

This ability allows you to progress rapidly in a language — if you’re dedicated, consistent, and motivated. You may never be able to learn totally through exposure like a child, but with the above skills, you’ll find yourself speaking and understanding your target language in no time.

2. As an adult, you’re choosing to study language. 

learning language for business

As a high school student, you may have studied a language simply to fulfill a requirement — not the greatest motivator to fuel language acquisition. As an adult, you’ve chosen to study a second language based on your interests, goals, and motivations. Perhaps you want to travel and communicate with locals, use it in your work, or communicate with a loved one, romantic or otherwise.

Here’s your advantage: you can use this motivation to engage more deeply with the language, and simultaneously improve more rapidly. It’s the opposite of learning something only to replicate the information on a written exam to pass a class. Bonus: discuss your goals with your teacher or tutor so he or she can tailor your lessons to your interests!

3. You’ll pick up cultural nuances easier. 

culture in language

The subtleties and finer points of a language may (or may not) be unconsciously absorbed by children; however, adults can consciously notice these elements and use that information to enhance their understanding.

This can allow you to assimilate more easily into the foreign culture of the language you’re learning, plus pick up on nonverbal and social cues. You’ll appear more confident and informed when you find yourself interacting with locals while traveling or just in everyday life.

4. You have more opportunities for practicing your target language. 

skype with language exchange partner

As a younger student, your opportunities for practicing a language were probably restricted to the classroom setting. As an adult, the world is your oyster! You can practice during Skype calls with friends learning the same language, explore a neighborhood in your city that will give you more exposure, or even travel internationally.

Just remember to strike a balance; it’s important to study formally with language materials, but immersion learning will help you master the art of conversation and local dialects.


Ready to Get Started?

As you can see, learning a new language as an adult can be quite different from how you learned as a child! Hopefully you can also see the myriad challenges and advantages, and use them to learn intelligently and enjoyably as you gain fluency in your target language.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that each language learner is different; regardless of age or prior language-learning experience, everybody learns in a unique way. Think about your learning style and goals, and let your tutor know. Enjoy your journey!

Photo credits: The LEAF Projectx1klima

Joan BPost Author: Joan B.
Joan B. lives in Carmichael, CA and has been teaching high school Spanish for more than 18 years. A lover of language, she’s studied French, Arabic, and Italian and spent time living in Spain. Learn more about Joan here!

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