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Dear Professor Arguelles,

Recently, I came across one of your videos titled “A Polyglot’s Daily Linguistic Workout”, in which you explained your language learning routine at the time. In this video, there was a shot of a little notebook in which you had documented all of the time spent on your languages, including your native language, English. Having diagnosed myself with polyitis, I too want to “collect” my time spent on different languages. This way, I will be able to have something concrete in addition to my theoretical knowledge.

As I have been into the study of languages for a few years now, I have tried tracking my time multiple times already. However, I quickly ran into problems. I was not sure, for example, how to track small talk in the grocery store, reading native language grammar explanations about the use of my target language, playing tennis with a friend during which you do not talk at all times, meeting with a group which would statistically mean I talk less, or writing this comment during which I may think in my native language sometimes. It is obvious that tracking time spent learning, or engaging with languages (which may also be an important distinction for tracking), which one could argue you practically do all day to some degree, is not that straightforward. I am curious to know how you manage(d) these obstacles and how you document(ed) your time spent with your languages, as I am stuck at the moment and would really like to have a visual indication of my progress.

Thank you very much in advance.

Kind regards,


My reply:

Dear Adriaan,

Thank you for writing with an intriguing issue that I am sure will be of interest to many. Indeed, to really get into the habit of systematic study, it is very valuable to track your time. You are right, the process is not always straightforward, and it can sometimes be hard to quantify how much time you can legitimately claim as “studied/used” for a given language when engaging in small talk during the course of everyday life and other examples that you cite.

Honestly, I think it is better to give yourself less credit than too much, so I think it is a good procedure only to count hours that you can clearly document as being engaged in a specific task. Two hours spent reading a book? Yes, that counts. Two hours going out to run errands, using the target language to get them done in the shops, etc. No, don’t count that at all. Fifteen minutes consciously engaging in linguistic meditation? Valid. Fifteen minutes recalled after the fact as “thinking in the target language.” No, don’t count that. Writing your daily log or journal in the target language? Yes, count that, etc.

I hope this answers your question? Wishing you all the best success for establishing solid study habits.

With best regards,

Alexander Arguelles

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My name is Alexander Arguelles. I have pursued foreign languages and literatures with a passion all my life. My goal is to share the knowledge and experience I have gained with others who would like to do the same. Find out more →

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