10 Language Learning Activities That Take 5 Minutes or Less 5


You don’t have time for language learning, right?

Let me tell you something – you don’t need huge amounts of time to make progress in the language you’re learning.

There are plenty of things you could be doing to move your learning forward, even if they only take five or ten minutes.

The philosophy behind 5-Minute Language is that you can learn languages even if you have a busy lifestyle. Too many people feel held back by their other commitments and they put off learning until they’re free.

Will they ever be free? Will they have more time?

Maybe the question should be: do they have minutes here and there right now? I think it’s a much more relevant question, and I think the answer is often ‘yes’.

So, instead of thinking about language learning as a future activity, something that you will do at some point when you have a bit more time, why don’t you try one (or more!) of the following language learning activities that only take five minutes or less to complete.

1.Go through your day’s schedule

This is something you can do at the start of each day. As you’re having a shower, getting dressed or preparing breakfast, go through your day’s schedule in the language you’re learning. Say it out loud – what are your plans for today?

Do a little bit of speaking practice as you get ready for the day ahead. It won’t take longer than five minutes – I promise! And if it does – that’s fine!

2.Check the news and focus on three new phrases

Go to your favourite news site in the language you’re learning and check the main story. Read the first two paragraphs and pick three new phrases that you’d like to remember. I like to record my new phrases in Evernote.

I record each phrase, the sentence it’s in and I come up with my own sentence that contains the phrase. Like this:

New phrase:

Sentence with the new phrase taken from the news story:

My own sentence containing the phrase:

I then come back to the note the following day to make sure the new phrases stick!

3.Translate what you see around you

This is another speaking/writing activity that will help you practise the language you’re learning. Whenever you find yourself not doing anything for a few minutes, look around and find some text to translate. It might be a leaflet that’s been posted through your letterbox, a menu if you’re waiting for a friend in a restaurant, or a magazine somebody left on the seat next to you on the bus journey home.

Translate it (out loud if you can) or write it down. If there are any words in the text that you don’t know, look them up and add them to your vocabulary notebook (or your note in Evernote!).


Cafés are always full of leaflets and magazines. Pick one up and translate anything! Image: Rob Bye

4.Pick an object and describe it with adjectives

This is similar to the activity I described above. This time, pick up any object you find and think of five different adjectives that you can describe it with.

Be creative and try not to use any common adjectives such as ‘big’, ‘small’ or ‘nice’. Come up with more complex synonyms. If you don’t know any, look them up and record them in your vocabulary notebook.

You can then go over them again the following day whenever you find five minutes between your day’s activities.

5.Do a lesson on Memrise, Duolingo or italki

This is particularly useful when you’re a beginner or a lower-intermediate learner. Memrise and Duolingo are great free apps for learning little bites of vocabulary on the go. The lessons are so short that you can even squeeze more than one into a five-minute period.

Another activity that will take you less than five minutes is scheduling a speaking lesson on italki. You won’t be able to complete the lesson in five minutes, of course, but once it’s booked, you’ll be less likely to pull out when the time comes!

If you don’t know what italki is – it’s a platform where you can find partners/tutors to practise your speaking skills with.

6.Learn one new thing – Google it

Every day is good for learning something new – and I’m not thinking about foreign language vocabulary. I’m thinking of learning new facts about this or that.

For example, I was reading the news this morning and a story about the Maldives came up. I don’t know too much about the Maldives so I thought I’d look it up on Wikipedia. Instead of doing it in English, I thought I could do it in French!

So, what’s the thing you want to learn about today?

7.Listen to a song and try to remember the lyrics

Listen to a song in your target language and try to memorise the lyrics – it’s a great way to get some nice collocations stuck in your memory. Also, singing is fun, isn’t it?

Once you’re done, add your newly learned phrases from the lyrics to your vocabulary notebook or Evernote.

8.Watch a Youtube video

If you haven’t subscribed to any channels in your target language yet, use your next five-minute break to do some research.

All you need to do for the most popular languages is google ‘best channels for learning X language’ or ‘best channels in X language’. They don’t need to be channels specifically for learning languages. They can just be channels run by people who speak the language you’re learning.

Once you’ve done your research and subscribed to some channels, use the next five-minute period that comes along to watch a short video. If you’ve got some time left, summarise the video’s content in your own words – say it out loud!

9.Get involved in a conversation on Facebook

Head over to your favourite Facebook group where people use your target language. Read the recent comments and get involved!

10.Write down what you did today

Image: Cathryn Lavery

Image: Cathryn Lavery

Journaling is a great way to practise your language skills. You can keep it simple and just record three things that made you happy that day, and three things you’d like to do more of the following day.

I use the Motivation Journal to do that and I like to record my entries in different languages, depending on my mood!

Good luck and let me know in the comments if there’s anything else you do that takes five minutes or less!

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  • Journaling from memory by decoding mnemonics is by far my favorite thing to do next to creating the mnemonics in the first place.

    I like the object idea a lot. It makes me realize how much I need to focus on those skills with my current Chinese project. Thanks for the tips! 🙂

    • You’re welcome Anthony and thank you for your comment! I’d be interested to hear more about your decoding/journaling technique – have you written about it on your blog at all?

  • Julia Reed

    Hi Agnieszka!

    I like every single one of these tips! I try to describe the objects, but sometimes it goes too far, and my vocabulary is lacking pretty much.

    Also, I love the concept of memorizing new phrases. Writing down a phrase itself, along with the context and own example of using it is a highly efficient way to remember the phrase. I am definitely going to follow this excellent piece of advice 🙂

    The time is precious; that’s why we need to involve every minute in mastering the language to make progress. Huge thanks for sharing such a helpful post, Agnieszka!

    • Thank you for your comment Julia! I’m glad you found the advice useful 🙂 Which language(s) are you learning at the moment?

      • Julia Reed

        Recently I started learning the German language. A friend of mine helps me with it, but mostly it’s self-education 🙂