10 ways to keep your language learning going over Christmas

… and other busy times!

December is a busy time and if you are learning a language you are probably wondering how you are going to fit in your language learning on top of everything else. You may be preparing to take a whole month off and start again in January. However, if you prepare in advance, you can easily add in a few language learning activities to coincide nicely with the festive period. Read on for 10 tips to continue learning a language over the Christmas period. Some of them can also be applied to any busy time throughout the year.

1. Relax your goals

Be kinder to yourself by allowing yourself to have some time off over the festive period and not feel guilty about it. Obviously you are going to be busy and probably not be able to continue with your language learning as you have throughout the year. Just remind yourself that you will get back on it in January with even more enthusiasm after a break. Start to make a learning goal for the first week or weeks of January, that way you know that you will definitely get back to your language study and exactly what you are going to focus on.

2. Plan ahead – do more now

To make up for a few skipped days over Christmas and new year where you just know you won’t be able to do any language-related activities, try to build in extra minutes each day now. This may be doing an extra ten minutes on Duolingo, learning an extra 5 words a day or learning an extra tense before Christmas. Set your alarm clock an extra few minutes earlier to build in this additional study time. This way you will not feel guilty about taking a few days off.

3. Create shorter tasks to do when you have a spare moment

Try to create shorter activities that you may be able to fit in first thing in the morning before things get hectic. Have your book or app by your bed and set your alarm ten or twenty minutes earlier than normal.

4. Optimise the break to re-evaluate your reason for learning

We all need a break and often feel better and more energised after it. This also applies to language learning. Use the time to take a step back and just think about how far you have come in the past year and how much more you know compared with this time last year.

5. Set new goals for the coming year

Use the break to set new goals for the coming year. Evaluate what you have learnt in the year ending, what you feel confident with or need more work on. Use this knowledge to plan your language learning over the next few months and the year. You can research new resources, apps and books to keep your motivation high moving into the new year.

6. Learn Christmas vocabulary

Learn words in your target language for the individual days; Christmas, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, Christmas tree, stocking, presents, sledge, Father Christmas, snow and so on.

7. Listen to Christmas songs in your target language

You could search on Youtube for Christmas carols sung in the country where your target language is spoken – for example in Spain, popular Christmas carols (villancicos) include, Blanca Navidad (White Christmas), Campanas de Belén (Bells of Bethlehem) and Vamos, Pastores, Vamos (Let’s Go, Shepherds, Let’s Go). You could find the lyrics and translate them to practise the language and learn new vocabulary.

8. Watch Christmas movies/TV shows in the target language

By watching films in the target language you will not only practise your language skills but you will also see how the language is used in context and learn about the culture too. For example, if you are learning Spanish popular films include “Noche de Reyes” (Twelfth Night), “Feliz Christmas, Merry Navidad” (Happy Christmas, Merry Christmas) or “Operación Regalo” (Arthur Christmas).


  • Watch without subtitles for a pure listening activity as in real life.
  • Or photograph the subtitles of the words or phrases you don’t understand to look up later on.
  • Rewind the parts you didn’t understand, perhaps they were too quick.

9. Make a Christmas recipe from the country

Search online for a recipe of a traditional food eaten in the country at Christmas and make it by following the instructions in the target language. You could even watch a video on Youtube of it being made. For example, in Spain traditional Christmas recipes include “polvorones” (shortbread cookie), turrón (nougat), “Roscón de Reyes” (King’s Day ring-shaped Cake).

10. Research Christmas and new year celebrations

It is always interesting to learn about how different cultures celebrate Christmas and New Year. This can also help you learn new words and terms in the language you are learning. For example in Spain, by finding out about how they celebrate New Year, you will learn words like, “uvas” (grapes), campanadas (bell chimes), “champán” (champagne) and “suerte” (luck).

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