As I mentioned in my #Add1Challenge Recap, I had quite a few resources I used to learn. I also had a schedule that I (mostly) stuck to. I’m now halfway through 2016 and I’m ignoring my self-imposed deadline of being conversationally fluent in a year with determination, just attempting to keep up my study schedule and methods without overwhelming myself.
Not overwhelming yourself is key.
So, in an attempt to keep everything for myself organized, and to help others who may be learning a language, I’m laying out the steps to start – and continue – learning.
The day I sat down to record my Day 0 video, I could fit everything I knew in Italian into less than 30 seconds of video. And I managed to make it to Day 90!
I am now at the end of a 2 week Italian study break, after completing the challenge! My brain needed a break. But with my trip to Italy getting closer I’m jumping back into studying now. ( I know I have some homework from Blessy I need to revisit. 🙂 )
I wanted to give a quick rundown of my thoughts about the whole challenge, now that it’s done.
The #Add1Challenge goal: To set a non-negotiable study goal, follow it, track your progress (recording a YAY, NAY, or break day), and speak with a native speaker entirely in your target language for 15 minutes at the end of 90 days.
We received emails every day for the first 15 days, divided into (optional) mastermind and study groups, and were equipped with some learning resources. The rest was up to us. In order to be eligible to complete the Add1Challenge, we also had to complete 3 mini-challenges, and upload videos for Day 0, Day 30, Day 60, and Day 90.
- The Add1Challenge community is the single best source of motivation for studying outside of school I’ve ever experienced. The A1C Italian community was meraviglioso! I highly recommend joining study groups for A1C. Everyone gave me a general sense of accountability, especially with the study group.
- I set my study goal to be 4 days a week, for 45 minutes per day. A bit on the light side, but I was able to surpass it on a regular basis, which was motivating. I only took all of my allowed break days while I was sick with a cough and couldn’t speak.
- Sometimes you progress in leaps and bounds, and sometimes you can’t see that you’re actually progressing at all. That’s what the monthly update videos are for. I’m glad I had them to re-watch.
- I went from “Ciao” and “Mi chiamo Tina” to having a (still very basic) linear conversation! That daily routine, even if I did the bare minimum amount of studying, really had an impact. Without the A1C, I probably would have gone to bed without studying at all for half of those three months.
- Posting videos of your face on Youtube will always feel weird. You just have to ignore that.
- Listening to your own voice feels the same in a second language as it does in your first language. Another thing to ignore.
- I mentioned the Italian learners, but all the challengers were highly motivating, no matter the language. Watching their videos as they progressed was inspiring! (Because if they can do it, so can I.)
- italki is the single best learning resource I have ever found, and is almost tied with the A1C for motivation. I clicked with 90% of the tutors I booked lessons with. And I would get corrections on journal entries from native speakers.
- Committing to a finite amount of learning resources is important. There are too many out there to keep up with them all. Figure out which ones work best and leave the rest.
- I had a cough for almost 6 full weeks right in the middle of the challenge. I did get a little panicked about my progress then. At Day 60 I felt like I had regressed, but I doubled up on my italki lessons during the last 3 weeks of the challenge and made it! If it weren’t for the A1C community I probably wouldn’t have bounced back as fast.
- The most successful way I found to not get overwhelmed about my 90 day goal…. Was to ignore it. Haha! But it worked, right? And the advice of the other A1Cers who had done the video before helped as well.
- I met some of the best tutors on italki thanks to recommendations from other A1C participants!
- Another grazie mille to Blessy!
The Add1Challenge is something I would definitely recommend to anyone who wants to make a lot of progress in a short amount of time! I’m going to join another challenge in the fall in my push for conversational fluency. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to complete a 30 minute conversation at the end of 90 days without tracking my study time, participating in mini-challenges, and my study group!
List of Favorite Resources
The #Add1Challenge Goal: Have a 15 minute conversation entirely in your target language after 90 days of study.
I did it! Actually, I had a roughly 30 minute conversation completely in Italian – though by minute 20 my brain was pretty fried. Of course, I had gone 10-20 minutes completely in Italian during previous lessons and study sessions, but those usually ended up sounding more like stream-of-consciousness sessions than linear conversations.
Grazie Blessy, my fantastic teacher, for helping me so much!
I had a super short lesson with another tutor first to get my brain “warmed up.” My call with Blessy felt great! There were lots of pauses for thinking about grammar and vocab, but it was an actual linear conversation. I also noticed I make weird faces when I’m thinking.
Now, I just feel… relieved. And accomplished! I went from knowing “Mi chiamo Tina” to this conversation in 90 days! Of course, I will keep studying before my trip to Italy in June. My end goal is to be conversationally fluent, where it isn’t a struggle to communicate in most everyday situations, by the end of 2016. But for now, I’m enjoying how far I have come since late January.
Space, l’ultima frontiera!
When Assignment #3 (make a short, fun video in your target language) of the #Add1Challenge was given, I wanted to do something different from my other videos. One challenger made a video of her dog obeying commands in German, one discussed a children’s book about animals in Chinese, and a few others featured their cats in various languages.
Mini-Challenge #2 of the #Add1Challenge has officially ended!
The goal was to write a minimum of 3 sentences every day for 15 days. I missed one day out of the 15, and that was because I had taken a nap for pretty much an entire Saturday, even after sleeping in. Thanks, stubborn cough that won’t go away! La tosse che non si chiuderà.
I’m learning that it is one thing to drill vocabulary and memorize monologues (both of which are necessary for me, if I want to say anything without reading a script), but it is definitely another thing to understand what natives are saying, even when I know the vocab they are using.
During one of my recent Skype lessons, I could not respond to ANYTHING my teacher said or asked me… unless she wrote it down. Once I read it, I either understood what everything meant, or understood enough to infer what she was saying through context clues… Then I could respond.
Well, if you can’t see the problem there, it’s a big one. How am I supposed to actually speak Italian if I need everything written down to understand it? I can’t. So… here comes my big push for training my ear to hear things correctly (instead of hearing just a bunch of jumbled sounds)… and training my brain to understand what I hear.
Part of the #Add1Challenge is completing mini-challenges on top of your main minimum time commitment goals. I completed Mini-Challenge #1 awhile back, but here is a recap:
Mini-Challenge #1: Speak with 3 different & new language tutors or exchange partners, for at least 30 minutes each, within the span of a few weeks.
I used italki back in early 2015 for a few lessons thanks to Benny’s Fluent in 3 Months blog, so I wasn’t new to the idea. But when my computer died a slow, painful death, and my life got busy, I hadn’t picked it back up… Even after the Add1Challenge started. So, I was excited to get back to it.
I made it 30 days already in my challenge! I edited out about 3 full minutes of dead air during one subject switch, because I had talked myself into a bit of a dead end with my vocabulary. But I did it without looking at notes! Yay! I don’t see much progress with my day to day studying, but looking at this video, versus the day 0 video, I’m happy with my improvement. So parlare un po di Italiano… Sono molto felice, è meraviglioso. 🙂
So I read this really interesting ebook about “organizing” your language knowledge to actually be able to speak at the proficiency level you’re at… Instead of staring off into the distance and attempting to remember sentence structure for the verb you want to use. One of the author’s tips was about forming language “islands,” or pre-prepared monologues on a lot of different topics. So, if someone asks you where you’re from, instead of me just saying, “I live in Oklahoma,” I could say “I live in Oklahoma. I like it. I like it because…” And then the conversation wouldn’t devolve into yes/no questions.
So, after going to Italy in 2014, I attempted to learn Italian on and off for most of 2015. I bought some books, took a few tutoring sessions on iTalki.com, and loved them… Then my computer decided to be super slow, I started working on The Bridge, went on a work trip for a trade show, had a few colds, got a dog, and I forgot about my language learning.
Then in January I found, applied, and was accepted to the #Add1Challenge community. The goal is to have a 15 minute conversation with a native speaker COMPLETELY IN YOUR TARGET LANGUAGE (in my case, Italian) after 90 days of study and practice. I have a mastermind group to keep myself accountable and motivated, and a study group to actually work on the same language with at the same time.