In September 2013, Brian Kwong created the Add1Challenge. The aim of this challenge is to bring enthusiastic language learners from around the globe, make goals for ourselves for which we commit to for a period of 3 months, and support each other and track our progress through a fantastic online community of like-minded individuals.
In this video interview and post, Brian will tell you about 3 important lessons that he’s learned throughout this challenge. And if you couldn’t be part of the Add1Challenge that just ended this late December, not to worry because starting January 1st registration for the second round of the 3-month challenge will begin! Enjoy the interview and Brian’s post!
The first Add1Challenge just finished around Christmas this year, and it was a resounding success. I’ve learned a lot during this time, as all Add1Challengers did. Below are the 3 biggest lessons that I’ve learned from interacting with 100+ language learners over the past 3 months.
1. The Inevitable Enthusiasm Curve
You know how excited we all get when we take on a brand spanking new, exciting project?
Well, no matter how excited we are initially, there will be days during the project when it’s too much and we don’t want anything to do with it.
If you map out your enthusiasm on a graph throughout a project, this is how it may look like.
Learning a language is no different.
We get all fired up when we first start to learn a new language. Then life gets in the way, excitement fades, all of a sudden we don’t have any more time, we beat ourselves up for not being excited anymore, and then we stop learning.
Sounds familiar? This was the story of my language learning journey before the Add1Challenge.
The secret to overcome the ups and downs of the inevitable enthusiasm (or motivation) curve is:
- Expect and accept the ups and downs, there is nothing wrong with it
- When you are at the bottom of the curve, focus on figuring out what it will take to get excited about learning your language again.
In an interview with Anthony Lauder, one of the best speakers at the Polyglot Conference in Budapest, I asked him: “If you only had one hour to study per day, how would you maximize that hour?”
Anthony’s response was, “Do whatever it takes in this hour for you to want to learn another hour tomorrow.”
“Do whatever it takes” may mean different things for you, but for me it means switching up materials and adding variety since I’m the type of person who gets bored easily.
When I don’t have any head space to learn, I watch anime or funny videos on YouTube in my target language.
Of course, if I watched anime for an hour every day for 90 days, I wouldn’t get anywhere at the end of 90 days.
So learn how to balance play time and study time that works for you.
Add variety, try new things, be flexible and balance play time and study time. Thi is how you can combat the ups and downs of the inevitable Enthusiasm Curve and make progress at the same time.
2. The Hidden Benefits of Practicing With a Native Speaker Online
We just spoke about changing things up and adding variety to your learning, but there was one thing that I consistently did during my Add1Challenge without fail.
Yup, it was speaking with a native speaker online.
I discovered that the more questions I eliminated, the easier it was for me to fulfill my one hour of language learning. And I was able to eliminate three key questions when I scheduled an appointment with an exchange partner or an online tutor:
- When will I learn today? (It’s in my schedule, I don’t have to think about it)
- What will I learn today? (Whatever I want to say in my target language)
- How will I learn today? (Practice speaking and listening)
All I need to do is to show up and boom, 30 minutes or an hour is gone in the blink of an eye.
(We will cover what to do and how to make it easy to practice with your tutor inside of the Add1Challenge)
If you actually like your tutor/ exchange partner and enjoy speaking and learning with him/her, it makes it even more fun and easy.
I not only get some speaking and listening practice, I also get to know a new friend and form bonds with awesome people. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!
The days when I don’t have an italki teacher or a language partner scheduled, those are the days when I struggle to fulfill my hour.
So I highly recommend you get yourself a language partner or an informal tutor. (The only time you need a professional tutor is if and when you need help with grammar).
The easiest way to find a language partner or an affordable online tutor is through italki.com.
You can easily find a language partner for free and practice both of your languages over Skype. Truth be told, however, it’s not easy to find someone who is committed, willing to learn on a regular basis and sometimes, who will consistent show up on time.
It’s still possible though, as I have exchange partners myself, but there is a cost for the “time” it takes to find them, so I’d rather just pay a small fee to speak with someone whom I can rely on and enjoy speaking with. (It still takes time to find the right tutor but definitely faster than finding a free language partner).
I completed 55+ Japanese and German lessons on italki in the past 3 months and I paid an average of $5-8 USD per hour.
It is very affordable, it’s totally worth it and anyone can do this.
This worked not only for me, but also for many other Add1Challengers and the results speak for themselves, so give it a try!
3. The Secret of Conquering Mt. Fluency in Any Language
We all know that it takes a lifetime to master and be REALLY fluent in a language. It’s like climbing a huge mountain, Mt. Fluency.
Mt. Fluency is so huge that sometimes you can’t even see the top and this can be overwhelming.
The secret of conquering Mt. Fluency is:
- Put reaching the top of Mt. Fluency in the back of your mind; be aware that it’s where you want to be (if your goal is to reach a high level of proficiency in a given language), but don’t keep your eyes on the summit at all times. Rather, focus on the ascent that’s right in front of you.
- Break down Mt. Fluency, 90 days at a time.
- ONLY focus on mini one-step goals.
In my case, I knew that what I needed to work on was building a routine that worked for my schedule, as well as making time out of my day dedicated to language learning.
So my one-step, mini goal became to take 1 hour a day and do something related to my target languages (Japanese and German), every day.
That’s all I focused on for 90 days. I didn’t particularly care about how fluent I was speaking with a native speaker on day 91. All I cared about was whether I was able to build the habit of one hour a day.
We’re all different, so you may not have a problem with routine and time. If that’s your case, then ask yourself:
“What’s the one thing that if I master in the next 90 days, it will take me closer toward the top of Mt. Fluency?”
It doesn’t have to be every day, it could be 5 days a week, every other day, whatever works for you.
Once you create your mini goal, focusing on this one-step goal is easy and anyone can do it.
The only way you can fail is if you quit, so as long as you keep going, you will be conversational and comfortable talking in your target language before you know it.
This is how anyone can conquer Mt. Fluency in any language.
2014 is coming real soon, what is your language goal in 2014?
If you’d like to:
- Break down Mt. Fluency in 90 days;
- Crash the party with other awesome language learners;
- Share your struggles and victories;
- Get access to the best polyglots in the world;
- And finally learn your target language in 2014,
Then sign up for the next Add1Challenge (It’s Free!)
It’s not for everybody, but if this sounds awesome to you, Add1Challenge will be open for registration on January 1st, until mid-January.
There will be a prize for early applicants, so be the first to know when it opens by signing up for the Add1Challenge here.
Thanks for reading all the way up until here, and I’m looking forward to seeing you in January!