It will be a week from tomorrow since the iTalki Language Challenge began (and if you still want to participate, remember you have until the 31st to sign up!) After taking 4 sessions (2 don’t count because I started them before the challenge began.), I can already notice a difference in my ability to speak Japanese!
Now I’ve been learning Japanese (seriously) on my own since 2008 but one of the things I struggled with the most was actually speaking the language. It seemed like when I was always hitting a plateau, especially when it came to speaking. I was going through a labyrinth trying to experiment with different language methods until I could finally find something that would be sufficient to work with.
So what has this challenge taught me so far?
Consistency Is Absolutely Vital
One of things that held me back from making progress in Japanese was not dedicating enough time to improve BOTH my active (speaking and writing) and passive (reading and listening) learning skills. In the past, I would either focus on active only or passive only not realising that you would need both to truly make a breakthrough in the target language.
I remember trying gathering various resources throughout the internet trying to figure out what were the best textbooks, online courses, blogs, and YouTube videos were for learning Japanese. It wasn’t until I began exploring YouTube that I was able to find videos from people who had learned Japanese successfully (such as Hikosaemon, Kemushichan, and Tofugu to name a few), as well as coming across the blog: All Japanese All Time by Khatzumoto.
Between 2008-2010, I was able to meet with a fellow Japanese learner and a native speaker on Skype (at suddenly and irregular intervals, mind you.) as well as practising my written Japanese on the popular blogging platform Ameba and eventually getting entries corrected through Lang 8. While I was aware of iTalki, I didn’t actually start using it until April of last year.
Going from college textbooks like Nakama and Genki to self-study courses like Japanese for Busy People , Common Japanese Collocations, JapanesePod101, Japanese Sentence Patterns for Effective Communication
and Breaking into Japanese Literature was enough to drive anyone mad. However, it was having a consistent plan to follow on a regular basis which made courses like these quite effective.
Readjusting your schedule to dedicate time to your target language daily is crucial for making progress in your target language. By deciding to learn your target language you are going through a journey to achieve fluency. Any time you devote to the language is beneficial. What I’ve often done was listen to podcasts during a long commute to work or school. The podcasts would keep me motivated to learn Japanese, especially if they were lessons from LingQ. Which meant I could use my laptop to read and listen along with that podcast later on.
These challenges enable us to add more intensity to our language learning by giving ourselves a specific deadline to blast through language barriers. It’s having the persistence to go through this intensive language adventure to discover new techniques and perhaps being able to find the method that works for you. Pledging to complete these 20 lessons will warrant progress I would not have gotten otherwise.
Never Tell Others Your Goals Until They Become A Daily Habit
Now this doesn’t only apply to learning language but also to other important goals you have in life. One of the things that has caused so much failure in different aspects of my life was mentioning my goals prematurely. The moment I did that it seemed like it was impossible to motivate myself to do it. I never really thought about it until I decided to put it to the test, thanks to this article: Why Telling People Your Goals Is A Fatal Mistake.
That article encouraged me to keep to my goals to myself until I actually started doing them on a regular basis. By following a set of goals that are “for your eyes only”, you will be able to concentrate on what you need to do and how to execute it.
Telling people you plan on learning a language before you even begin is one sure fire way of it not happening. How do I know? Because it’s happened to me before with languages I wanted to learn but ended up pushing them aside instead.
I remember at one point I had 122 books for learning languages.
That was a bit obsessive and not to mention that I was trying to study too many languages at one time that I didn’t progress in any of them. Most of these “books” were Teach Yourself and for the most part had audio that came along with them. However, it ended up demotivating me from learning languages. Eventually, I decided to stick with the languages that meant most to me and then go from there.
Which ended up making things much more easier in the end. You learn the languages you want and then as you’re progressing tell people you’re learning said language. I don’t know about you but I’ve had people brag on my behalf about how many languages I speak and it can be quite embarrassing if you have to them you’re not fluent in them yet or “just starting out” in them.
Tell me, how’s your progress going so far in the iTalki Language Challenge? Do you feel like your speaking skills have improved? Do you find it challenging for your level? Can you understand your tutor without them having to switch to your native language/English?