Challenges, challenges, challenges!!!

I’ve been doing some challenges lately, mainly in Italian, and I actually wanted to write a post when starting and then to look back. But that didn’t happen and I’m getting to the end of challenges, so I try to do both in this post: to describe what I thought of the challenge going in and how it worked or turned out for me.

LingQ challenges

The first challenges I started were in LingQ. I’m doing the following challenges:

  • Monthly LingQing Challenge: Create 1000 LingQs during one month
  • Streak with Steve: referring to Steve Kaufmann (founder of the site) and means achieving your LingQ target every day for 90 days
  • 90-Day Italian Challenge: requires meeting a coin target (10010) for the language you’re doing this for
  • Hard Core 90-Day Italian Challenge: requires meeting targets for known words (546), LingQs (1183), LingQs learned (273), time listening (45.5h), and words read (9009)

I lately found a place where I can adjust my LingQ goal. So far I’ve done the casual version. I don’t know if this affects the 90-day challenges. Had I found this, I probably wouldn’t have changed it, because of fear of burning out, especially since I do other things than LingQ.

The monthly LingQing I’ve done for March, April, and now May. This doesn’t really stress me out, since as long as I’m reading something (in LingQ), I tend to get this fairly easily.  Also the 90-day challenges haven’t been stressful really. I found the normal challenge quite easy and the hard-core one, the only thing that’s not finished so far is the listening, which I think is slightly exaggerated goal comparing to the other ones (or maybe I concentrate too much on reading, that’s a thought…). But,  I only need half an hour more, so that’s totally doable. The only stress became from the fact that suddenly I was on top of the challenge, and of course this creates a need in me to stay there… I try not to worry about it too much. Luckily this ends next weekend.

The one that’s stressing me out the most, though, is the Streak with Steve. I’m on day 65 of my streak and I don’t want to quit now, but I’m finding it harder and harder to do this. I do think that daily thing is a good thing for the language you’re learning, but I’m doing other things too. This streak doesn’t count if I do 1h in iTalki and listen to podcasts for 2h, I still need to get my 13 LingQs in. At least I’ve kept it at the casual level. I think I will do this, because I’ve gotten too far not to, but it’s starting to burn me out a bit, which I notice is something that sometimes happens with me and challenges (see iTalki challenge). I won’t do this again for any other language…

iTalki challenge

I first thought not to participate, because I though the time frame was one month, and I thought I would need to book too many lessons to make it feasible for me. Lessons is the part of language learning that take a lot of energy out of me, even if I find them very useful. Kerstin mentioned at the Fluent Language Learners Facebook group that it actually continues almost to the end of May. So, I thought to make a modest goal of 12h (the lowest level) and try to do it. Sadly the 2h I had done during the challenge was going on didn’t count, as they count only when you sign up for it. But, I thought it was still very much doable. This was when things started to get out of hand…

I had scheduled 2h of Italian every week, but I needed a few more lessons. So, first I tried to add Russian, with an idea that it’s a language I already know pretty well and I would just need to activate the speaking. Well, could’ve been a good idea, but the tutor I had used previously didn’t really have times available for me and the one I chose was not a suitable match for me. Then I thought I’d add more Italian with another tutor besides the teacher I loved, but who I tried in my initial search and who wasn’t bad.

But then I thought, well, I could also try Basque. This is a language I’ve been interested in for a long time, but just never have picked up. So, I decided to book lessons. Also, because the other Italian teacher only had a package of 45min lessons, I decided to book 1.5h to offset that, since the challenge only counts full hours. But then, I was left with one half an hour… So I decided to book 0.5h lesson with a Japanese teacher and kind of try to see if that would work for me. Well, I really enjoyed my Basque lesson, AND I decided to revive my Japanese, which I had thought of doing once I could leave Italian more to maintenance mode.

What happened then: This might’ve still been an ok situation, but I ended up not liking the Japanese teacher I’d chosen, but I had a package of 5 lessons with her. So, I thought I’d try another teacher, who turned out to be great, but then I was still finishing the package with the first teacher. In Basque, I was enjoying my lessons, but they were very grammar heavy, so I thought I’ll try the other two teachers in iTalki.

The first one, I booked a lesson with and there was a lot of hassle back and forth because it’s not a good time for her and how we should reschedule and then it works and then it doesn’t. I finally booked a lesson on another slot, but she never showed up… She wanted to reschedule, but it was enough hassle that I wanted my money back. This was finally decided by iTalki and I got my money back and I didn’t see her in the site anymore, so I don’t know what happened there. Maybe I wasn’t the only student who had problems like this with her. But already, since I thought I won’t take more than that first lesson with her, I decided to try the 3rd one. I was initially hesitant to book him, since his working hours were from midnight to 7am for me, and that’s not exactly ideal for me.

So, suddenly I was having 3 Italian lessons, 2 Japanese lessons, and 2 Basque lessons a week… Which is a bit much… The second Basque teacher ended up being really good for my conversation, but not really enough grammar in my opinion (yes, I’m picky). However, in combination these 2 teachers really complimented each other, so I decided to keep them both, but reduce the lesson with the other teacher to 1h after the initial package.  But I did this killer schedule for the last 2 weeks of the challenge, that ended today.

So, in summary, I am a bit burned out. This because I do homework to most of my classes and I like to do extra things in addition. But my Italian has improved greatly, partly because of the teacher that I love, because she gives me articles that are challenging, but is great at helping me to discuss them with a bit simpler terms. Also, she corrects me, but not too much, so that I don’t feel nervous and I actually improve instead of just regressing because I’m getting anxious.

From this week forward, I have one lesson in Italian (and I will keep reducing this and leaving it off at some point), one lesson in Japanese with the teacher I really liked, and two lessons in Basque, but 1h each. Hopefully this will be a bit more sustainable pace.

30 day speaking challenge

Last but not least, I also signed up for Jonathan Huggins’s 30 Day Speaking Challenge (30DSpC). It used to be free, but now he’s charging 10$ per month per person. With this, you can practice as many languages as you want. I tried this some time ago when I was restarting my Japanese the last time, but I think my Japanese wasn’t strong enough and I couldn’t keep it up. I thought that my Italian was good enough though.

So, for May, I’ve been doing videos everyday (well the first one was an audio only). I wanted to go with videos, because I speak a lot with my hands, and with the video you see the gestures and body language also. I post this in the Facebook group and the google docs document, which is a bit more “private” setting, and where you might get corrections also if this is something you want/need. I don’t really care about the corrections, although they are kept at a very good level, and I’ve actually found them helpful. But even more, I like to have the conversation with the person whose correcting my Italian, she seems very nice!

The best part of this is the community which is both supportive and also holds you accountable a bit. Not that anyone will hunt you down if you don’t do your recording, but you see all those other people doing it, so you feel like you need to as well. I’ve only missed one day, I forgot, but I made it up in the next day’s video when I talked about both themes.

You can do this in any language you wish, if you find the daily theme too hard for your language skills or just boring, you can totally talk about something else. The main thing is to keep talking. I’ve tried to adhere to the topics, because I like the challenge to talk about something I don’t really know that much about or had never thought I would talk about. Too often I keep practicing things that are interesting to me, but when you talk to other people, you also need to understand when they talk about their lives and interests.

Surprisingly, I haven’t found this at all stressful. My goal was, even if I would miss some days, that I would keep on going. And I have. I think for me, I need to be on an intermediate level in the language, so that I can speak without having to script what I say. Or, if I need to script it, that I can do it fairly quickly without spending my whole evening on it. If it’s too hard, then I won’t do it. One idea, if I wanted to practice something easy, is to ignore the themes and just spread your intro a bit and then just even talk about your day a bit every day, like a daily journal. That might be an idea if I wanted to do it in Japanese for example.

I’ve signed up for next month, and I think I’m still keeping it in Italian, I quite like the Italian learner’s community and I’ve gotten to know a few of them a bit. We’ll see what I’ll do in July, but I’m really hoping to add this to things I do every month, because I’m finding it both useful and not too stressful. When the challenge is over for May, I will post my first (or actually the second, because I think that’s more descriptive of my level at that point) and last video, so you can see how much progress I’ve made. This is not all due to the 30 day speaking challenge, I did have 2.75h of Italian lessons on iTalki for every week in May, but I’m sure the daily speaking was helpful.

I’ve already signed up for June, and at this point I’m thinking of continuing with Italian, but of course I might change my mind, since it’s a week away…

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