By Trisha Collins-Dunbar
Whilst browsing the Fluent in 3 Months forums I discovered the #add1challenge, it is an online community created to support language learners worldwide. It is a fee based service, which I feel is motivation enough to complete the challenge as you have paid for it! For the fee you get invited to the very supportive and private Facebook group, there is an accountability spreadsheet, I got sent Glossika materials for the first 15 days (but this depends upon your target language), you get to ask top polyglots questions and you also have the option to join study and mastermind groups (I highly recommend this option). As part of the application progress you have to create an introductory video about why you are entering the challenge. Then if you are accepted to take part you can measure your progress in a series of videos that you do on day 0, 30, 60 and day 90. There are also lots of mini-challenges and assignments to do along the way. If you are able to do all the videos and complete the other tasks then you could be in for winning a return flight to the country of your target language. I do believe there are also runners up prizes (but don’t quote me on that) AND t-shirts.
I took part in A1C17 to learn Chinese Mandarin and A1C20 for Spanish. My plan was to study for a minimum of 45 minutes per day 6 days a week. I managed to achieve this by some act of miracle! Although I did have a break whilst on holiday and some odd reflection days. Even when on holiday I found a Chinese family to chat with and their 5 year old corrected me… A LOT! I am a perfectionist and the #add1challenge helped me over come this and realise that it is okay to make mistakes. Actually I found making mistakes helped me as not only did I learn from them, but they made learning the language fun and helped build rapport with my exchange partners and tutors. An example of this was when I said “Wo shì gou” instead of “Wo you gou“(basically I said I am dog) and when learning Spanish mispronounced ‘anos‘ so instead saying “30 years plus” I said “30 a**holes plus”.
For both challenges day 0 was really scary. In Mandarin the first video took several attempts…the first 5 were just me staring blanking at the camera unable to speak my native language let alone Mandarin Chinese! As I did more and more videos they did become easier to do. I found that one thing that helped me was planning the challenge in advance using bullet point journaling (I’ll be posting more on this method in the future). It really helped to keep me organised and focused. The challenge does promote paid resources so you need to budget for this. I have made a post on language learning on a budget. The italki website that is recommend is actually an excellent resource. Tutors really do help so I highly recommend getting one. I really liked my italki tutors they are so patient with me and I think they deserve a special thank you and maybe even an award for having me as a student.
I was so lucky I had a really supportive mastermind group and they all had such happy, smiley faces. Towards the end of the challenge I was aware that most of my group were in the top 10 (leadership board) and I feel this is a testament to such a brilliant and supportive group. Although it isn’t about leadership boards it is about helping each other to reach the best of our abilities. The study group actually arranged a Skype meeting early on and I feel this was an important factor as we got to see each other as real people. I felt that this helped with accountability. So I do recommend an initial meeting as well as weekly updates with your mastermind group (if you have one) as well as the regular meetups with your study group. It was difficult meeting with my study group as I think one dropped out and the other gentleman was very busy. Which was a shame, but we did message each other when we could and he was also very supportive. I decided to look for a Mandarin Meetup in my local area, but there wasn’t one! Therefore I created one and I have managed to get a room (lol) to meetup in once a month and will continue to do so even though my main language learning focus has shifted to Spanish.
So this was my experience of taking part in the #add1challenge challenge and I highly recommend it! It really was like language learning on steroids and I think I learnt more Mandarin in 3 months then I did 6 years French in school and college! I made some new friends along the way too. Thanks to the challenge my confidence in learning languages has now been boosted and I feel empowered to help others learn another language. I enjoyed the challenges and was shocked to often get mentions for clocking up lots of speaking hours. This is typical for me and unfortunate for others as I can now be a chatterbox in more than one language. I still have a long way to go, but I have gone from Zero Mandarin (knowing nothing of tones, Pinyin, Chinese characters or even being able to hello in the language) to having a basic chat with a native speaker and recognising hundreds of Chinese characters.
Day 0 – Learning Mandarin in 90 days
Day 90 – Clip of a conversation with a native speaker 90 days later
Next steps: I plan to continue to learn Spanish for the next 12 months.
I would like to thank Brian, Nina and the A1C17/A1C20 study groups – you are all awesome people.