10 Things to Ensure a Successful Language Learning Challenge…

There are a lot of awesome language learning challenges to choose from these days. From a weekend challenge to a 26-day mini-challenge and 100-day mega language marathons. Here are 10 things you can do to ensure the successful completion of a language learning challenge…

Some of the most popular challenges are Language Jam, Add 1 Challenge (now rebranded as the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge), My Language Challenge and the Parleremo Language Marathon.

Now a lot of people like the idea of speaking a new language, but do not put in the focus and work required to actually learn the language!

Drop out rates in challenges can be high, so what can you do to ensure you successfully complete a language learning challenge and not be just another dropout…

1 What Challenge is RIGHT for you?

Firstly, you need to ask yourself what you would like to achieve?

If you don’t know what language you would like to learn maybe a shorter challenge that offers an auto-generated language is right for you, such as LangJam (held over a weekend) OR the 26-Day Parleremo Language Marathon. A short challenge that gives you a little taster into a new language without the commitment.

If you know the language you want to learn and want to hold a conversation for 15 minutes within a 90 day period then My Language Challenge or the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge would work well for you. These challenges like regular video updates to be posted during the challenge. My Language Challenge now has an app so you can access the challenge on the go!

If you have hopped about languages in the past without making great progress, but now want to get focused on just one language, build a consistent study routine and level up your language learning then the 100-Day Parleremo Language Marathon is a perfect option for you! This challenge also focuses on literacy in your target language. In the challenge, you have the option to make regular progress updates via video, audio recordings or journal entries.

You may also need to consider things such as resources and recording eqipment, budgets, community support vs professional support. The Fluent in 3 Months Challenge will give you results if you are willing to commit but comes with a hefty price tag as you are paying for the brand and the awesomeness that is Benny.

Whilst the Parleremo Language Marathon and My Language Challenge offers the same amount of high-quality and support for a lot less, but with no Benny, unfortunately. LangJam is currently free to participate in.

2 Are you READY?

Once you have decided what challenge is right for you then ask yourself if you are ready? Languages challenges are a big commitment and you don’t always see results straight away. It takes time, consistency, motivation, discipline and FOCUS.

All of the challenges listed do give an excellent amount of support, but there is also an element of personal responsibility and acceptance required too. No one can learn this language for you!

3. MAKE YOUR INNER VOICE THE CHEERLEADER

Our inner voice will determine how we approach a language challenge. What we are saying to ourselves at any given moment has the potential to make or break us! This could be the difference between staying in the challenge OR quitting. If your critical inner voice starts telling you that you are “no good, you aren’t going to learn this language“, it will just highlight any fears and anxieties that you may already have.

The language you use dictates that internal movie you play in your head, for example: “I can’t do this it’s too hard”. If you keep repeating this to yourself over and over you may come to believe it and are more likely to give up and pull out of the language learning challenge!

So it’s very important to become aware of the language we are using and become our own cheerleaders. “This is new to me, I can do this with some practice/support“. One great bit of advice that was once given to me by a teacher was to always add “yet” to any negative learning thoughts. For example “I do not understand this YET” OR “I can’t do this YET“. As humans, we’re very good at talking in negatives to ourselves.

Let’s change this NOW and choose to focus on the positives instead!

4 VISUALISE speaking the LANGUAGE!

Imagining yourself speaking the language to a native speaker is actually only helpful to an extent! It’s like an athlete imagining themselves getting the gold medal! It may give you a certain level of belief but doesn’t help in the actual process. What you really want to be able to imagine is doing the ‘little‘ things that will get you to the finish line. Start practicing the vocab in your head and applying it to real life situations.

When we imagine being able to do something we are mentally rehearsing it. It communicates with the body too – when we imagine something, we fire up the same neurons in our brain as when we are actually experiencing it. We want to prime our brains to be able to deal with those situations such as conversations in our target languages.

5 Discover YOUR OWN STUDY ROUTINE…

Having a consistent study routine is crucial. You will not always be motivated and this is when you need to be disciplined in your approach. Sticking to your language learning routine and studying on the days you really don’t feel you want too!

Eventually, the routine will start to become a habit. My own personal routine starts at 7 pm I do 20 minutes focused study, followed by a 10-minute break where I think about all the new vocabulary I have just learnt (diffused study) and then I do another 20 minutes, with the first 5-10 minutes reviewing what I did before the break. Before moving on to any new material.

I do this for 6 days a week and then on day 7, I use an app, such as Drops, UTalk or Duolingo for 15 minutes. We are all different, some of us study better in the evening whilst others prefer to study in the morning. Use the first week or so of the challenge to discover what works best for you.

6 SET small GOALS

Once you are in a language challenge, don’t think too far ahead! Although you do want to be aware of how much progress you make in a weekend, 26, 90 or even 100 days. The progress you make is personal to you and depends on many different factors so please don’t compare yourself to other language learners.

A lot of people tend to do the first 10 days or so and think: “Oh my god I’ve still got 16/90 or whatever days to go!” And even if you are thinking positively, that doesn’t help because your mind goes out to the future. And where you really want to be is ‘in the zone’. The zone is a present state of mind – the here and now.

If you start thinking “oh my god I’m going to win this challenge and unlock the gold badge” it can actually have a detrimental effect on performance because you are not focusing on what you are doing in the present moment. Set yourself small weekly or even daily goals.

This week I have set myself a goal to learn the 1000 most common words in Dutch! I have broken this down into learning about 150(ish) words per day. But that’s all I’m going focus on: Then after I have completed this goal I will set another goal. Then another one AND another… The goal for you may be to learn just 5 – 10 new phases per-day. Having a goal makes a big difference because you are staying more in the moment rather than than focusing on the distance, which is where all the anxiety lies.

7 It’s all about the PROCESS, NOT the OUTCOME!

Real winners don’t actually think about winning as their focus is on performance. The best way to complete a language challenge is to think about what you are doing in the present moment.

Focus on the process rather than the outcome. That’s the only thing you are in control of at any given moment. Remember it’s the process that will determine the outcome and drive you forward, not the other way around!

8 Don’t fear mistakes -LAUGH at them!

Enjoy the language challenge, ensure that you connect and support others, have some fun and don’t take things too seriously. We all make mistakes! I remember I kept calling my Spanish teacher an ‘arse‘ BUT what I was really trying to say was ‘year‘. This actually bonded us and gave us something to talk about! Trust me I NEVER made that mistake again.

If you are feeling stressed, anxious or worried about the challenge this will impact on performance. In challenges, some participants think they need to to take it more seriously as it’s a challenge. But actually, we are less capable when we take things more seriously than when we are having fun – #truestory! When we are happy we are more energised. We’re actually more intelligent. The synapses in our brain fire better when we are happy and when we work together with others.

9 Think of the Challenge as STAGING POST, NOT an END GOAL

If completing the challenge is your only end goal then this can be a problem! What happens after the language learning challenge ends? You get this a lot in sportspeople who want to win the gold medal or a particular tournament because it has been their life’s dream. They achieve it – and then quite often people don’t achieve very much after that, because they haven’t set anything up for after the event.

So set a goal for post challenge, even if it’s just to do a Facebook live in your new language. A challenge is a stepping stone to kick-start the language you are learning in a motivational and supportive environment. What you do after that is UP TO YOU!

If you have something to move on too afterwards it can really help the mind focus. And it means all that studying you’ve done isn’t just for one thing. It really does have a purpose and that makes it more meaningful whether the language learning challenge goes well or not.

10 REMEMBER what you have ACHIEVED

If the worst happens and you have to pull out, or you get ill, try to think positively. Focus on what you have achieved and not what you haven’t. If you managed 25/50 days, that’s still amazing. Top performers reflect upon challenges as learning experiences.

If you were going to do it again, what would you learn from this experience? What would you do differently? Then your mind starts looking for answers. Instead of focusing on the negative you look at things you did right, and look for areas of improvement and that fires the brain towards something rather than away from it.

If you look at all the things you do wrong you actually are mentally rehearsing your mistakes, which means you are more likely to repeat them in the future! So don’t go into denial, put your focus on solutions and what you need to do to drive you forward, achieve your goals and complete a language learning challenge. Good luck!

Taking part in a language challenge? Let us know which one and how you are getting in the comments section below…

Published by

The Mindful Language Learner

Trisha, is the founder of Language Learners Journal.com. An award-winning blog dedicated to empowering and promoting a more mindful approach to independent language learning and teaching across the UK and beyond. Trisha has a professional and academic background in psychology and well-being. She has been practicing mindfulness for over 20 years and has professionally taught CBT-based mindfulness for the past 7 years. You can follow Trisha on her official Facebook Page, Instagram or Twitter accounts to discover how to apply simply mindfulness practices and scientifically proven strategies to your language learning...

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