Happy New Year 2014 – Looking back and forward

On this last day of the year, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the year that is over, and share with you some of the most memorable moments, posts and podcast episodes from the year.

Listen to me read the post to you:

(trialing the audioblog format. Let me know what you think!)

Happy New Year

2014 is all but over. In fact in some time zones it is already 2015 (hiya Aussies!) but for my time zone, the New Year is only a few hours away. I usually never cared much for New Years. When I was younger it was exciting with the fireworks and being allowed to stay up late, but as I grew up I realised that it was just another day. New Year’s is nothing special, and I think there are advantages to treating it as such. Of course, by any means, celebrate it with your friends and family, drink some nice champagne and have a good time. The danger with seeing it as something special is that we tend to treat it as this magical turn of year, where suddenly every aspect our lives are put in improvement mode through incredibly unrealistic resolutions.

My feeling is that the best time to change your life in a positive direction, whether it’s about learning languages, losing weight or spending more time with the family is right now. You don’t need a New Year’s Eve for that.

Anyway, I’ll get back to that topic one day. For now I’ll just say if you have yet to set your 2015 goals, be sure to listen to AFP 42 – Goals and goal-setting where I try and explain some lessons I’ve learned about setting goals in the last year.

My personal language learning journey

This year I spent a lot of time learning Russian. Significantly less time learning Esperanto and even less learning Toki Pona. It was a great experience, trying to learn languages independently and I quickly realised that just because the process is simple, doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do.

The first many months I was very lazy, and didn’t do NEARLY enough. Then I made a comeback in the last quarter and aided by 1-2 weekly tutoring sessions I started to experience real progress. Not only could I have a conversation with my tutor, but books and texts were starting to make sense too.

Now, my original goal of 3 months was completely ridiculous. I’ve commented before that to be able to speak a completely foreign language after 3 months, you need to put in a considerable daily effort. Which I just wasn’t doing. Add on to that, that it was my first self-studied language and you have what I would call an unrealistic goal.

No matter, I simply extended my goal and started working harder. I will continue to improve my Russian and Esperanto in 2015. For Toki Pona I think I’ve done enough with it. It’s a quirky little language, but it’s not much use in actual communication I feel like.

I also have plans to start learning new languages in 2015, but you’ll have to wait for that announcement till we are in 2015.

How was your 2014? Feel free to share in the comments below!

The Actual Fluency blog

Whilst AF is yet to turn 1, technically launching in the end of February 2014, I feel like this is a great occasion to reflect back on some of the best content from here, as well as sharing some of the statistics with you.

When I launched the blog I had no idea where I was going. In fact, a part of me knew that I was unlikely to continue past a few weeks. That was just based on previous attempts of “making something happen.” You probably know the feeling. You get excited over something and then the initial excitement dies out and you give up.

However, meeting a lot of eager, passionate language learners in Berlin in June, really inspired me and it helped me define a course for not only the blog, but my life in general. Furthermore all the FANTASTIC emails, comments and messages I’ve received as a result of me doing the blog pushed me to constantly provide better and better content. I want to thank you, the reader, for these lovely messages. It means a lot to me.

I also built relationships with lots of great language learners, bloggers and literally living legends through my work on the blog. It’s an incredibly humbling, but at the same time AWESOME experience to spend time with people who understand what it takes to be succesful, as well as living a meaningful life.

My year on the blog also confirmed a universal truth. Don’t give up. Ever. When I first started the blog I had no readers, no network, no nothing. I’m not Benny Lewis or Luca Lampariello in terms of visitors, but I’m proud to say that my email-club is up to 200+ members and the podcast gets downloaded an average of 200 timers – per day!

This is also thanks to you the reader, thanks for sharing my content and telling your friends about what I was up to.

My favourite language learning post from 2014

Let me begin this paragraph by saying that picking my favourite post is like asking a parent to pick their favourite child. My choice is Why would anyone bother to learn Danish – my native language? Not only is it a very popular in terms of visitors to it, it’s also one of my favourites.

I decided to go with this one, because I’m so fascinated by people who want to learn the smaller languages. On a glance it might look like I’m trying to tell people why not to learn Danish, but in fact it’s simply an attempt to humorously point out that even the smaller languages have reasons for learning them. But I totally understand if you decide not to learn Danish.

One of my 2015 2016 projects will be to build a danish learning portal, complete with free lessons, audio content and blog posts. If you want to stay in the loop of that project, please sign up to the waiting list here.

My favourite podcast interview of 2014

This is also an incredibly hard task, so I’m going to use the download numbers to make my decision. I really enjoyed my talk with Anthony Lauder in From Polynot to Polyglot, because he is a totally no-fuss down-to-earth language learner like myself. His presentation at the Polyglot Conference in Budapest still ranks among my favourite language presentations of all time.

I had so many great guests on in 2014, and I hope to continue that in 2015. Remember if you have any suggestions for guests (including yourself!) don’t hesitate to send me a message. You don’t need to know 10+ languages to have interesting input for the podcast.

What will the future bring on Actual Fluency?

One thing I’m realising more and more this year is that my quest to learn languages to escape depression and mediocrity has actually turned into a quest to turn my life around completely. The more I read about self-development and good habits, the more I realise that language learning is completely integrated into how you are feeling psychologically at the moment. Yes, it’s not impossible to learn languages and feel like crap at the same time, but it seems to me there’s a great connection between being able to achieve something and learning languages.

For instance, when I get up early and start my day I’m much more likely to have energy and actually fulfill my language learning goals I’ve set for myself. And conversely, if I had overslept or been eating too much of the wrong stuff, then suddenly my language learning efforts reduced.

After my interview with Alberto in Episode 33, which coincided with me getting into reading actual self-development books, I just knew that this was what I had to do. Why be mediocre if you can be great? And this meant conquering my bad habits of being an overweight night-owl, and becoming an early riser in good shape.

So to summarise, or perhaps clarify, next year will see more awesome language learning content, helpful tips and tricks, more product reviews as well as lots of other juicy content.

A higher purpose

One exciting new thing that I can talk about now, is that I have discovered a deeper purpose. I’m quite annoyed by the level of language learning in schools, particularly at the ages when the kids start learning foreign languages. I want to change the way we teach our next generations languages by committing resources to researching why the language learning fails and come up with ideas and innovations that can prevent it from happening. Such as introducing new language technology, such as Memrise, into the class rooms.

I’d also like to visit schools and speak about the joys of learning foreign languages, to try and spread the word.

Book launch event

A more immediate future thing, but I’m hosting a book event with Kerstin Hammes from Fluent where we will be offering our books at greatly reduced prices for a 24-hour period, as well as having a lot of fun on the day. I can’t yet reveal what my book is about (it’s not out yet) but it has got something to do with learning languages, that’s all I’ll say for now.

Thank you!

As a closing remark, I’d just like to thank everyone who I engaged with this year, readers, listeners, contributors, interviewees, sponsors, partners and friends. I’m so excited about making 2015 the best year ever. Let’s show the world what we are made of!

Happy New Year!

  • ali

    Chris happy new year to you, and the idea of reading posts is AWESOME, wish you a good year 🙂