Time flies when you're having fun. It seemed like only yesterday that I started the iTalki challenge, where I pledged to do 20 hours of tutoring in just 45 days. For me this was an incredible step-up compared to last year where I tended to do 1 hour a week at most. In the post I'll also share my last tutoring session of the challenge, so you can hear my progress.
iTalki Challenge Over
Having done 20 hours of Russian tutoring in just a month and a half, I feel like my level has definitely reached new heights. I can communicate quite freely now, and although I make a lot of mistakes, particularly pertaining to cases, I'm still getting a lot better at it.
But it was not easy!
You might think, how can it be difficult? You just show up for 20 hours of classes and challenge completed, free iTalki credits won and so on. The fact is that having daily lessons, which I did i the beginning simply fries my brain. There's not enough time for processing new material and I struggled to do more than the session every day. This meant that my flashcards (which form the core of my vocabulary) were left untouched and I did not grow my vocabulary very much during the challenge.
I did of course grow my vocabulary and I became more comfortable in the limited vocabulary I already knew, but with the constant lessons I did not have the mental energy to do addtional flashcarding and I think that hurt my progress some.
If I could choose I would probably not have more than an hour of tutoring per week, preferably split into 2 sessions. By doing this I'm getting lessons often enough that I won't forget a lot, and there's ample time in between lessons to process and improve. With that being said though, less can definitely be totally fine too. Just be sure to compensate by using the target language in other contexts to make sure it's not left completely idle. A mistake I sadly made once or twice during this Russian mission already.
The final lesson of the challenge
During the challenge I've shared a few of my lessons to give an insight to not only my level, but also my progress. I'm EXTREMELY proud how this last session went and me and my tutor talk a lot about language learning and I also ask her a few questions about my own level, what she feels the challenge has done to my russian level. Notice I present these lessons unedited to provide a top-level perspective. We do get into some weird discussions, and the last part of the lesson is a grammatical test, so you might want to skip some of those less interesting sections. We talk about the challenge in the first part of the lesson.
Massive shoutout to my tutor: Anastasia for her exceptional tutoring services.
Do I recommend doing a language challenge like the iTalki New Years Challenge?
Doing a challenge like this definitely provides a huge boost to your language learning and you will improve faster than you ever imagined. However, there are a few downsides that I would like to mention before I wrap up all the challenge talk for good.
1. It can be overwhelming
When I was doing lessons daily or bi-daily it put a lot of mental pressure on me, and as somebody who works from home I can only imagine how stressful it can be if you have a full time job to travel to on top of doing a challenge.
It might sound weird, all you do is show up for 1 hour and that's it! How can that be stressful? Well. The thing is that your brain works hard both before and after the lessons. Before every lessons I was “stressed” by the fact that a lesson was coming soon. Another lesson where I would struggle and get my behind handed to me by Russian grammar. This is not the same as just dropping in a sofa and turning on the TV. A tutoring session is a highly cogniscient and mental activity that will drain your batteries FAST.
Not to mention after the lesson your brain is spending energy establishing new neural connections, essentially processing all you have learnt for later reference. Me and my tutor talked about how once a day was too much for me in the episode above, I recommend you listen to that for more information on this.
2. It's a large financial investment in a small period of time
Should you complete the challenge you'll be rewarded with free credits from iTalki. Considering you might be doing tutoring lessons anyway, this is free money for doing what you were already doing – so far so good.
However, tutoring is not free. Even though iTalki rates are more than reasonable 20 lessons still come to a substantial amount of money in a short amount of time for most people. I for example paid an average of ~12-15$ per hour for my extremely talented tutor. This means that the entire challenge would cost something like $300 and then you win a few hundred credits back, depending if you complete the extra side-challenges (recording and uploading a youtube video.)
But, assuming you are already spending money on tutoring regularly, the difference is only that you are spending the money in a tighter time frame – which could be problematic for some as it might be a big portion of the disposable income available for that month or two.
With these negatives being said I would still recommend iTalki challenges to anyone because you can improve so rapidly, building momentum for further success down the road. It's like a kickstart to any language mission. It's also hard work so don't sign up lightly! Even though the practical side of it seems manageable, it can be very stressful for the mind.
Going forward with my Russian
It's been over a year since I posted the first post on this blog: My first language mission – 4 reasons why I'm learning Russian and it's been a great year. My life changed in so many ways and I learned alot about myself as a learner. Although I have technically been learning Russian for over a year I think I'm not even half-way there realistically, as I've been taking some seriously long breaks. My first 7 months of studying the language were so casual that I barely learnt anything.
I'm excited to get better at Russian to the point where I can start improving mostly through passive learning. When I arrive at this point I can also start looking into a new language. However, I want to be sure that my Russian is good enough first. To me it would be a tragedy if I spent all this time learning Russian and didn't take it to the intermediate stages where you really start reaping the benefits of your studies.
I'm going to take a break from tutoring sessions for a few weeks, just to keep it fresh. During this break I'll try and combat my huge list of un-reviewed flashcards and get back to studying a few flashcards every day. I'm embarrased to say that I have only made it to about 1500 words on Memrise for Russian – in a year!!
I'm sure I'll do much better for my next language mission, as I know now what it takes to succeed and I've experimented a lot with the different methods to find some that appeal to me.
How did you challenge go? 🙂
If you are intersted in getting tutoring, I recommend iTalki.