Italki October Challenge over – why challenges are so powerful

Phew! That was a tough challenge. After a few very intense work weeks and recovering from my trip to the US it was time to take on yet another edition of Italki challenges. In this post I’ll share my experience with the October version and also what makes these kinds of challenges so powerful for language learning.

Ever since I had my first tutoring lesson with Italki over a year ago I have been absolutely raving about the effect it has on language learning. Granted, it won’t get you to fluency without any work on your behalf, but it carries so many positive benefits that I struggle with containing my excitement for it.

It’s also extremely affordable.

The Italki October Challenge 2015 was a new experience for me, because it was the first time I took on tutoring lessons in a language that was entirely foreign to me. The task was to do 6 hours of tutoring in 2 weeks, which doesn’t sound like a lot – but actually is quite substantial for most schedules.

I went Hungarian, a language I can barely say five sentences in and just went in head-first. I was lucky to find a great tutor in Norbert, who was able to teach me a lot about Hungarian in just a short amount of time. I even made longer sentences, which is a huge boost for motivation to keep studying.

I only completed the challenge on the very last day in the afternoon, so it was definitely challenging to fit in. I’m currently working quite a bit on my day job and so I got to experience the stress of extensive tutoring as well as working 40-50 hours.

I’m happy I completed the challenge, but I’m not so happy about my own work during it. I barely made any time for studying outside the lessons and thus my performance in the lessons remained rather stale. Of course I learned a lot, but I could’ve gotten much longer if I had put in more desk-time on Hungarian at the same time.

This is one of the key takeaways I’ve discovered about learning languages.

Desk time is by far the most rewarding time you can spend on your foreign language studies. The gain in proportion to the effort you put into it is huge!

That being said tutoring sessions also motivate to put in more desk time and allow your tutor to explain concepts you struggle with, so tutoring is valuable in its own right.

Why are language challenges so beneficial for your progress?

Language challenges, particularly the Italki challenges are highly beneficial for your progress for several reasons.

The main reason is that it motivates you to take more lessons than you normally would. This increases your exposure to the target language and rapidly improves your ability. You also want to perform more outside the lessons, because you want to show off some new words, sentences or constructions to your tutor.

For me, as a relatively lazy student, but also a very busy person, the language challenges help me focus on actually getting some learning done when everything around me is making it hard to focus. So the challenge means that, even if I don’t do ANY other learning I would’ve still done 6 hours of Hungarian in just two weeks. Which is way above par for me – anyway.

When a language challenge is taken in the beginning of your studies in a new foreign language, you can have your pronunciation corrected at a very early stage and thereby eliminating getting into a habit of poor pronunciation later on.

For me personally, it allowed me to have certain grammar concepts of Hungarian explained to me, when my Hungarian was still a blank canvas. This again meant I didn’t need to “unlearn” bad information or insecurities I had about the grammar before.

On Italki  you also get a reward, so you literally get paid to learn a language – how cool is that?

That’s it!

Did you take part in any Italki challenges yet? What was your experience like?

If you want to be notified about upcoming challenges, I suggest you register an account on Italki if you haven’t done so already. Alternatively you can also keep an eye out on Actual Fluency as I will be participating in all the future challenges. Particularly the new year’s resolution one will be epic! I hope to see you in that one too.

  • Congratulations! I’m happy you’re making quick progress on your Hungarian.

    I also think you bring up an interesting point about time. Fitting in languages can be a real challenge. I work a full-time job, plus I have a wife and kids. This year we’re hosting an exchange student from Spain. (I want to help someone else learn a language.) I’m active in my community, too, who is English-speaking.

    Language-learning fits in the cracks. It takes a lot of discipline. Nevertheless, I would love to try an iTalki challenge one day.

  • dandiprat

    I did the challenge this summer. I felt burnt out afterwards. I had the same feeling as you: I felt I wasted some lessons because I didn’t get as much time between lessons to review and prepare. Due to schedule constraints I didn’t get to work with the tutors I wanted to any more than normal, so I had to think of things to do with other tutors and it wasn’t that beneficial always. I was working on two languages and I don’t feel like I made very dramatic progress in either one. I’m not going to do it again unless for some reason I have more free time, which is unlikely for a long time to come.

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