End of my Russian Mission – new language mission revealed

Hey everyone. Today I'd like to officially mark as the end of my Russian language learning mission. In this post I'd like to tell you about how it went and what's in store for me in the next few months

The original mission was to learn Russian to fluency (conversational, high a2, low b1) in just 3 months. It didn't take me long to realise that I was not ready for such a dramatic challenge. First of all I had no experience learning languages on my own and secondly I'm not a hard-working student.

That's okay though. All I needed to do was to refocus the goal to fit with my learner profile. I changed the goal to 1 year and I'm happy to say that now 1 year and 2 months later I have a great basic level of Russian. I can engage in basic conversations and understand what's being said a lot of the time. On the scale that's probably a solid A2.

You might think now that I'm terminating the challenge that I'm done learning Russian. That's not true. What I am doing is changing my focus from Russian to a new language – to be introduced below, while still working on getting my Russian up to intermediate and beyond.

The thing about languages, even our native ones, is that we are never really “done” learning them. Even when you make it to C2 you can't ever say you fully learned a language. There's a Russian way of explaining this. The difference between “Я выучил Русскии язык” & “Я учил Русскии язык” – one of the wonders of Russian is the verb aspects. Loosely translated the first sentence means “I completed learning Russian, a possible interpretation being that I learned all Russian there is to learn” while the other means something like “I was learning Russian” (and I'm still learning).

One of these days I'd love to write an article of the wonders of Russian, because it's really an amazing language.

That's just one aspect of why we never finish learning. The other is that our memories deteriorate. Without using the language we'll start forgetting words in it. So that means every language you speak requires some form of maintenance.

The good news is that even if we don't work on a language for a long time, usually the reactivation of it is very fast. A lot of people I know report that just a week or less in the environment of the language and it's all but back to them.

I tried similar things with German. Having not used it for years it was super rusty when I went to Germany. However after a few days of listening and communicating in broken German my somewhat intermediate level was coming back and it did not take me long to be able to function completely in Germany.

Summary of my updates about Russian

If you're curious about my experience and journey learning Russian here's a some of my favourite posts and updates I made during the mission. Within a lot of the posts are also full unedited tutoring sessions with my iTalki tutor so you can hear my progress.


You can find all the Russian Mission posts here: Russian Archives


The following podcast episodes had content about my Russian Mission or Russian in general.

  • S2E06: Lauren Cutlip – Lauren has been learning Russian for almost 3 months now and we talked about the experience, as well as how important the mental side of learning is.
  • S1E46: Gabriel Wyner – I asked Gabriel how to do the Russian rolled ‘R' as he is an expert on pronunciation and speaks Russian at a high level.
  • S1E34: Conor Clyne – I talked to Conor about learning Russian, but also the fear of using it in public
  • S1E14: Russian Episode (In English) – Not my greatest work, it was very young in the podcast and also in my Russian studies. I'm not super proud of this episode but me and Maria do get into what sort of problems I've been having in Russian. I cringe when I listen to it, but hopefully you can get something out of my misery.


Be everywhere right! My YouTube channel has been neglected a bit of late, but I hope to bring back more updates soon.

You can find all my videos here: Actual Fluency on YouTube

A new challenge and mission awaits

If there's one thing the Polyglot Gathering is good for, it's inspiration and motivation to learn a new language. It's actually scary how much motivation one can drag out of that event.

For me one of my biggest regrets was not taking French seriously in school. It was a turbulent time of my life and so my mind was not rational nor was it focused on school work. I was much more happy to take the piss out of the teacher and attempt a new world record in doing as little homework or preparation as I possibly could.

French with Michel Thomas was one of those first steps I took subsequently, but back then I hadn't heard about the polyglot community or even the idea that one could successfully learn a language independently. It sounds silly but without proof or confirmation my brain put up resistance and after listening to a few of the tapes I gave up.

Fast forward a handful of years and I'm in Berlin again and hanging out when during Richard Simcotts talk he argues that French is one of those gateway languages that is super useful to know for many reasons. I don't know exactly what part of that statement really resonated with me, but after that I decided French would be my next one. I had already previously decided that I was going to pick a romance language next, first of all to get started on Romance languages but also because I had faced the wrath of a Slavic language and it had taken it's toll!

Another great motivator was my friend Sebastién from Belgium said he'd do tutoring for €5 an hour. I told him he was crazy but immediately took him up on it. There's nothing better than tutoring lessons for rapid language acquisition I think.

iTalki June Challenge

During the last iTalki Challenge, which was in January I learned a lot of Russian. Being forced to do 20 hours of lessons in just 45 days was really testing for me but I endured and subsequently improved my Russian to new heights.

Now there's a new one! The iTalki June Challenge 2015 is starting very soon and the format is very much alike the January edition. Basically you commit 100 credits (or $10) and if you complete the 12 hours of tutoring required you win 400 credits ($40).

The 12 hours of tutoring must be completed in the month of June. So it's 3 lessons a week. This is quite a lot, but the boost that it gives to your learning is well worth it.

I think it's both a great way to start a new language – like I'm doing with French, but also to rocket your level in an existing language.

Click here to join me in the challenge – be sure to add what language you're attacking below!

In the next few days I'll update with a post about how I intend to learn French. Until then!


What are your current challenges and missions?

  • Celine says:

    Hi chris ! When I saw the title of your post I read the content eagerly because I wanted to find out you were choosing my native language. And you are 🙂
    So if you want to exchange in french with me i would be happy to answer in danish ! Og det er gratis 🙂

    • Chris Broholm says:

      Bonjour 😉

      Yes indeed I’m learning your language and I would be happy to do some language exchanges with you when I got a few lessons under my belt. Au revoir! =)

  • Lindsay Dow says:

    French is a good choice, Chris! It will open up lots of other languages for you in the future. 🙂 Gawd, I sound like a teacher!

    • Chris Broholm says:

      Thanks! I appreciate it 🙂 Look forward to speaking French to you next time we meet somewhere in the world

  • Pavel Saman says:

    I envy this attitude because in situation like this I always feel I haven’t completed my mission. I’m at the beginning of my language learning journey, but what I know is I want to feel comfortable in a language. Frankly speaking, I don’t feel comfortable even on my current weak C1 level in English. I’d say I have a lot of interests and I simply want to have a conversation about all of them in English. I don’t care about just being able to say where I come from or express my mood, I want to go deeper and reveal more. Hence, I keep on learning English. This attitude of mine is something which might held me back from actually learn more languages, but I just cannot move until it cracks in my brain one day. Also, with third language or fourth language it may be different, English is my second language, which means it’s a good idea to continue learning for some time.

    Nevertheless, I wish you all best in another language journey.

    • Chris Broholm says:

      This is a great point Pavel and it’s an aspect that’s truly different from person to person. Some people want to study 20 languages and only know a few phrases in each, while some people are not comfortable until they know the language REALLY well.

      For me I’m somewhere in between. I think getting to C1-C2 is an extremely long and complicated process where I think you don’t get proportionate rewards to the work you put in.

      Getting a solid B1-B2 is more than enough for me at this stage. But like I said I’m not done learning Russian forever, as I need to maintain and also improve. It’s just no longer my main focus.

      • Pavel Saman says:

        Thanks for your answer. You¨re right, it’s probably more about a person than anything else. Some people just don’t need to learn on advanced level, it’s perfectly fine as long as they are satisfied with that.

  • Emma Sibley says:

    Good luck with your next mission Chris. I’ve so enjoyed following your journey so far. 🙂

    • Chris Broholm says:

      Thanks Emma, hope you’re doing well! Are you working on your Russian?

      • Emma Sibley says:

        I haven’t studied for nearly 3 months now. It’s been hard to get motivated since my dad passed away. I’m just easing myself back in now, but it feels like I’ve forgotten so much. I’ve actually signed up for some lessons to force myself to get back to it! Nothing like parting with cash to provide some motivation!

        • Haha, well said! That’s actually one of the reasons I signed up for Add1 🙂 I hope you’re doing alright everything considered. Don’t worry about forgetting, as Michel Thomas said.

  • That’s exciting, Chris! I’ve been learning French for quite a while and I’m still studying it since I’m deeply in love with this beautiful language.

    Look forward to reading your updates.

    Bonne chance! 🙂

  • I’m not sure if you posted it elsewhere, but I’d really love to hear about the resources you found the most beneficial to your Russian studies.

    • Hi Shannon, definitely! Thanks for reminding me. I’ve thought about writing it for a while now, but for some reason came off it a few times 🙂

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