Where do I start? #Week 1


100 hour language challenge – My week 1

The week 1 of my challenge is coming to an end and I am pleased to announce that I am making a nice progress.
I have started by setting my goal more clearly.

I can’t stress enough how important this is! Because, if you don’t know where you’re going, you may as well stay at home.

My plan for the next 100 hours of learning is to get good enough at German that I can hold a comfortable conversation with a native speaker for an hour or more. Easy! I hope 🙂

I am not going to obsess with a grammar too much. With my previous experiences I found that learning grammar adds unnecessary stress and extra learning time at the beginning stage and in later stages of learning impacts my confidence in negative way.


I have learned 5 languages by learning to speak in words, simple sentences and eventually in more complicated structures on fluent level without ever opening a grammar book.


Is my grammar perfect? No! I honestly do not believe that my grammar is perfect even in my own mother tongue, which I have been practising daily for hours my whole life. But it’s good enough, to get my message across. In the case of English, good enough to even get me few compliments here and there, on how my grammar is better, than today’s native English speaking teenager’s grammar. Of course that may be a bit of a friendly exaggeration. Either way, I am quite happy with my English grammar level, considering that I have learned it mostly organically.


So now that is done, next step is to break apart my goal into bite size chunks.


It is only a week 1, so I am not going to try to eat an elephant in one sitting (not only because I am a vegetarian, it would also be too much to handle of course)


I’m not going to go about this scientifically. My bite size chunks are for the start going to be quite simple.
On Monday I looked at sounds and letters that are new to me.
Since I have already studied German in the past, this step was merely reminder and it did not take much time to refresh it.


There is only few sounds that are different from my native language and so one short video by Sunny Suphot on YouTube sorted that step out sufficiently. That video is quite cool. If you also want to have a go at German, this is a good place to get started.


For the rest of the week I focused on getting used to native speakers and the language again using my favourite tool – YouTube.


I have spent on average 30 minutes almost every day watching Peppa Pig in German.


I love Peppa Pig for language learning. It’s basic enough not to be scary and challenging enough to push me a little. Downside is the, sometimes quite annoying, pig grunting. But hey, that’s a small price to pay for such an awesome resource, right?


So what exactly I was doing?


I started with just plain watching. I usually watched few episodes and just took in the plot of each episode, without trying to focus too much on understanding the words. I’ve just let my brain to process what I saw.


I than watched the same episodes again at later time. This time I tried to focus on distinguishing the words from each other. At this point I was trying to notice words that I know or that sounded familiar.


I have also started noticing words that were used repeatedly or words that seemed to be direct reference to the item or action on the screen.


If I thought that I know what certain word means, I have looked it up in my translator (I love my iTranslate app for this. It’s free and quite versatile).
Often times I found that the meaning I assumed was correct or very close.


That is always a good thing 😉


This technique is adaptation of the very basic language learning process that we’ve all used as kids to learn our mother tongue.
It gives you direct exposure to language in pure, uncomplicated form. For this stage I always choose preschool TV shows and programs.


With English and Spanish I had to go one step further and look up some videos that where very specifically designed to teach children few words such us days of the week or colours( video here), but it appears that my German vocabulary from my school days is not all gone, so I could step my game up a little.


What I found most challenging was the distinguishing all the words from each other. That was something that school had not prepared me for at all. All my exposure to German in school was done by either the teacher or my class mates. None of them were natives of course and their pronunciation was very different to the natives (including the teacher).


So at this point I have “cheated” a few times and looked up videos which offered subtitles/transcript option. That helped me to see the words written and to match them with the corresponding sound. I found that quite usefull on few occasions and it definitely helped me to speed up the process a bit.


I would have had to watch each episode few more times to reach the same level of ability to recognise all the different words without this tool.


I highly recommend this step and I will definitely use it in my future learning stages as I progress to more challenging videos.


There is also one more secret step which I used to accelerate the learning a bit.


I have played the same videos at night as I went to sleep.

I am not sure if this acctually does something but I like to believe that it helps the brain to get more target language exposure and therefore helps with the learning. It may be just a myth. I plan to do bit more research on it so watch this space.  Either way this is something I have always done and it definitely does not hurt.


I have also covered my room in “post it” stickers with the items names in German. That was fun project and I focussed on making them nice to engage as many parts of the brain as possible.


Most of my learning sessions were in the evening.
There are different schools of thought on what time of the day is best for learning.


In my opinion there is not just one correct way to approach this question.


The true is that we are all different. We all have different life rythm and body clock and we also all have different other commitments that we need to take care of during the day.


I work full time and am usually out and about from 7am to about 7pm. I am also not an early bird so idea of getting up earlier to learn German does not tempt me at all. For that reason most of my learning sessions were after dinner, just before I go to the bed. It became my little ritual.


One of the other challenges that I encountered in my week 1 was a motivation. I have found that I was more motivated to practice languages that I already do quite well at and I had to go an extra mile to motivate myself to give time to my German.


This is the way in which my brain complained about having to work harder. Of course it’s easy to do something that I am already good at.


So I had to push through my comfort zone quite a few times this week and stop myself from spending all my free time on practicing Spanish and Polish.


I remember having the same feelings of procrastination when I was starting with Spanish. So this time I was prepared and made sure I schedule specified time for my “new” language.


I know that my motivation will grow as I get better at it. For now I just have to keep on going even if I don’t quite feel like it.


What are your biggest obstacles and challenges in language learning?


Share your experience in the comments bellow and if you feel generous, you can drop in a tip on how you overcome it.


I look forward to read it 😉