The Add1Challenge was one of the major factors in overcoming my shyness when it comes to speaking languages (known as speaking block).
You see, there are some people that have zero problems when starting to speak in a foreign language. I’m not one of those people–every time I start learning a new language, I’m terrified when I have to speak to a native speaker.
I managed to overcome my speaking block in English a few weeks after moved to England. Spanish was somehow easier. I found a language exchange partner, and we would speak a lot. But this might be also because I found Spanish very easy.
However, despite learning Korean for many years, I wasn’t able to have a conversation in the language. Afterwards, we moved to China and I had the same problem with Chinese. I could see I needed something extra to help me become a more confident speaker.
As often happens, something motivated me into action. After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer and having an operation to have my thyroid removed (I blogged about it here), I started thinking about my life. I felt that, even though I loved learning languages, I was not making enough progress.
So, I decided to take part in the Add1Challenge. I’d joined this challenge before, when it was still on a trial run. But, for many reasons, I abandoned it after a few weeks. But this time I was determined to get through to the end. Also, having to pay for the challenge this time, gave me extra motivation.
What is Add1Challenge
The Add1Challenge is a challenge that brings a community of language learners together.
You have to commit to studying a certain amount every week, for example, 1 hour a day for 5 days. You also must commit to creating a video of yourself speaking in your target language on days 0, 30, 60 and 90. The last of these videos will be your 15-minute conversation with a native speaker.
By the end, you’ll have the confidence to go out and become an independent learner of your chosen language.
Advantages of the Add1Challenge
Community: during the Add1Challenge, you will meet many people with similar language learning goals. You can ask questions and many people in the community are willing to help you out.
Resources: people on Add1Challenge share resources such as interesting or inspiring blogs, YouTube videos, Podcasts and more. People who are learning the same language can also suggest relevant study material.
Regular emails and updates: especially during the first week, you’ll receive a lot of emails that will help you with your study routine.
Study groups – if multiple people are learning the same language you can study with them in groups. You can attend weekly meetings with them to practice your target language.
Mastermind groups – these are groups of people learning a variety of languages, who help each other through weekly updates and pep talks.
Mini-challenges – Mini-challenge 1 is about starting to speak. You need to complete 3 half-an-hour conversations or lessons in your target language. Mini-challenge 2 is about writing sentences. You get points for every sentence you write, and you compete with other people to get the most points. Mini-challenge 3 is again about speaking. You try to speak your target language as much as possible and keep a log of how long you’ve spoken for each day. These challenges introduce friendly competition and are a great motivational tool.
Monthly videos – these is also a great thing for motivation. You can look back over the videos and it’s incredibly satisfying to see your progress, especially if you’re starting from zero.
Disadvantages of the Add1Challenge
People dropping out – this is nobody’s fault really, but I very few challengers in any my Study Groups or Mastermind Groups, across all challenges I attended, ever made it to the end. In my last challenge, only two people made it to the end of the whole challenge.
The final vote – at the end of the challenge everybody can vote for people who complete in said challenge. I always felt this is a bit too much of a popularity contest. I would like it better, if the decision was based on more measurable results. But that’s just a personal thing.
My first Add1Challenge: Chinese
During my first Add1Challenge, I learned how motivating it is to be part of a community. I didn’t really know many people in China who wanted to learn Chinese (other than learning a few sentences). It was great to finally be able to talk to people who also loved languages. The fact that I put in consistent work, led to me improving a lot.
My second Add1Challenge: Korean
During this challenge, I discovered what a difference a professional teacher makes. I’d had language exchanges with Korean people for years, but nobody was able to explain things like my teacher, Bomi, did. I only had one lesson with her a week, but she taught me a lot.
My third Add1Challenge: Chinese
This is the one I didn’t finish, mostly because I was preparing for my HSK 4 exam, and I had a lot of work in the day job. I could fit in enough time studying, but I didn’t find time for all the videos. Still, I passed HSK 4 a few months later, so this challenge wasn’t totally wasted.
My fourth Add1Challenge: Russian
This was a bit of an experiment for me as this was the first time I took Add1Challenge before as a first-time learner of the target language. True, my native language, Polish, and Russian are similar, which definitely made learning much easier. But what made it much more difficult was the having to study a different alphabet. Now I know, that it’s probably better to learn study the alphabet a few days earlier, to help ease me into the challenge.
I also won this Add1Challenge, and I received $100 in Italki credits as a reward.
Will I do another future Add1Challenge?
Definitely, but not sure when yet.. The staff over at Add1Challenge are currently running a trial program for intermediate speakers, and so I’m considering taking part for Korean as I want to take TOPIK (a Korean proficiency exam) in autumn. Also, we’ll probably be moving to Vietnam around September time, so I’m thinking about taking it for Vietnamese later in the year.
Thank you for reading. Do you have problems with overcoming shyness or speaking block while learning a foreign language? What do you to deal with it?
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