Logic Behind the italki Language Challenge (and how to ensure your success!).

October 16th, 2015 | Posted by Ivan in feature | Language Challenge

The October Language Challenge is just about to start. This time, we are asking our learners to take 6 hours of language classes in the space of two weeks. As opposed to the longer, higher-commitment challenges we have conducted before. We are terming this a “sprint” to help you jump start your language learning habits.

In the same way that it’s difficult to stay with a gym membership, stick to a diet, or live up to one’s New Year’s commitments, it can be difficult to study a language after that initial excitement of learning wears off, and consistent work needs to be done.

What is the logic behind the challenge? 

The model behind the language challenges for italki is to encourage planning behavior that gives our learners a sense of traction. As an example, we looked at some innovative gyms and work-out oriented apps which charge a user more for skipping a workout (unlike traditional gyms with long-term commitments who are interested in user failure). We adopted a similar model, where the up-front cost of the challenge encourages a student to stick to their commitment. The purchases from the users who do not complete the challenge subsidize the rewards for those that do. (Of course, we would love for everyone to complete the challenge, and in the past few years the completion percentage has been climbing higher with each language challenge event).

What’s m0re, the idea of getting a prize and the sunk cost back for completing the challenge is another good motivator to put in the extra effort. Ultimately, having a reward at the end of the challenge works better to create a perspective shift in a learner: once the going gets tough, the competitive spirit and desire for the reward is a much better motivator than the feeling of “Oh well, I guess I’ve lost my ITC”.

Why is this challenge so short? 

We are always experimenting with a better motivate to improve the language-learning process. In the same way that long-term gym commitments actually work to discourage the user, a longer challenge may seem difficult and daunting.

This “sprint” format is designed to encourage forward planning in the short-term, and get our learners to try the optimal model for using italki (users who schedule on average 3 hours with a teacher per week tend to stick to the learning process longer, and get better faster). 2 hours per week is not quite enough, and 4 can be overwhelming and discouraging in and of itself.

By making this a simple 6 hours/2 weeks challenge, we are hoping to let our challengers see the benefit of the optimal model, and give them the opportunity to feel how quickly they can improve using this format.

What’s the secret to successfully finishing the challenge?

The most important piece of finishing the challenge is following a plan. That means the best way to schedule your sessions is all at once, in one go, to create a roadmap of your classes for yourself.

In this “sprint” format challenge, it is a lot easier to plan out all the classes and make teaching requests ahead of time. If you want to avoid the crunch-time rush or stress of finding teachers, plan all 6 of your lessons distributed evenly over the duration of the challenge.

First of all, you will have a lot more control over when and with whom you will be having your sessions.

Secondly, making a commitment to a teacher will help you prioritize language learning, and give you the best possible chance to derive the greatest learning benefit from the sessions.


There are still a few days left to register, and enrollment into the language challenge is open after the start date. Don’t wait, get your language learning momentum rolling here:

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