Author Archives: Tracy

Tracy is taking the Language Challenge with the goal of learning Esperanto, but she’s got a long way to go. Does this apply to you as well? Don’t give up!

A photo posted by Italki (@italki) on

What’s your goal?

I want to talk with others about language learning in Esperanto (and to see how quickly I can learn it).
I’ve heard that a large proportion of the people at the Berlin Polyglot Gathering speak Esperanto, and that it’s very easy. I’m curious to see how much I can learn in a short period of time, and I’d really like to be able to have a 15-minute long conversation with an Esperanto speaker, especially about languages, language learning, and their reasons for learning Esperanto. I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to make it, but this is my goal.
At the beginning of my first class, the only words I knew were “saluton”, “dankon”, and “lernu” (because of the Esperanto community, so this will be a fun test to see how far I can go after starting with practically nothing.
After my first hour of class, I’d already gained a reasonable understanding of basic grammar and phrases for asking basic information about another person (and how many languages they are learning)!
A secondary goal is to learn Esperanto through my second language (Chinese).
All of the languages I’ve studied previously, I learned through my native language, English. So, my Esperanto classes are a no-English zone. Just in the first hour of class, I was already very amused by the ways that the 3 languages I’m most familiar with: English, Chinese, and Spanish, are variously influencing my attempts at Esperanto!

How’s it going?

Esperanto is great!
It’s been a long time since I started a new language, and I love it! It’s like giving my brain a shiny new toy.
I’ve heard that someone else in the office has studied Esperanto before and I’m already excited to try out my 1 hour of learning on him.
As for the 12 hours…
Between my family visiting, a music festival, going-away parties, a generally demanding schedule, and the fact that at the beginning of the Challenge, there was only one Esperanto teacher, I knew that I’d have a hard time scheduling lessons. I was, sadly, correct.
That being said, I really do want to learn as much Esperanto this month as I can, so I’m glad that now I just have to figure out a way to fit my next …11.5 hours into 1/2 a month. Deadlines make things happen. I’m still committed to finding a way to fit my hours into the next two weeks.
The fact that my classes are so fun is definitely going to help me put in the time.
However, if I have trouble scheduling Esperanto hours, I might fall back on scheduling more time to practice Chinese or maybe even start dabbling in other languages that I’d like to focus on later.

How are your classes?

Really fun! My teacher Teddy Nee has an obvious passion for languages and language learning. I’m very fortunate in that he’s also fluent in Chinese so I can avoid using English (my native language) during my lessons. I’m really looking forward being able to talk with him (and others!) about language learning in Esperanto!
Someone commented before that Esperanto was so easy that you can learn quickly without a teacher. But, the way I see it, if Esperanto is that easy, then I should be able to learn EVEN FASTER with a teacher!
Since my goal is to talk others, then I might as well jump into practicing that!

What are you doing outside of class?

At first, my daily goal was to write one question and answer pair that I want to be able to say in Esperanto. I’ve been discovering that actually, a better way to do this might be to write out my questions and answers for the week all at once and then make sure I look at at least one every day. This method would let me get all of the “thinking” done in bulk and then during each day of the week, I can just relax and follow my own instructions.
So, I might change that to have a weekly goal of generating my desired questions and answers for each day of the week and then a daily goal of reviewing my notes on the way to and from work + before bed.
Duolingo has recently opened an Esperanto section, and I’m excited to start using it as a supplement, but (this is embarrassing) it actually seems to be incompatible with the device that I have right now 🙁 (an old iPod that is incompatible with the current iOS). So, I’ll have to either use it on my computer or hurry up and get a new device.
[Edit: Actually, it’s because the Esperanto Duolingo is still in beta version, and was unavailable on mobile devices. ]
Other than that, I just discovered some old videos for Chinese speakers learning Esperanto on Youku, and I walk around on my commute to and from work, reading from my notes and asking myself questions out loud, mumbling like a crazy person.  I should also start making use of the lernu! community and resources.

Tell us more about Esperanto:

Even though Esperanto doesn’t have a country, I’m learning that it does have a sort of culture. For example, I learned that since almost everyone who speaks Esperanto does so as a second or third language, Esperanto speakers are attentive to taking into account each others’ native languages and how different native languages may influence the way a person speaks Esperanto. I appreciate that level of consideration for others!
I’ve also heard that some people have suggested learning Esperanto before learning other languages. After the very little bit that I’ve learned so far, I already agree with this for 2 reasons:
  1. Since Esperanto is a “Conlang” – a ‘constructed language’, it’s very well organized. There are no exceptions that I know of. There is a pattern to the vocabulary and to the grammar that just snaps into place (it was designed to). It’s very elegant.
  2. Since Esperanto IS so well-organized, the basics can be learned very quickly. This means you wouldn’t have to spend much time training your language learning skills on Esperanto before moving on to a different language.
If you’ve never studied a language before, I think learning Esperanto would be a great way to make it very plain to yourself how a language is structured. Then, when you begin learning other languages, you will already have a sort of abstract language “blueprint” in mind that I think would make it much easier for you to approach learning other languages. Esperanto seems it could be a kind of “training wheels” for mastering the process of language acquisition.
Maybe I’m just a little over-enthusiastic about my classes right now, but I’m on the verge of saying that everyone (at least, English speakers or Europeans) should try Esperanto before they learn any other languages, even if just as a sort of language learning boot camp.

Tips for other Challengers?

Really, I think the hardest part (for me, anyway) is scheduling the lessons.
I often get anxious about scheduling my time because I try to anticipate what else might be going on. I easily over-plan things. But, once I just bite the bullet and put the time on my schedule, it actually is easier than I think, and I actually feel much better knowing that the hours are there on the calendar. It’s actually kind of a relief.
I would highly recommend just buying packages for the amount of time you need to finish and then just requesting the sessions all at once and getting them on your calendar. It’s so much easier than having to decide hour by hour when to have class. Get the decisions out of the way and then just do it.
This is actually very good time management practice for me, so not only am I learning Esperanto on italki, but I’m learning some good life skills as well!
I’m also very glad to be reminded how much fun it is to start a new language – this is definitely a positive addition to my life.

2015 June Language Challenge “Get Started” Guide

May 29th, 2015 | Posted by Tracy in Language Challenge | tips | Uncategorized - (Comments Off on 2015 June Language Challenge “Get Started” Guide)

Are you ready for the Challenge?

The clock starts on June 1st, but here are 4 things that you should do BEFORE the Challenge starts to set yourself up for success.  Our experience shows that preparation really pays off!


Tip 1. Choose your teacher(s) ahead of time

Try to complete those trial sessions so you can choose your teacher(s) and begin planning. Many italki students find it helpful to work with several teachers.

Out of trial sessions?  If you used all three long ago when you first registered, email italki support to ask for more.

Still looking for teachers?  Find one here: browse teacher profiles.


If you’re about to have your first italki class, then this is for you:

FAQ: It’s my first italki session. What should I do?

Tip 2. Schedule sessions (or a package) in advance

Booking your sessions early is a great way to make sure you’ll put in your time and complete the Challenge. Even better, buying a package and booking the hours in advance is an excellent way of making yourself commit!

Here at italki, it’s a strategy we use ourselves to cope with our busy schedules!

Want to schedule something now? Here are some links:


Tip 3. Set your goal and discuss with your teacher

Set your own Challenge goal in advance. What would you like to be able to do by the end of June? Decide on at least one little thing you will do every day to keep moving forward toward your goal.  If you’d like some help with this, try answering these ten questions to help you clarify your Challenge goal  (you will have to sign in to a Google account).

What will success look like to you? It could be everything from a conversation with a native speaker to being able to read a restaurant menu and place an order!


Tip 4. Tell your friends

Social support is a great way to motivate yourself, both by receiving encouragement and by publicly declaring your Challenge goal.  Add your voice to the Thunderclap announcement.  If you make a video pledge to announce your goal, we’ll send you 50 ITC!

Here’s one of our favorites!  We love Cassie’s sense of humor, creativity, and her unique personal challenge goal of explaining how to make bread all in French!  This is what it’s all about!

Encourage Cassie by commenting on her notebook entry here.

Additional Language Challenge Resources:

Challenge Official Site and Registration Page

Challenge Rules and FAQs

Challenge Blog Coverage

italki Team Language Challenge – Week 6 Update – FINAL UPDATE!

February 28th, 2015 | Posted by Tracy in feature | Language Challenge | Motivation - (Comments Off on italki Team Language Challenge – Week 6 Update – FINAL UPDATE!)

The italki team is taking the 2015 New Year’s Language Challenge

How much Chinese can they learn in 20 hours?

3 members of the team at italki are taking the language challenge to improve their skill in Mandarin. Each of them will have 20 hours of lessons between January and February. Can you do better than them?  Check out their original Public Video Pledges that they made at the beginning of the Challenge here.

Week 6 Updates

aime_circleAimé, Intern

Week 6

I finished the Language Challenge last week already, and besides that, I finished my internship at italki!  It was a great experience living and working in Shanghai and learning Chinese as part of the Language Challenge.  I hope everyone else out there is feeling really proud of their progress!



Josie, Services

Week 6

I am done! I have completed my 20 hours!

I did successfully complete my 20 hours for my Challenge goal, but I haven’t finished writing down all of my vocabulary. But, I am writing it all down, so it’s 20 hours worth of notes that I’m cleaning up and putting into one book 🙂 I rewarded myself with some good rest! It was nice to relax and not think about sessions for a few days. Then, I finished cleaning up my notes and even squeezed in a cheeky last session before the 28th.

My last goal for this week was to complete my notebook with all of my notes, and use colours and pictures to help me memorize! It was nice to finish before the end, so I didn’t have to stress out. It’s great to see how much I’ve really improved!


Karthik, Data Scientist

Week 6

I did it!  1 hour every day for 5 days got me to 20 hours!

I wanted to take 10 hours last week, and I took 5 hours instead, so I met my weekly goal halfway. Even though I didn’t complete 10 hours, 5 hours is still a lot of language learning (for me). So, I got myself a pint of Salted Caramel Ice Cream and enjoyed!
My goal for this final week was to do the last 5 hours of lessons in the last 5 days to complete the language challenge.
I realized that, for me, in order to finish the challenge, I should do two things:
1. Buy Packages, not Individual Sessions
2. Schedule Lessons as far in advance as I can possibly plan

I know that if I do these two things, I will definitely attend, because I have already made time for it in my schedule. I wish I had realized this earlier. But, it still worked out in the end.

If my strategy had been to buy 20 individual lessons, instead of two 10-lesson packages, I don’t think I would have been disciplined enough to finish the challenge.  Good thing I did this in the last week!


italki Team Language Challenge – Week 5 Update

February 19th, 2015 | Posted by Tracy in feature | Language Challenge | Motivation - (Comments Off on italki Team Language Challenge – Week 5 Update)

The italki team is taking the 2015 New Year’s Language Challenge

How much Chinese can they learn in 20 hours?

3 members of the team at italki are taking the language challenge to improve their skill in Mandarin. Each of them will have 20 hours of lessons between January and February. Can you do better than them?  Check out their original Public Video Pledges that they made at the beginning of the Challenge here.

Week 5 Updates

aime_circleAimé, Intern

Week 5

I did it!  I finished all 20 hours of the italki Language Challenge, and I finished early! It was hard, and sometimes I really had to force myself to make it to my sessions, but you know, it was worth it.  Since I was a bit rushed, it was hard for me to find time to study on my own and improve between sessions, so I think the others will be able to make use of the time left to improve even more.

I didn’t make my original goal of having a conversation in Chinese, but I really mastered my introduction.  When I first started, I could hardly say a single thing, and I know I still need to improve on my listening, but in one of my last sessions, my teacher told me, “You know, you just spoke Chinese for a whole minute.  I didn’t say a thing – that was all you.”  I feel so proud of my progress.

I want to encourage everyone else to keep going and find the time for your sessions.  Put in the time. I gotta say, it’s definitely effective.



Josie, Services

Week 5

I have now completed 17 hours! I have three more sessions and will be finished on Saturday.  However, I didn’t complete my goals for the week.  It’s been a hectic week, and I really have been terrible at making new vocabulary flash cards…

For this week, since I will complete my sessions, I want to make sure I write down all of my new vocab.  It’s probably close to 100 new words I need to write down and learn, but I’m confident that I can do it!  I plan to reward myself with REST! I will take a few days off from having sessions, … and maybe have some chocolate…

To all the other challengers, I want to say, “Keep going! You are close!  Even if you feel like you haven’t improved, you definitely have.  It’s definitely worth sticking it out until the end.”

Karthik, Data Scientist

Week 5

(Note: I posted this after I made my video intro which I did late last week)

I have completed 10 hours!  I took about 3 hours worth of lessons this week. I almost met my goals for this week.  I wanted to get to 5 hours, so I’m 80% there.

My new goal is to do 10 hours this week.  I will reward myself with ice cream if I reach this goal!

To anyone else struggling to fit in your 20 hours, look how far I am from my goal.  But, I’m not giving up. If you have the time this week, see if you can surprise yourself and meet your goals.

So what are these leaderboard rankings anyway?

July 15th, 2014 | Posted by Tracy in announcement | Language Challenge - (Comments Off on So what are these leaderboard rankings anyway?)

It’s week 6 of the italki World Cup Language Challenge.  (Yes, Germany has won the Cup, but a more pressing and curious question remains: who will win the italki World Cup Challenge?).

Or, as many of you may be quick to point out, what does “winning” the italki challenge really mean?  How do I read the leaderboard? Should I boo or cheer? (“Cheer” is the answer to the last one – learning a language is good for you).

Offical 2014 italki World Cup Language Challenge Leaderboard

Short Answer:

The Country ranking attempts to answer the question “Participants from which country have taken the most classes during the World Cup Challenge (on average)?”.

The Language ranking attempts to answer the question “Students of which language showed the most dedication to taking classes (on average)?”. This latter one got a bit confusing because many of the participants are actively studying multiple languages.

Long Answer:

Basic Methodology.

Trying to put together a ranking of groups of people as diverse as italki users is always a strange proposition – very few fit well in easily-defined groups. Ultimately we have had to take some shortcuts to be able to process the data and present it in some sort of a consistent fashion.

The “top-10” rankings you see have been limited only to “teams” of 4 or more. By “teams” here we mean ways of grouping participants.

Country teams.

The obvious way was by country. Even here, however, we had to make a decision about what counts as one’s country, as we have both countries of origin, as well as countries in which our users live.

For the top ten by country we decided to allocate students into teams based on their profile listing of the country of origin, add up all their session hours, and divide by number of people on the team. The reason for us using an average was to find a way to rank these “teams” on an overall metric.

So, for example, the average participant from Mexico has spent 19.09 hours taking lessons with an italki teacher.

As you can quickly imagine – this has flaws. The “Angola” team wound up beng just one student, who has completed over 50 hours of lessons since the beginning of the challenge. Trying to defray the statistical anomalies like this, but still give a shout-out to the dedicated lone representatives of their countries, we have dropped teams with less than three students.

Why 3?

Frankly, we needed a number that would not eliminate too many teams, but could still be seen as a team-effort. Yes, it is rather arbitrary.
Target Language teams.

The math on this just got a little weird. Many of our participants are taking multiple languages. Some are even taking languages which are not listed in our site (one of our more prolific users who has racked up numerous hours in Tagalog is actually learning Ilokano from his teacher- a language we do not have formally listed on the site yet).

After loads of hand-wringing and fights with our spreadsheet programs, we have decided to use this metric in a simple and crude way:

Your target language “team” is determined by what language you have studied most of in the period of World Cup Challenge. Then, all the hours that you have taken regardless of language get tallied up and divided by the number of other members of your “team”.

Yup, its very crude. Cantonese and Shanghainese dialects got dropped entirely for example. That said, the reason we chose this approach is: although it’s easy to tabulate the number of hours in a specific language, it is much harder to figure out how to divide that number to find the average.

Do we divide them by total number of participants of the challenge? That would be unfair to the small dedicated groups learning Catalan or pretty much every language but English.

Do we divide them by number of people who have at all studied this language? That also yields meaningless results, as it doesn’t represent the amount of effort many of our students have put into studying a total of 3 or 4 languages.

Ultimately we decided that a participant’s “primary” language will be his or her “team”, and created this relatively abstract measure. What the ranking says is that, on average, people studying Spanish (as a primary language) have spent approximately 7.51 hours taking language classes.
Final Thoughts.

We do not want our participants to miss out on the glory, so we are planning to do a final ranking by number of hours of all the users who have completed the challenge target. These will be individual rankings, with a breakdown of number of hours learned in at least their top-two or top-three languages.

Doing this breakdown every week, however, would be very distracting for our team, and would take away from many other activities that are necessary to keep the site running: community management, customer service, handling the publication of articles, and promoting italki resources to inspired language-learners all over the world.

Most importantly, we feel that the real winners of the challenge, whether completers or not, will be those who can look at the “before” video and the “after” video, and see how much they have accomplished in understanding another language and culture in avery short span of time.

By the way, when your before and after videos are ready, please send them to

Good luck everyone in the last few days of the challenge!