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.

All The Places I’ve Been While Taking Online Language Courses With italki

February 17th, 2015 | Posted by Jim in feature | Language Challenge | Motivation - (Comments Off on All The Places I’ve Been While Taking Online Language Courses With italki)

One of our italki Language Challengers, Anil Polat runs a self-travel blog called foXnoMad.  He’s been taking sessions even before the Challenge and is already at 6 weeks where he began Arabic with absolutely no ability.  For our Challengers, this is something that you can expect after you complete the Challenge!  He only did 19 hours so far (at 6 weeks) but it’s pretty close.  Reprinted with permission. Original article here.

For you Language Challengers out there – Anil travels the world and manages to squeeze in language lessons on italki. Not only that, but he’s taking the Language Challenge to boot! If this guy can do it with just a backpack, you have no excuses!

india rickshaw selfie

You can’t help but be amazed by the Internet when you’ve been attending a virtual classroom with teachers from all over the world while traveling and blogging for a living. But that is exactly what I’ve been doing since I began taking Arabic lessons on italki in December.

Despite shifting timezones, a long layover or two in Istanbul plus the occasional rickshaw traffic jam, I’ve learn to read, write, and speak Arabic conversationally. These are the 7 cities across 3 countries, from the developed to developing world, where I’ve been able to log in most days for class.

Sofia, Bulgaria

Although Bulgaria doesn’t quite have the amazing Internet speeds of neighbor Romania, in Sofia the average download is faster than 90% of the world. Maintaining a solid Skype connection was never an issue, at least on my end.

sofia bulgaria skyline

Varna, Bulgaria

Despite being a 5 hour grandmother’s drive from Sofia, by the time I got to this Black Sea coastal town I hadpicked up quite a bit of Arabic.

bulgaria varna church (more…)

italki Team Language Challenge – Week 4 Update

February 13th, 2015 | Posted by Aimé in feature | Language Challenge | Motivation - (Comments Off on italki Team Language Challenge – Week 4 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 4 Updates

aime_circleAimé, Intern

Week 4

After 4 weeks I have completed 17 hours of Chinese lessons with my teacher Lea. I must say I feel very happy with myself about the progress I was able to make this week. My goal was to be better at comprehending when my teacher asked me questions which I feel like I really improved on.

Mind you this is the 4th week of learning the same things but I’m finally catching on to keywords in order to understand questions. With only 3 more hours of lessons left, I feel like I will be able to meet my goal of introducing myself but I highly doubt I can a conversation with a native Chinese speaker.

Nonetheless, I am very proud of the progress I have made, especially with my pronunciation even though it still has some improving to do. For this upcoming week, since I’m leaving back to America, my goal is to speak very well in Chinese in my final video to show everyone how much progress I’ve made.


josie_circleJosie, Services

Week 4

After 4 weeks I’ve have managed to get 11 hours of Chinese lessons. Unfortunately this has been a tough week for me in regards to the challenge, I was sick the beginning of the week and had to go to Hong Kong on the weekend. I was only able to look at my vocabulary once, which means I did not meet my goals.

Seeing as we are halfway through the challenge it’s not looking like I’ll be able to have a 5 minutes conversation like I had originally intend. However if they speak very slowly and we discuss the things I have been learning about then I can do it. This week I need to complete my sessions and study my vocabulary regularly.

For the next 2 weeks I need to practice more out loud. I have many friends that speak Chinese so I should practice out load with them even though I get embarrassed. I’m really hoping to get over being embarrassed while speaking Chinese because I know it will help tremendously.


Karthik, Data Scientist

Week 4

This week was very busy for me so I could only complete 1 session, which gives me 6 hours overall. I had previously set an ambitious goal of 4 sessions for this week but I wasn’t able to meet it. I’m very behind on sessions but I still think I can meet my initial goal.

Imagine if I had been taking my lessons regularly! This upcoming week I need to take more sessions! I have to schedule them sooner because the longer I wait to schedule, the harder it is for me to finish sessions.

My goal is to take 5 sessions, it’s a lot but I need to step up my game if I want to be successful in this challenge.

French @ Italki Challenge: halfway there!

February 11th, 2015 | Posted by Jim in feature | Language Challenge | Motivation | tips - (Comments Off on French @ Italki Challenge: halfway there!)

Siskia L. runs a popular language learning blog called The Polyglotist and is taking part in our New Year’s Language Challenge to learn French. We found this great post about her experiences with the language challenge and wanted to share this with other Challengers!  Reprinted with permission. Original post here.

Incredibly, last Thursday I did my 12th hour of French for the italki Language Challenge (out of 20 required to complete it). More incredibly, I also got pretty sick this very week, so I didn’t actually do as many hours as I had expected to. Anyway, here’s…


I think it’s the first time I’ve put such intensity into one language. I don’t mean to say I’m more interested in French than I’ve been in any of my other languages (both serious attemps and light dabbling), but since I started this language I’ve progressed in a very natural way. Putting in one hour of conversation and anywhere between 30 min and 3 hours of self-study into this project just feels right.

This reminds me that as of late, I’ve been more conscious about my study hours than usual. This is not because I suddenly felt I should be more mathematical about my study methods, but rather because I am currently participating in the 6 Week Challenge, which requires its participants to log their study hours through a Twitter bot. In the beginning I thought this wouldn’t really influence me to study any more or any less than I was in the first place, but the effect of participating in what’s in essence a “race” has been quite interesting in the sense that knowing I’m in this with other people stimulates me to try harder. I’m not so interested in knowing in what place I am currently (although it’s fun to race other people learning my language as well, haha) rather than knowing how I’m distributing my study hours, doing what, and how. All these things one can keep track of through the challenge, so it’s good statistical data.

Partly because of participating in this challenge, partly because I’ve realized structure and form lead to better results, I’ve been trying to improve the way in which I administer my time and agenda. (Not that I did a very good job at that this week, what with work and school and more work and feeling pretty damn under the weather, but anyhoo…)


I’m actually talking in French for about 75-80% of my italki sessions, only going back into Spanish or English when I am absolutely at a loss for words: I’ve noticed that this isn’t when I try to use regular words: for the most part, it’s when my mind tries to translate a colloquial expression from English into French. Unless I’ve heard that expression before and know its French equivalent, my brain’s language monitoring center usually goes on full blown red alert and tells me not to use that expression.

Will Robinson

I have got to stop being so cautious and just dive in. I know better than anyone that making these particular mistakes is essential for the learning process, but old habits die hard. The funny part is, this doesn’t happen with regular words, only with expressions where I mean to imply something figuratively or where cultural references come into play.

Speaking of words, I’ve noticed two interesting things about my French: my source for words I haven’t heard before tends to be English (knowing that a good deal of the English lexicon derived from French), while my reference for correct French grammar tends to be Italian. By this I mean that when I speak in French and try a new word I haven’t used before, my first impulse is to look for it in my mental English database, and only when I notice the word doesn’t sound French, do I look for it in a dictionary. While I’m hard pressed to say this always works, several English words have turned to be the same in French, so while I build a better lexicon in this language, this may not be a bad method to keep the conversation in French territory (instead of jumping back into English every so often) .

My theory now is that as a language student, one will use whatever one’s got in the pantry to hold on to the language while at the same time creating a more accurate linguistic base through classes, study, tutoring, etc. Maybe that’s the reason why we tend to translate our thoughts literally?


After some hits and misses, I’ve run into incredibly good teachers that focus on monitoring both my vocabulary and pronunciation. Getting the pronunciation right has been a gruelling task, and I’m incredibly far from having it down pat, but at least I’m being pointed in the right direction all the time.

Probably one of the things I’m enjoying the most about this language project is the HUGE resources gap between French and my last language, Nahuatl. After spending most of 2014 pretty much doing detective work, looking everywhere for hints of where to learn Nahuatl and how, finding self-study resources in French is turning out to be a walk in the park.

Right now I’m enjoying several different listening-comprehension resources. I’m planning to summarize the best and most effective ones in a later post, but here’s just a little bite of what I would recommend to anybody wanting an ear-workout in French:

  • Apprendre le français avec TV5MONDE and 7 jours sur la planète: level-graded videos, with transcripts, exercises and explanations of recent, up-to-date and useful vocabulary. 7 jours has an app (available for both iOS and Android), excellent for taking your comprehension exercises on the road.
  • FluentU: although officially in beta right now, it’s an excellent video-based resource to listen to French (also available for Chinese, Japanese, German, Spanish and English). It’s based on phrase-by-phrase video segments, using a type of “subtitle” technology that stops the video when you hover over a word you don’t know. It also has vocabulary exercises available, and when you use these, the system remembers what words you remember and what you don’t. Since these are saved in your account, your word database applies to all the videos in the system, meaning that the system is able to suggest videos perfect for your vocabulary level!
  • Français Authentique: this is a very complete site and I honestly recommend Johan’s learning materials to ANYONE, but the part that I use the most is his podcasts. In these, he explains complex concepts and ideas in slow, easy-to-understand French, and they’re available completely free of charge in his website and in the Podcast section of Itunes.

Well, that’s it for now. I have several very interesting ideas and projects lined up for The Polyglotist, and I’d love to share them with you… but not yet! ;D