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!




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My Week 6 Progress Learning Korean

July 14th, 2014 | Posted by Jim in Motivation - (Comments Off on My Week 6 Progress Learning Korean)

Amelia from the UK is currently taking the italki World Cup Language Challenge to learn Korean.  She uploaded a Public Video Pledge and even started a personal blog site to help motivate her – Hallyu to 한국어.   We were so impressed with her efforts that we asked if we could repost what she had written on her personal blog as she gives weekly updates on her progress.  Check out her latest post – reposted with permission.

Hi Everyone,

Sorry, I disappeared off the radar for a bit there. Unfortunately, busy got even more busy and I’ve hardly been able to escape the office the last couple of weeks. Given the choice between writing a blog about studying Korean or actually studying it, I thought I’d better focus on the second option! That’s also the reason why there’s no video this week….

Also, last week I got a little behind for my usual schedule. I had to cancel one lesson because I was still at work, and then one of my teachers had to cancel as she was ill. So last week, I only did 2 hours. Luckily I have been ahead pretty much all the time so I’m on about 21 hours now, which means I should finish the challenge just ahead of schedule. I’m glad I front-loaded it a bit otherwise I would have been a bit worried about finishing!

My sentences are gradually getting a bit longer, and Rosa is making me practice different contexts with all the new vocab I am learning. I’ve started to introduce clauses such as for~, ~which, ~ that I had wanted to ~, because of ~ I will ~ etc. etc. They need more practice to get past two clauses but at least it is allowing me to vary my structures a little! I’ve even got to the stage of having multiple ways to say the same thing.

There are two bits that I’m still finding a little challenging at the moment. One is the formal language for seniors, which has different particles and verb endings (and even different verbs for some words!). Its just because I don’t hear it so naturally as the semi-formal tone that most beginners start with. The other bit that I am still slow to wrap my brain around is the way of transforming verbs into nouns / adjectives. The grammar is relatively simple but getting my brain to think in the right way before embarking on a sentence is still going to take a little while!

On an unrelated note, my enthusiasm for my terrible beginners Korean has led to me being categorised as a volunteer at the conversational meetup group I go to on Fridays. In practice, this just means being a spare pair of hands whenever they need me but it’s nice to have integrated so quickly into the community around language learning :-)

Amelia x

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italki World Cup Language Challenge: Week 6 – LIVE commentary preparations

July 8th, 2014 | Posted by Jim in Language Challenge | Motivation - (Comments Off on italki World Cup Language Challenge: Week 6 – LIVE commentary preparations)

WCLC-beforeLindsaydoeslanguages is blogging about her World Cup Language Challenge and we’re reposting here to share with the entire italki Community.  Original post here.

Eek. What am I doing, guys?! This is scary. After watching a handful of YouTube videos of Portuguese football commentary I’m hoping that Brazil and the Netherlands score a lot of goals on Saturday – that way, my commentary will consist mostly of


No, I’m kidding! Although I am a little nervous, I am super excited to see how this goes. Also, Brazil vs Netherlands? As in Portuguese vs Dutch? As in the two languages I’ve been learning for the past few months? Who am I supposed to support?!

There’s a lot of words I have to learn for the live commentary to make sure that I can speak as on cue as possible and keep up with all the action. I should point out right about here that I’m not a mega football fan, so I probably won’t know any names of players and so this does have the potential to be very funny!

Check out my very jazzy preparation vocabulary notes full of useful words (I’m bound to have missed something!) and some interesting phrases I’ve picked up from the videos I’ve been watching.IMG_1969-copy

Too jazzy?

Don’t forget to bookmark the link right here in preparation for Saturday at 21.00GMT. Be there or be square. Because apparently being square is a bad thing.

Are you doing the italki World Cup Language Challenge? How is it going for you? Let me know in the comments!

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Last month, Brendan from the USA completed a 6 Week Esperanto Challenge!

brendansLanguageChallengeHe made public posts about his progress to hold himself accountable for his weekly goals.  He agreed to write a guest post for us, from one successful Challenger to all the italki Language Challengers!

When Brendan started, he was a total beginner.  After 6 weeks, in the final step of the Esperanto Challenge, he uploaded this 4-minute video of himself speaking Esperanto!


Learning a language is not an easy task, even if it’s supposed to be an easy one like Esperanto.

Starting in May, I participated in the Six Week Language Learning Challenge, and there was a special challenge with prizes to learn Esperanto. Since I had just begun my studies in Esperanto, and one of the organizers OK’d me to be able to do it, I thought it’d be great.

Over the course of the challenge, I put in 40 hours (more or less) of hard work. I started with a beginner’s Esperanto course. I found out about Esperanto through reddit which led me to the ureddit course Esperanto 101. It had finished a couple months before I got there, so I contacted the teacher and she offered to correct quizzes and offer extra help. I went through her six lessons (ranging from thirty minutes to an hour) and it really gave me a solid foundation for the language.


Esperanto Flag

That, and a separate, unrelated course through Anki, also called Esperanto 101, were my main sources for learning the language. Anki is a flash card site (or app, as I used it) that uses a spaced repetition system to help you better learn the material. The deck I used had about 1000 cards with essential words. Besides Anki and the ureddit Esperanto 101 course, I used lang-8 for practicing grammar and the book Teach Yourself Esperanto.

Teach Yourself Esperanto is a book course for learning Esperanto and though I only made it five or six chapters in, it was definitely the best tool for learning the language in my opinion. The content was thorough and the exercises were challenging. Those were my resources but my goals are what really pushed me along.

At the start of each week I’d set high standards for myself. I usually figured I wouldn’t reach all my goals, but what was most important for me was setting how many hours I would study and reaching that goal if nothing else. Also, every single day I would complete a certain amount of Anki flash cards.

I was not so great about reaching my other goals, but what really held me back was that I didn’t have my goals somewhere I could easily look at them each day. That is really important. I started the challenge really strong then got a bit lazy. Don’t ever allow yourself to get lazy because there’s always enough time in the day to get a lot done. At the end of this challenge, I feel very confident and believe I made tremendous progress.


I can understand plenty of Esperanto, and I think if I continue to work at it the rest of this summer, I could be very far along in the language. Good luck if you’re learning Esperanto (I have really enjoyed learning it!) or any other language! I promise it’s worth it.

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italki Language Challenge: Week 5 Goal

July 3rd, 2014 | Posted by Jim in Language Challenge | Motivation | promotion - (Comments Off on italki Language Challenge: Week 5 Goal)


Lindsaydoeslanguages is blogging about her World Cup Language Challenge and we’re reposting here to share with the entire italki Community. This blog post originally was posted on website.

Over half way through the italki World Cup Language Challenge! When did this happen? Now, apparently.

This week I’ve been having fun with Danza Kuduro! I’ve been in my garden again because it’s far too hot to stand under lights for half an hour. Not quite a heatwave but by British standards we’re not far off. Then the camera decided to stop filming after a minute. I noticed after I’d done the whole video. Go team.

Also, I’m very pleased to announce that the Live Broadcast of my on the spot Portuguese Commentary is all set up and ready on YouTube! You can bookmark the link right here! I’ve never done anything like this before and I’m have no idea how it’s going to pan out!! I’ve opted to commentate the play off match (for 3rd and 4th place) on Saturday 12th July rather than the final on the 13th because I’m sure you’ll all want to watch that one without me chatting away in Portuguese! I also don’t know if I’ll commentate the whole match. What I’m thinking at the moment is to commentate the first half and then invite you to share your thoughts about the World Cup (and my attempt at commentary!) during half time and the second half. What do you think? Would you like a chance to join in?

It will be broadcast on my YouTube channel via Google Hangouts On Air and, who knows, if this works, we could make it a regular thing! The link is here again if you’re ready to bookmark it. 9 days to go, 3785 Portuguese football words to learn, 1 chance not to mess it up. I should write film trailers, no?

Oh, and exciting news! Despite my love for Silverstone, me and Ashley are heading off to Slovakia tomorrow (another reason I filmed in the garden – I normally edit on Friday!). This means another Mini Mission coming a lot sooner than planned and more stuff over on Mundo Trundle very soon.

Fingers crossed that week 6 of the Challenge will be just as exciting!

How is you World Cup Language Challenge going? Share your progress in the comments and let’s support each other with it!

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