Warning: The following five challenges are only intended for the brave, the strong and the super motivated language learner. Most people have limited time to devote for studying a new language, and many more simply lack the discipline to carry out all five of these challenges. But if you think you got what it takes — or if you recently graduated from university and your employment prospects look bleak — then give it a shot!
These challenges were designed to be completed in 3 months, but feel free to modify the intensity to accommodate your schedule.
1. Learn 3,000 words — While memorizing long lists of vocabulary will not improve your speech, you will certainly understand more of what you read and listen to. Most research suggest that second language learners can understand about 80% of written texts if they know approximately 3,000 words. If you can pull this challenge off in three months, you’ll be able to understand most magazines, newspapers and even simple fiction.
Why it’s tough? You have to learn and practice at least 33 new words a day, every day, for the next 3 months, and that doesn’t include review time for previously learned words.
2. Watch (and re-watch) 25 films — Watching films in the target language is an excellent way to learn about culture. The cultural lessons will be subtle and not so overt, but overtime you’ll pick up on what’s considered funny, attractive and taboo. Watching movies is also a great way to develop your listening skills because the actors will be speaking naturally, unlike the robotic voices that accompany most textbook CDs. Watching recent movies is another great way to build up your vocabulary, especially slang and idioms.
Why it’s tough? Depending on the language you’re learning, it might be difficult (and expensive) to find 25 movies to watch. For an added challenge, try this:
- On the first viewing, watch the film with your native language subtitles.
- On the second viewing, watch the film again with the target language subtitles.
- On the third and final viewing, watch the film as a native speaker would — no subtitles!
3. Write a journal entry every day – Language practice is just as important language study. Writing a daily journal of about 250-500 words every day will provide you with much needed practice so that you can try out recently learned vocabulary and apply new grammatical rules. Turn your journal into blog and have native speakers of the language you’re learning correct your mistakes and offer feedback. In turn, you could also read their work as part of a language exchange.
Why it’s tough?: In order to avoid boredom and monotony, you’ll need a lot of ideas and inspiration for writing prompts.
4. Talk with the locals every day – Ultimately, the purpose of learning a new language is communication, and what better way to learn a language than actually talking with real people! Speak far and wide and with as many people as possible in as many social contexts as possible: at the bank, the store, a party, wherever. Never let a single day slip by without actually doing something in the target language. Use the experiences from these encounters as content in a daily journal as added practice.
Why it’s tough? Unless you live abroad, it may be difficult to find native or fluent speakers in your area. Use Skype and other online communities to help you find a speaking partner.
5. Start a romantic relationship with someone who speaks the language – This is the mother of all language learning challenges! They say that all healthy relationships require constant communication, so If you’re dating someone who speaks the language you’re learning, you’ll constantly be writing love notes, talking to each other and reading the cute status updates on Facebook. And let’s not forget the never-ending stream of text messages — I said it’s over, Gregg! Seriously stop texting me 🙁
Why it’s tough? Doesn’t matter what language you’re using, relationships are hard work! Good luck!