FI3M is one year old today! Future plans, consultation & weeks before exam

♬ Cumpleaños feliz ♫ Joyeux anniversaire ♪ Happy birthday dear fluentin3months ♬ Tanti auguri a te! ♪

On June 1st 2009 I wrote the first post on this blog, and my fluent in 3 months projects had begun! It has been an incredible first year! The blog has received (to date) almost 2,500 comments and 500,000 page views, and has just won 1st place in the Top Language Learning blogs and 2nd place out of all Top 100 Language blogs 2010!!

In the last year on this blog I have documented how I was able to speak pretty good Czech in just two months (video here), pass of as a Carioca, get by in Thai, and of course am working on the German mission right now. And of course, along the way I have constantly reminded all of you that you can easily do it too! It has been one of the best years of my life thanks to all the support from readers to make sure I kept up the missions! Thank you :D

And the effects have gone way beyond the Internet. I met some fantastic other bloggers in Thailand who gave me great advice, met up with a couple of readers in person and have even been recognised in the street dozens of times by people I’ve never met! It helps that every single post so far includes a photo of me in it ;) I also seem to have a reputation ahead of me. I’ve lost count of the times someone in a party would talk to me for a few minutes and suddenly say “… hold on, are you that crazy 3-months guy?!?”

The blog has also made a big practical difference to my finances, all in the last two weeks. Unfortunately, everything I’ve earned for the last 15 months has gone directly to paying off my Visa card, which I had to use as an ATM card ever since my old laptop melted in 42ºC heat in India and left me workless for several weeks and needing to replace it with an equally powerful laptop. I had spent a lot on an iPhone just before this happened, which probably contributed to me disliking it so much…

However, since releasing the Language Hacking Guide, I may not have sold enough to retire yet, but I have (as of a couple of hours before writing this) cleared my debt! After paying rent, at the time of writing I now have €34 to my name and I’m damn happy about it :D Having a non-negative balance feels quite nice indeed! The best part is that I have received waves of positive feedback about the Language Hacking Guide – so people have genuinely been loving it and saying it was well worth what they paid for it! Sales have been slow after the first week, but hopefully as the site grows, more people will check it out.

To think, all it took to solve this problem and to be exposed to so many amazing people was a few mouse clicks and typing some words!

What’s in store for year two?

In one month, my 3-months will be up for the German mission – those of you in the Language Hacking League (sign up for free on the right of the site) will get e-mailed next Monday to hear where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing in July. I can say that for at least the next year I will continue the pattern of 2-3 month language missions that I have had since the site began. It’s fun! :D

People always ask me how I choose my next language – they suggest that the cases of this language or the tones of that language will be a great challenge for me. Well, as much as I love a challenge, grammar and other technical details of a language are not the reason I travel. I travel to get to know more people, enjoy a local culture, and feel comfortable in my day-to-day life. For me a cool city is way more important than a cool language. Although I definitely want to expand into some more interesting languages!

In fact, I’d love to get into Russian and Japanese, but there is one problem with both of these! No, it’s not Russian’s cases or Japanese’s kanji. That’s nothing – there’s something that scares me way more than that! It’s the fact that I love living in major active cities, so I would really much prefer to have those 3 missions in Moscow and Tokyo. Only problem is… they also happen to be the world’s top 2 most expensive capital cities! I’m not rich, and arrange my travels around that. Berlin for example is one of the cheapest capital cities in Europe, so coming here for 3 months was an easy choice, especially after hearing from so many people how great it is.

So, my side-mission for the rest of this year will be to try to earn more than I normally would as a translator. I don’t need to retire to a paradise island, feed a smoking/drinking habit, buy a car, or invest in lots of junk (since 40kg is already plenty to be travelling with). But if I want to be more flexible in my travels than sticking to cheap cities, I’ll have to start earning a bit more.

The good news for those of you who are just here to read & comment is that it means I am planning to be much more active! Once I have done the German exam, I’ll start working on aspects of this site like perhaps adding a forum to help connect language hackers, hopefully posting more regularly than once or twice a week, and I’ll definitely be writing guest posts on other blogs (about many things, not just languages!) and trying to get more interested readers to come here.

My priority will always be to continue to write interesting content to share my language learning adventures and my language hacks, both on the blog and the separate hacks in the e-mail list. I’ll keep all this advice nice and free! And hopefully 0.1% or so of people visiting will want a little bit more and will read the guide ;)


After the initial successful first week, sales of the guide continue to go well, but still not quite enough to live off. I’m going to take the risk and try to be a full time language hacker. I think I can contribute in other ways on my short time on this rock than locking myself up for weeks translating French train-door specifications to English…

Since I have been enjoying injecting some enthusiasm and language hacks into people I randomly meet in social events (one reason I was so slow to start a blog is because I am better at explaining myself verbally than in writing), I am going to go to the next level and try to help people on a one-on-one basis remotely. I was a language teacher for most of the last 7 years and you can see in the videos that I am certainly not shy to try to encourage people, so I am confident that I can really help people by Skype / telephone calls.

If you think you might be interested, or know someone who might, then check out my “Hire me” page for more details. Just as I am starting up, I’ll half the normal rate I am aiming for just until next Friday 10th. If you need to speak a language asap, but are not so confident and need formulate a plan of action, then let me know if you’d like private consultation and we’ll see if I can help ;)

4 weeks until the dreaded C2 exam!

OK, now back to the current mission! I signed up for the C2 exam last week and am working really hard to make sure passing is a real possibility. Now that I am familiar with the exam layout I can tell you that it’s hard!! Much harder than I had expected! Despite that, and despite my slower progress due to being almost totally focused on writing the Guide for 6 weeks straight, I still have a chance!

The easy part will be the oral exam. I would have passed this anyway if it was spontaneous, as the Spanish and French ones I did were. Speaking confidently is my forte and the core of the Guide I wrote! But it gets even easier – you are actually allowed to prepare a speech in advance and then discuss the same topic. I will prepare a talk about “Unconventional language learning strategies” and my examiners will of course be German teachers in their day-jobs. They may have examined many people before, but they won’t know what hit them when I get there! :)

But there is one big problem I wasn’t aware of until signing up. They don’t let you sit the oral exam unless you pass the written one! This has been a big blow to my plans, as I mostly wanted to know my result in the spoken part, even if I didn’t overall pass the exam. Despite paying a tzar’s ransom to sign up for the exam I can’t even sit all parts of it unless I pass others. Bloody annoying!

So the pressure really is on to do as well as possible in the other parts. You don’t have to pass all of them. I need to get a result of at least 60% in the written essay to be allowed into the oral one. This is going to be very hard at the standards required, but I’m going to write as much as possible over the next weeks and get corrections. I won’t ace this, but I am going to try really hard to achieve that 60-65% window required.

After this I need 60% in at least two out of the following three parts to pass overall: listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and the “expressiveness” part. The listening part will be hard, but I think I have a good chance of at least getting the 60% in that, the reading part is harder than you would think because of the complicated questions they ask, even though the texts are actually very manageable, but I’m practising a lot so I also have a chance there. And the “expressiveness” part is a frustrating collection of very technical grammatical questions that the examiners can expect a bold lecture from me about how pointless it is if I make it into the Oral exam! I’ll try my best but it’s not likely I’ll pass that part.

Even so I can still theoretically get the overall diploma with a “satisfactory” grade! However, falling below that extremely difficult to reach 60% grade in any of the four aspects I’m aiming to pass will render the entire result as a fail. And not getting that minimum in the written will mean that I won’t even get to sit the only part (Oral) that I was actually looking forward to!

Sound daunting enough? I seem to be willingly putting myself through this ridiculous exam procedure despite the fact that it’s June and I should be in sunny parks chatting up blond Berliners. At least the very unexpected dull weather Europe is experiencing these weeks means it’s not that bad being stuck indoors studying. Sitting an exam like this is the only reason I’m studying so much, because otherwise it can’t help as much as being much more social would with a goal of speaking better.

My spoken level has been improving (as you can see by watching my two most recent videos), but way less than I would prefer. Attempting to reduce my accent is hard as I’m not speaking regularly enough, but I am still not giving up on that just yet!

So, we have one month left! You will of course get details of how the exam went… they give me the final results about 10 days after sitting the exam (but they will correct just the written part on the same day to tell me if I’m not invited to the Oral exam – how nice of them!)

There you have it! So, what do you think about FI3M’s first year? How would you like to see the site develop over the next 12 months? Do you think having Skype calls is an interesting way for me to get to Tokyo? Based on my description – will you forgive me if I don’t pass the C2 exam, or do you think I have a good chance?

Share all your thoughts in the comments! Any off-topic negativity will be banished to the netherworld of Disqus’ deleted comments limbo!

Thanks again for all of your support over the last 12 months :)



I'll send you the first lesson right away.
Click here to see the comments!
  • Randy (@Yearlyglot)

    You might want to consider Kiev. It's far more affordable than Moscow or St. Petersburg, and most people there still speak Russian.

  • Shawn Christenson

    Happy Birthday FI3M!! That's awesome, congrats Benny. You may some day make me want to learn a language – you do make it sound fun and easy. I never ever liked learning french (I'm in Canada) because of the teachers and as such I've never had any desire to ever learn another language.

  • Quokka

    Herzlichen Glühstrumpf. :-)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    That's what I've been told – I've already thought about it – Kiev will be my plan B if I still can't afford Moscow in 2011 :)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks a LOT!! :) Yeah, if I get enough sales of the book and enough consultations, then it will become a much more likely mission! Time will tell :D

  • AdventureRob

    Great work on the 1st year of the blog ^_^ I'm going to Japan later on this year so will be giving a go at learning the language :)

  • Tom Simpson

    Hi Benny,

    Congratulations on the success of the blog. I have been following it for the last 4 months or so and it has been very helpful to me personally, if not so much for a lot of the technical advise (which is excellent) but rather for the motivational nature of the posts you make. I am sure you will be very successful giving consultations. On that theme, are you aware of the Michel Thomas method. I have read previously you have never followed a traditional course. However, if your not faimilar with these they are the most popular UK language courses and they say they can give a functional proficiency in 8 hours. Indeed this is true as I myself have followed the italian course and it is excellent. The reason I mention this is that it is a dream of mine to develop my language skills to be able to teach via this method. With yourself being someone who speaks several languages I would be interested on your take on a course that follows your taste for language hacks and focuses solely on speaking to produce extremely quick and impressive results.

  • Przemek


    You've written about giving paid consultations about learning a language.
    How about organizing boot camps for language learners?

    This is how I imagine it:

    You give an advertisement on your blog, than you give the price, you take care of accommodation for interested people(preferably shared with you, as you're the “guru”, so the more time we're together the more I will learn ;). And than instead of taking boring lessons in language schools, you take your' fellows and you “hunt” for native speakers in the city.

    Think about it – people pay a lot of money for “full immersion language programs” just to find out they didn't learn as much as they expected. When they'll study with you it's simply not an option, because it's going to be pure fun, and grasping the language will be just a byproduct.

    Happy birth day to your blog ;)

  • Przemek

    Oh, and by the way.
    My girlfriend wrote an email to you.
    She was interested(actually she still is) in translating your guide to polish.
    Well, I hope it was just overzealous spam filter… Anyways she would appreciate if you responded ;)

    All the best to you :)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Ahaha, I don't want to be a guru right now :P I'd be quite happy with Skype calls :)
    If I get super famous, then I'll make a language hacking TV show and eliminate people each week who don't speak enough. The winner will get $50,000. That seems to be a popular format nowadays :P

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Yes, sorry about that. I had a huge e-mail backlog since selling the guide but it is dying down. I just spent the last 2 hours answering e-mails… I'll get back to the remaining ones tomorrow. She'll hear from me very soon, I promise :)

  • Przemek

    But don't rush :D. She's out of internet connection till the end of week anyways… But I just sms'ed her that you've made a public claim about responding :)

  • Seb


    Have you thought about Scandinavia? I become fluent in 8 months and would love to see you beat it!

    i might not be the cheapest in the world but by learning Swedish I can understand Norwegian easily and get by in Danish and even understand a little bit of Dutch!

    Sweden isn't too expensive at the moment if you have a j.o.b.

    Also Scandinavian languages are cool cos of their use of tones and melody and all the rest of that jazz.

    Think about it…

    Good luck with German and whatever your next mission is!

  • Seb

    Also check if you are thinking af japan

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Khatz and I are friends – I even interviewed him for the audio in my Language Hacking Guide ;)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    It's another one to think about yes! Having work with me already will be an advantage for sure

    • Polly

      I personally find Norwegian and Danish more beautiful and interesting than Swedish, but if you really want to go extreme Scandinavian, Icelandic is the way to go.

  • Erin

    Congratulations on your well deserved number 1 of language learning blogs and of selling so many guides. I think the skype consultations is an excellent idea! I have found your blog and guide more motivating than either the group or private classes I have taken so I am sure you'll be able to provide a lot of help to people. Good luck with that and the exam! Thanks for the continuing inspiration – I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in Year 2!

  • Nicole

    Whilst the Michael Thomas method may have worked for you, I have to say that my experience with it was very unfavourable. Were you a complete beginner with Italian? Did you use the 'at-home' audio versions like me?

    I tried it out as the first way to refresh my A-level German when I found out I was moving here, so perhaps it's just not good for intermediate learners. I found the people on the recording to have poor accents and to be quite annoying all round… (sorry if anyone reading was one of them!). Plus it was very simplistic for me, and I feel that in German at least you need *some* grammar to make your sentences make sense (i.e. subject/object differences). I skipped ahead to the final tape (yes, it was old and on cassette – I borrowed it from the library, which I was glad of, since then I didn't pay for it!) to see if that was more suitable for my level – it wasn't. I already knew everything I heard.

    Perhaps this method has more benefits for other people (perhaps I already had what you describe as 'functional proficiency', and just lacked confidence), or in a classroom situation (where at least there can be correction), but I heartily disliked it myself.

    • Tom Simpson

      Hi Nicole,

      Thanks for the response. I would indeed say the course is aimed at someone who is a beginner in the language but would be useful to someone revisiting a language. However I do think you missed the point of my post. I did not intend to review per se the course/method because that has been done to death. Instead I was asking Benny for his thoughts (if he has any) on a system that utlitises shortcuts to get someone speaking in the language very quickly. It’s a shame it didn’t work for you but to be fair to the courses if you didn’t bother complete the full course then it would be difficult to give a fair appraisal. He can correct me if I am wrong but I believe Bennys’ missions see him going from virtually zero knowledge of a language to hopefully becoming fluent in 3 months. So, to return to the point of my last post (sorry if I didn’t express myself clearly enough), since Benny is making a start in the consulting world, I wondered if he had thought of utilitising the Michel Thomas method (which hopes to take people to a decent level of knowledge of virtually all tenses). The CD’s people use are only an approximation of the course because in reality, the people in the real world using the method would be in the position of the students from the CD’s, and would have no poor pronunciation from CD’s to listen to – only the pronunciation of Benny/the instructor.

      After all of the above that I have written, it’s important to say I am just a user of the course that has had some success andI am interested to know the opinion of someone who is in the position to be able to utilise the method from the perspective of the teacher.



  • Snowman2204

    Tokyo has a reputation for being expensive, but it is easy to live here cheaply if you know how.

    Spoken Japanese is a lot simpler than you might think, especially if you have only ever studied European languages (no articles, no cases, no noun genders, no verb conjugations, no consonant clusters…)

  • Elthyra

    Wow, that C2 exam sure looks hard! Bonne chance. Certains de mes amis hispanophones ont passé un examen du genre en espagnol (le DELE je crois), et même en parlant couremment ils ont eu du mal.
    Et je proteste contre ton évaluation de la météo européenne. Bien que je me sois pris la pluie hier, en ce moment-même le soleil brille sur Paris (pas pour longtemps, certes). Sinon, j'achèterai sans hésiter le LHG si je n'étais pas mineure (j'ai pas de carte de crédit). Bref, congrats on your first year :D

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    @Tom I did follow an academic course for German when I was a teenager. I also tried one for Spanish in my initial wasted 6 months of not being able to say anything. I might investigate other learning methods in future, I don't know how MT works to be honest. 8 hours seems like a great promise, but I'd be very sceptical if this was just using a different study method and not getting you to interact in some way. The whole premise of language hacking etc. is that speaking early and doing so with natives will get you that proficiency. If MT promotes that too then I might check it out, but if it expects you to suddenly speak after 8 hours of study then I'd be sceptical, but if you say it works for you then great!

    I would follow a live version of my own advice in consultation, rather than using someone else's method (at least for the moment). My goal isn't to have people master “the basics” but to put them on the road to actual fluency. If the MT method is better for beginners, then it would interest me much less.

    Thanks for the interesting comments!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Moi aussi j'ai fait le DELE superior. Ouf…
    Bah, vous êtes chanceux à Paris ! :D Quand même, j'ai écrit cette phrase-là trop vite. Aujourd'hui il fait beau à Berlin :) J'ai étudié dehors, c'était sympa !
    C'est quand ton anniversaire ? Il faut demander tes vieux s'ils veulent t'acheter un cadeau pour t'aider à faire mieux dans les examens :P mdr je rigole ;)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Ahaha – this kid is great in front of the camera! :D Loved it, thanks for sharing :)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for the encouragement! It's cheaper to live everywhere if you know how ;) I've been able to get by in some of Europe's most expensive cities on a modest wage! However, I'd like at least a minor level of comfort in Tokyo… I've already gone through the starving student stage of my life :P

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Modest? I have to be realistic – there is a pretty good chance that I won't pass it! It's REALLY hard!! Maybe I didn't convey that well enough in this post :P
    Thanks for the invitation! If I afford to make it to Japan, I'll try to travel a bit to cash in on that OJ :D

  • GlobalButterfly

    Congrats on your 1 year anniversary, as well as paying off your debt!!! Wish we could celebrate together. It's a shame I'm going to be in Europe next week and our paths won't cross. One day hopefully! Best wishes with your exam–I have no doubt you'll do great. You're Benny!!! :)

  • Niko

    Hey Benny, for practicing your listening (and reading) comprehension you can find hundreds of podcasts with scripts here:

    Check out the archives “swr2 Wissen”, “swr2 Aula” und “Welt am Draht” The topics discussed there are highly interesting and spoken in normal speed.
    Hope you can use it :)
    wieso schreibe ich eigentlich in Englisch?? zu spät, aber das passiert nicht nochmal ;-)

  • Jen

    I can't compare it to any towns in Ukraine, but if you actually want to stick to Russia, Kazan is awesome. It's a really cool city with a ton of interesting culture (and a UNESCO World Heritage site if you're into that kind of thing; even if not, the Kremlin is pretty cool). It's kind of an East-meets-West place, where Orthodoxy and Islam coexist peacefully (for the most part), they have world-renowned universities (Lenin studied at Kazan State) and the city is bilingual (Russian and Tatar). I feel as though the last time I was there (early this year), prices were about on par with a mid-sized US city, definitely cheaper than New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, but (a little bit) more expensive than small-town USA. And it's just an overnight train from Moscow, so you can still go visit on the weekends or whatnot.

  • Darya Shashkova

    ¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Benny! your Russian and Japanese mission sound really good! well, I'd recommend you Saint Petersburg and Kazan. they are big cities. many people had visited Kazan yet and they are really content with it. I have a spanish friend, he'd studien the Russian there and liked it very much! and also, it's a pretty city.
    i've studied in Saint Petersburg. it's great! it's rather cheapier than Moscow and the people are different, more european, i think ;) well, i have many friends there, if you are interested for some info :)
    Good luck with your German exam! Yes, you can! :D

  • Darya Shashkova

    ah, and Rostov-na-Donu! :) well, i don't see my earlier comment, i've told you about Saint Petersburg and Kazan :D
    well, good luck with your missions and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks!! :) It feels good to know that I can actually save my money and that it isn't all going directly to visa! Aaaah :D

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks! Hope you enjoy your EU trip!!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks a million for the link!! :)
    Haha, das nächste Mal kannst du auf Deutsch schreiben ;)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for the advice and good luck wishes! :)

  • UmitOrhan

    I cant really believe that you started FI3M just 1 year ago! Oh man! Incredible… I was thinking considering the popularity of the blog that it must have been at least 3 years. Actually not surprised since you are a really good communicator and talented writer.
    You will pass the C2 exam! No doubt it… I-We believe in you!
    Also consider living in Istanbul for 3 months and learning Turkish! This might help you before you save up enough for Moscow! :))

  • Xperian

    Congratulations on making a year, here's to another year of language learning! :)

  • Sam

    This kid deserves a star! I've never been able to pronounce words in Russian—I usually end up saying goobadeegoobadeegoop or something like that; BUT his pronunciation was so articulate I had no problem with it