♬ 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
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 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!
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
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If you enjoyed this post, you will love my TEDx talk! You can get much better details of how I recommend learning a language if you watch it here.
This article was written by Benny Lewis
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