Achieve the impossible this summer: Set yourself a (fluent in?) 3 month challenge! #Fi3M

Wondering what my mission will be this summer? Make sure to follow me on Facebook, twitter and Google+ to find out within a few days!

The summer has begun (at least in the northern hemisphere), so what do you want to have achieved by September? If you want to make serious progress in your target language, then I suggest you take the #Fi3M challenge that I’m proposing for people this summer!

In this post, I’ll outline a few of the specifics of what helps me make so much progress in such a short time, and hopefully get you set on the path to get busy with your own challenge!

Le’s get serious about a real result by September! Who’s with me?? It’s time to achieve the impossible!

I have plenty of techniques and my own system of learning a language intensively, but some crucial differences between my language learning challenges and that of the Average Frustrated Learner include the following aspects of a “mission” that I’d highly suggest you incorporate yourself:

Specific deadline

Thanks to my very specific deadline, I have to force myself to do as much as possible by that time.

The problem with a deadline of one year or something along those lines is Parkinson’s law that work expands to fill the time allotted to it. Without any pressure you will simply learn too slowly.

I say set a deadline that is ONE, TWO or THREE months from now and work your ass off until then.

Absolute priority

I’m not trying to learn a language while also training to run a marathon and becoming a chess master and working on getting a job promotion and planning a wedding and writing an autobiography and quitting smoking and dramatically changing my diet etc. etc. all simultaneously.

Each one of these projects is an immense task in itself and definitely requires your focus. Don’t do too many things at once; it’s best to have 30-day (or in my case, 90-day) challenges with one key aspect of your life you want to work on. If you spread yourself too thin, you won’t achieve any of the many big challenges you set yourself. It may seem more efficient to do them all at once, but if you pace yourself and have one major goal that you focus on at a time, then after a few successive challenges you can change your entire life!

I especially like how Leo Babauta from the website zenhabits, has made a huge number of important and incredible positive changes to his life. The way he did it was to focus on each challenge one at a time, and make that his priority. After that it stuck for when he was focused on another challenge.

Focus just on your language learning project if you are serious about it, or focus on the other priority instead first so that you have less distractions when it’s time to learn the language.

Very specific end goal

Another important aspect of my missions is that I’m specific about what I aim for, and it tends to be the most controversial aspect of this site that drives so many people crazy.

And I mean it. Be VERY specific. None of this “learn Spanish” nonsense. Aim for conversational, (precisely defined) fluency, read a novel only consulting a dictionary twice per page, being able to hold up a telephone conversation, whatever it may be. But aim for that and always have it in mind and make sure it’s ambitious!

Aiming safely within your limits is for SISSIES – I say be ambitious and push yourself to the max. “Failure” should always be an option; it’s the only way to achieve something great. If it were a sure thing then it wouldn’t be a challenge.

One thing I happen to like, is to scope my levels based on the Common European Framework of References for Languages, that I discussed here. If it helps motivate you, you can sign up for an exam if a testing institute will be accessible for you in a few months, and a language qualification is something you care for.

For Chinese, I aimed for spoken level C1 [advanced] (which I still think is possible in a short time, if I were to eliminate the mistakes I made), and in the end I have ended up with a spoken level B1 (lower intermediate) instead. If I aimed for this level from the start, I would have seen it in sight much sooner and eased off, rather than have 3 months of painful, but productive, work, and I ultimately would have gotten lower.

There is no pass or fail in the non-academic world when it comes to a means of communication (that’s what a language is, not a list of grammar rules and vocabulary), when you truly push yourself there are only various degrees of success. The only true way you can fail is if you are not pushing yourself to your limit.

But what should you aim for? It depends on the time that you can invest in the project; i.e. if you can do it for a large chunk of your day (40+ hours per week) over 3 months, then I’d personally recommend pushing yourself to a very high limit, such as: (see this Wikipedia article to understand what these terms represent)

Starting Level 0 A1 A2 B1 B2 C1
Target Level B2/C1 C1 C1/C2 C2 C2+ Sound like a native

On the other hand, if you have up to 20 hours per week you can invest in it then the table below could be a good guide.

This is a pitiful less than three hours per day, which is a minimum for something that you should be serious about, so I’ll hear none of these excuses that you have no time. MAKE TIME! Stop watching TV or clicking away on Facebook for hours on end, and make sacrifices.

There’s a huge difference between “working hard” and changing your lifestyle entirely such that the project takes over every free moment, including chances to socialise and relax in your mother tongue.

If you have the time to read my ridiculously long blog posts, then you DEFINITELY have three hours per day that you could dig out and use more efficiently ;)

In that case, aim to go up at least one, preferably two levels, along these lines:

Starting Level 0 A1 A2 B1 B2 C1
Target Level A2/B1 B1/B2 B2 B2/C1 C1 C2

If you are wondering how you should change this based on how hard your target language is, then you are wasting precious time. EVERY language is hard, and every language is easy depending on how you look at it. Get over it and get busy!

If you think you have any kind of advantage, like knowing a similar language, then the only thing you should do is adjust my suggestions to be more adventurous.

Don’t play it safe. Many excuses can creep in until you’ve reduced your challenge to a minor hop.

The rule is simple: aim higher than you probably should. If you spend any time pondering over silly irrelevant details, then that’s time taken away from actually making progress in the language.

This is how I do it. I aim as high as I do because that ridiculously high target forces me to improve at a rate that allows for wallowing around plateaus to simply not be an option.

Public accountability

One of the other huge pushes that help me a lot is that I announce my mission to the world (and since my site’s audience is always growing, that’s even more mounting accountability with each mission!)

Note that this accountability can be just as effective when a few hundred eyes are on you. Starting a blog is great way to do this, although getting more than a few dozen people to read it over your first few months can be quite hard. Luckily now I have a much better option for you!

Go to the Fluent in 3 months forums, which now has over 7,000 members with many active posters, who are incredibly supportive and helpful. You may run into some problems in your project, and you can rest assured that someone in the community will step in and give you some advice! Many readers have read most of my blog or Language Hacking Guide and are fully aware of what I’d say, since I can’t reply to most posts myself, and many times have their own wisdom to throw in based on much more relevant experience than I may have.

After you’ve created an account (click Register if you haven’t one already), go to the section of the forum which is there specifically for announcing your language mission, and write your background, motivation and specific goals.

This way the entire Fi3M community can check it out and join along with you on your quest! Learning a language with a community to support you is very different to doing it alone!

You can embed video updates (which I’d highly recommend making throughout your mission if it has a spoken focus), and otherwise edit your posts on an advanced forum platform (many other active language learning forums I am aware of use outdated, cumbersome and non-user-friendly forum technology).

As well as regularly updating your mission page, make sure to search the forum for people with missions similar to yours or discussions about your target language, because there may have been a relevant list of resources or steps to take shared.

On the same forum you can get in touch with native speakers for a language exchange, and when logged in you will see a bar at the bottom of the screen which lets you chat to other Fi3M visitors also logged in. This bar has advanced capabilities that include live type chat, video/audio chat, games, language specific group chats, mobile support etc.

Make your language learning mission interactive and do it along with a community of others also with their own challenges!

X in 3 months? Get started!

The point of the title of this site isn’t that I have a secret formula for fluency in 3 months, but that I challenge myself to get fluent in 3 months, or some other very specific target in the same spirit. This is what I hope many of you will get into yourselves! The reason it can “take years” to learn a language is not because it has to, but because you are not doing it intensively.

It’s the hours that truly matter, not the years.

If you set aside those three (or ideally, much more) hours per day this summer to really dive into your project, then you will make huge strides ahead!

Your challenge doesn’t have to be fluent in 3 months, and it doesn’t even have to be 3 months. Make it 2, or 6 – whatever you know is a short enough timespan to be something you see on the immediate horizon, and make your goal HIGH and ambitious. Try your damnedest to get it all the way to the end, remembering all those you promised that you would!

And if after those three months, you are “only” 80% successful, well then won’t that be something to be pretty damn proud of too! You’ll have definitely jumped up a level in your target language! The only way you can truly fail your mission is if you did not pour your heart and soul into it.

So, who is up for the #Fi3M challenge this summer? Let’s see your missions on the forums, or if you blog elsewhere let us know where you’ll be writing about it in the comments. I’m looking forward to seeing what you can come up with by September!



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  • Dr. David Orman

    Japanese. I am all in!

    David Orman

  • Sarah Luna

    Spanish so that I can speak intelligibly about my research when I go to Mexico in September.

    • Benny Lewis

      Best of luck! That sounds like a precise goal, so I’d work on tasks related to your research if at all possible! ;) Let me know how it goes!

  • Jamie Alexander

    Since I want to live in Thailand first I’ll sign myself up for this challenge with Thai.

    I have a book – Thai for Beginners

    My challenge is that I have to work through that in 2 months and become competent at everything in it. Hopefully this will give me a good base.

    When I have more money I’ll then start getting 1-to-1 sessions over the Internet.

    Good idea.

    • Benny Lewis

      “When I have more money” is a really REALLY bad postponing excuse.

      Do it for free – get Thai lessons as part of a language (or other skill) exchange, or meet up with a friendly native or fluent speaker by searching for Thai speakers in your city on Couchsurfing.

      Waiting until you have more money translates to “never” for most people in my experience. Even when they have more money that will go to something else, since we never have “enough” money.

      Best of luck in your mission, but to be frank, finishing a book for beginners is NOT being ambitious as I suggested in this post ;) That’s not a challenge at all, it’s just a bit of hard work and studying. How can you NOT finish a book for beginners in two entire months? It’s just a modest goal, not a true challenge.

      If you want to live in Thailand and not rely on English all the time, you need to get more active and way more serious than what you are proposing.

      • Jamie Alexander

         Haha, I thought that was a good challenge :(

        I completely get where you’re coming from. I will be serious about learning a language in the future. I’m too busy trying to build a business right now and that’s more important at the moment.

        My time of being a speaker of another language will come. I’ll just hold of then until I can guarantee more time.

        • Benny Lewis

          I knew there was something else you were prioritising!! As I said in the post focus on ONE thing at a time.

          Focus JUST on building a business if that’s your absolute priority: don’t have a million other projects at the same time because you’ll get none of them done, including the priority one.

          If you make it your lifelong time-consumer to build a business, then what are you even building it for is what I’d ask myself. Do what needs to be done and do it now ;)

          Best of luck with your projects!

  • MidlifeSinglemum

    I love this post but I have a committment problem atm. Maybe in July/August?

    • Benny Lewis

      I’d suggest that you make your current mission “remove the maybe, and make it so I will be much less likely to have a commitment problem in July :P
      Best of luck!

  • Benny Lewis

    A1 to B1 in a few months sounds like a plan! Go for it :)

  • Aubergine71

    Bon jour! My husband relocated to Montreal from the United States at the beginning of the year. My daughter and I want to join him at the end of the summer. I will be speaking French by the time we move! 

  •émi-Serendip-Belleau/634732533 Rémi Serendip Belleau

    Esperanto first Lernu’s exam! In august I’ll be at least B1!

  • Jazmine

    I’ve been learning Chinese for a while now, but this summer I’ve really gotten into it because I finally have time. Being in all advanced classes takes up so much of my time from what I REALLY want to do: learn Chinese. I have a course book with CD’s and my goal is to get done with the Beginner’s Level and Intermediate’s Level by the time school starts again. I use up pretty much all my day speaking to myself in Chinese, watching shows in Chinese and rewinding them to listen without the subtitles, listening to music in Chinese and trying to figure out what it’s saying… My problem is that I don’t know anyone that speaks Mandarin here. I know three Chinese people, and the three of them speak Cantonese (just my luck!). Speaking to natives is hard because when it’s daytime here, it’s nighttime there and vice versa. When I do speak to natives via Skype, it’s usually after 6 or 7 PM and for about an hour or so. I’m worried that I wont be able to actually practice my Chinese with natives because I don’t have people to speak it with on a regular basis, so I just talk to myself. Any tips?

  • Andrew

    Let me tell you guys something, that first part about just picking ONE thing to focus on is absolute GOLD.  I just started doing this about 3 months ago for the first time ever, my entire life prior to this I always had a bunch of shit I wanted to do and I would try to do it all at once (starting and running my own business and websites, really getting into shape, learning 2 or 3 languages, and learning how to draw…all at the same time): IT. DID. NOT. WORK.

    Not only does it suck because it wears you out but what really sucks is the fact that because you’re doing all these things at once you don’t really do any of them well enough to get any significant progress in ANY of them so you fail at accomplishing ALL of your goals all at once.  This makes you sad.  And frustrated.  It definitely makes you want to say “screw it, I’m not doing this, I give up”, and then you’re really screwed if you do that (give up completely).

    About 3 months ago I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever done: I stopped going to the gym and cancelled my membership.  It’s the first time I haven’t been working out at a gym in probably 4 or 5 years.  I still eat really well and go for a good 2 mile walk every day that involves walking up and down a pretty steep hill in front of my house (about a 15-20 degree incline), so I still get some decent exercise.  But I don’t focus on it: I’m not on a diet, I eat things I enjoy, I’m eating about as many calories as I burn every day so I’m neither losing nor gaining weight, and I get about 25 minutes of exercise every day, that’s it.  I’m spending the bare minimum amount of time and effort I need to keep myself in shape.  I also stopped working on other languages I really, really want to learn (French and Japanese at the moment).

    Why did I do this? Because I had to choose.  I had to figure out what was most important to me and to focus on getting that goal accomplished first and foremost before doing anything else.  For me that was, without a doubt, getting my website (How to Learn Spanish) back running and active again (I hadn’t posted in almost 6 months) and get my book written and out there so I can start making a decent income off of it (I’m writing a book on my Telenovela Method of learning Spanish where you use popular media like movies, TV shows, books, etc. to teach yourself Spanish, it’ll be published on Amazon sometime in the next 6 months or so).  This is what I want to do for a living: help other people learn languages (right now it’s Spanish, I plan on doing French, German, and Japanese versions of my current Spanish site), and I want to do it online so that I can travel to the countries that interest me where those languages are spoken, a lot like what Benny does right now.

    Benny, I’m jealous, but I admire you for doing what you’ve done at the same time.  Keep up the good work, man, I love your posts.  I’ll be doing what you’re doing at some point here and we’ll meet up in a cafe somewhere in France or Chile or Tokyo or something and have some coffee together…maybe you can convince me to try Esperanto, haha ;)


    • Benny Lewis

      Sounds like a hefty goal indeed! But as you’ve discovered, building that empire one piece at a time is better than starting off by juggling ;) Every aspect of how I grew this blog was something I focused on intensively. If I had tried to get here by doing it all at once I would have failed miserably. Right now there are indeed quite a lot of things I have to do to keep the site growing, but each one of them is second nature to me now thanks to focusing on it specifically, so it’s pretty much autopilot for me as I focus on one new thing I need to improve.

      Yes, I’m sure our paths will cross!

      • Andrew

        “Right now there are indeed quite a lot of things I have to do to keep
        the site growing, but each one of them is second nature to me now thanks
        to focusing on it specifically, so it’s pretty much autopilot for me as
        I focus on one new thing I need to improve.”

        Yup, precisely.  I feel like once you’ve mastered something or gotten to the level you wanted to get to in it, you can kind of move it to the background and focus on something else while still maintaining yourself in your previous endeavors.  For example, I feel like once I get my site up and earning an income and mostly on autopilot the way I want to get it, I could spend 6 months focusing on getting the kind of shape I want to be in while still doing what I need to do to maintain the site (posting every now and then, occasional guest posts, etc–not spending more than maybe 10-20 hours a week on it), then I could go back to the site and focus on it and grow it some more (or start on the French version), etc.  You can slowly build these things up, is my point, and the way you do it is to accomplish one at a time and as you accomplish each one and you move onto the next one you can maintain your previous accomplishments with relatively little effort while you focus on something new.


  • David

    I’ll be back home (Germany) at the end of the month.  I have lived there for two years and haven’t really progressed all that much with learning the language.

    I’ll start this challenge at the beginning of July, so my 3 month challenge will take me to the beginning of October.

    • Benny Lewis

      Excellent stuff!

  • Lisa

    Oooh, that’s a great idea, thank you! I don’t have anything to do until September and I’m going to Sweden this summer! I already know some Swedish so I’m aiming for C1. :D

    • Benny Lewis

      If you don’t have anything to do this summer, then you have it made! :) Just make sure you put the time and effort in and you can make huge strides ahead!

    • montmorency

      If you are into the Swedish “Wallanders” (either or both versions), and similar stuff, you might try to get the DVDs with Scandinavian subtitles. The ones on sale in the UK probably only have English s/t, but I’ve noticed that several Scandinavian online DVD sellers have versions with s/t in most of the Nordic languages. Alternatively, use the UK versions, but find look for subtitles online. There are quite a few sites out there offering them (from volunteers, so accuracy not guaranteed, but still a help).

  • Martín Raúl Villalba

    I’m in for “B2/C1 Italian” and I’m gonna own it. It may sound a little vague, but I do know what that means, exactly.

  • Valerie the Aspiring Asiaglot

    Count me in, but a little late!  I’m going to be living in Japan as an English teacher through the JET Program starting August 1, so I think I’m going to make this less of a summer goal and more of a general 3-month goal, beginning in August……I would start the mission now but I have a lot of road trips and such planned this summer with American friends/family who I may not be seeing again for up to 5 years, so I want to spend as many hours with them as possible before I go…EXCUSES EXCUSES I know, but I think it’s best if I wait to start the hardcore mission until the day I arrive in Japan, since I know my life will be completely fresh and new and I’ll be fully ready to take on the challenge without a bunch of all-English road trips getting in the way!

    I have a blog that’s kind of sitting there, waiting to be used for just this purpose!

    Once it gets closer to August, I’ll make my post in the forum.  This is gonna be fun! I’m at about a B2 level now I’d say, so let’s make August 1 – November 1 the MISSION for C2!

    • Liza

      Hi Valerie,
      This is just my experience, but I think you would be better off starting your mission before you get to Japan, your English road trips notwithstanding. As someone who has moved to 6 different countries (and had to learn a new language each time), I can tell you that when you first arrive, you’ll be very busy settling in. At that time, you’ll probably regret that having taken the time to at least learn a few things. It could make for a softer landing. At any rate, がんばってください (try your best)!!

  • Chopsaurus

    AAAAAAAAAHHH!  I don’t know which to pick!  My husband is past a B1 in chinese, so I could speak with him every day…. I am beween an A-B in German already and have friends to skype with weekly….but I am going to a rainforest village in Costa Rica in August where Spanish is a must.  Which one!?  If I understand Benny’s philosophy correct, I will stick with the one that will be most useful in the shorter amount of time, espanol, then only partially maintain my Deutsch and Zhongwen in the mean time.  I’m going to see how many friends I can get to take this mission with me!  Buena suerte!   

    • Benny Lewis

      Sticking with one is definitely WAY better than spreading yourself thin ;) Learning many languages is a wonderful thing in life, but you will get way more mileage out of your projects if you do 3 months of just Chinese followed by 3 months of just German than you would by six months of both, in my opinion.

      Good luck!

  • L’amante del’italiano

    I am currently at B1/B2 in Italian.  I want to read “Bar Sport” (136 pages) by Stefano Benini (and understand all the jokes!) and “Harry Potter e la pietra filosofale”  by July 27th!

  • TLH

    Polish, starting at essentially 0 (I’ve had some time, but I don’t think it really counts as A1 yet).  I think with my court schedule this summer, B1 is a good goal.  I want to be able to go to Poland next year, and with B1 by September, it will only keep improving. 

    I do have a question though:  what is your opinion about continuing to improve a language you already speak?  Do you think it “should” be part of a three month (or 6, or whatever) goal, or should that be something separate?  For example, I want to get my German to C2, but should I work on that right now, or mostly focus on Polish? 

  • Brock – Backpack with Brock

    Excellent tips! 

  • TegS

    Awesome post Benny. I’m about A2 Russian… I am planning to go to St Petersburg for 2 weeks. Hopefully after some self-study and some time over there I’ll get up to B2 (if not higher) by September.  :)

    • Benny Lewis

      I wouldn’t use the word “hopefully” if I were you – do or do not, there is no try, as Yoda says ;)

  • Lexi

     Do you think there’s a “burn out” point you can reach each day, where you can’t possibly absorb any more information?  Wouldn’t working past that point be counter-productive?  I’ve been studying french and found that around 3 hours is my burn out point, but it seems as you need to do more than that to make the sort of progress you talk about here.  Maybe this is a problem with my study method, that I’m doing 3 hours of relatively the same thing.  If that’s the case, what are the elements that I can vary to switch it up?

    • Benny Lewis

      My burn out period is THREE WEEKS, not a few hours. ;)
      The problem is that you are doing exactly the same thing for 3 hours, like studying the same notes; I also couldn’t handle that for more than a few hours, which is why I mix it up by doing many different things: study a book, study flashcards, have a Skype session with a native, listen to a podcast, meet up with a native, watch a movie and pay close attention, have a particular challenge in the language that day etc. etc.

  • Grace

    Portuguese it is for me! And I recently moved to LA, so I’m going to research the Brazilian community here.

  • Dusty

    Wondering if I should go for it when I have a bunch of other focuses right now… do I focus on art or Spanish?

    Tempted. So tempted.

  • Logan

    Nice post! I don’t like the use of the word “impossible” though ;-)

  • Erik Blomqvist

    Wow, Benny, this really kicked things of for me in my head. I’m in, but for a 4 month challenge! Why? This is why:

  • Svetlana Gracheva

    I aim for C2 in Spanish. I already have a thread in forums:    and I have my date for DELE: August 25th.

    • Benny Lewis

      Wow, epic! Keep up the good work Svetlana!

  • S.D.I.

    Thanks a lot Benny. This was just the kick I needed to make use of my last 3 months (of 6) in Serbia to try and reach the fluency that was denied to me as a child (I’m a semi-native speaker of Serbo-Croatian; that is someone who spoke it at home but never reached native “skills” in the language). I definitely want to get to an extremely high level in the language before I go to (hopefully Spanish) university in September.

    Anyway, time to block English-language websites again! See you in three months, and keep up with the interesting and motivating articles!

    • Benny Lewis

      Drats. My blog has been blocked by its own logic! :-P

  • benblasto

    Very good information, when looking to learn fast, i loved the accurate and detailed information, this really gives tools when needed!!!

  • David Baghurst

    Three month plan to go from about A2 (=Chinesepod Elementary; Chinese Made Easier book 1)  to B2 Mandarin (=Upper Intermediate; book 5) and sit the HSK level 4 written and intermediate spoken at the next available test date in Hong Kong.  
    Purely coincidental that some listening with take place on running/cycling machines in a gym ;o)

    • Benny Lewis

      Epic mission! :D

  • Jonathan

    Like you Jazmine, I’m 15 and I can’t exactly just and talk to a bunch of twenty-somethings who have an interest in the same languages as me (French, German and Russian).
    How do you find natives to talk to on Skype to talk with?
    (Disappointingly), I’ve never actually talked to any natives in My target languages :'( and I really want to improve!

    • Benny Lewis

      “I’m too young to learn a language”. That’s certainly a novelty after reading so many people write “I’m too old to learn a language”.

  • Svetlana Gracheva

    Hi, drop me a note when you’re in Moscow (I’m Zverka in forums), so we can meet and chat. ^_^
    As for your problem I have a method and I call it 5:1 you need to get the subs or script for the video in the native language, then you do 5 steps:
    1) watch the video as it is in a native language
    2) watch it again with subs
    3) translate all the unknown words in subs
    4) watch it again with subs, make sure you understand almost everything
    5) watch it again without subs
    this works for me and my students. you have 2 profits here: you grab vocab and you start hearing more words (even those you already know in script, but not in pronunciation)
    the best videos for this method should contain 50-85% of known words, so you won’t get frustrated by not understanding the overall concept

  • Thomas Illgen

    I’m in…
    I’ve been d|cking about with Dutch for a little over a year now.
    My current level in “A 0.5″ (making up a new level!). It’s time to get serious! That said, this summer I am going to focus on my reading comprehension. My goal by September is to read the novel Harry Potter en de Steen der Wijzen (Dutch translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) while only consulting a dictionary 3 times/page (on average). To achieve this goal, I will need to focus on vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary! I have the basic Dutch grammatical rules down already (e.g. past/present/future tenses, het/de, singular/plural, etc.), so I am going to work on drilling my vocabulary. I’ll start with flashcards and reading elementary children’s books (early readers series) and work why way up from there. Step 1: find my Dutch dictionary! :)

    Thanks for the motivation, Benny!

    • Benny Lewis

      Best of luck!

  • Tiffany

    I want to be able to understand and speak comfortably in German on all the same topics that I enjoy in English. (This obviously is a very large goal, but this is more of my overall goal for German.) Specifically for the 3 months of Summer, I want to finish reading the 1st Harry Potter book in German and watch German movies without subtitles. (That was one thing my many years in traditional German classes gave me…a wide range of German movies we watched the I loved.)
    I will also be documenting the routine I will be following, my progress, and what I am currently working on my blog….To hold me accountable and all.
    I also took an online test and it said I was at a B1 level. I don’t know how correct this is, since I felt like I was guessing a lot, but I’d like to be at a C1 level by the end of the challenge.

    • Sara Regan

      Hi Tiffany,
      Where are you located? I am living in Munich, and want to reach C1/2 in German by the end of my work contract (31 Oct.), but I would rather get better sooner than later. I am unaware of what level I am at, but I work in German to a good level, but I am not great at reading novels in the language. What is your blog name, so I can follow/offer support. I am broke (life if an intern), so every step that I take to getting better has to be free or very cost effective. Last time I did a test I was B1 in French and B2 in German, but it was arbitrary online tests. My goal is also to do French C1 by the end of 2012, but I want to work on that intensively also.

  • Liza

    Hello Benny,

    I just read that you recommended to one commentator who was interested in multiple languages to do 3 months in one language followed by 3 months of another language.

    I’m wondering what you would recommend in my case. I have a B2 certificate in one language and C1 in another. I’d like to take the 30 or 90 day challenge in a fresh language, but it’s absolutely essential that I don’t lose any ground in my working languages. How would you recommend I divvy up my language learning time?

    • Benny Lewis

      If you have a B2 or C1 level you will not lose ground in those languages over the next few months :) That’s more something that happens after at least a year of neglect. I say focus entirely on your target for the 90 days and then focus on improving on all 3 after that if it works out best that way.

      Focus, not divvying up! I only recommend divvying up when you have already done the hardest work in each language, of making it a familiar part of your life for comfortable communication.

  • Benny Lewis

    Yes, I had that real head pain in Chinese. I have photo proof.
    The trick is to study until you get to that annoying moment and push yourself a little more, so your tolerance for pain is better for tomorrow ;)
    Don’t have a “conversation” with a native when you start. I’ve never ever suggested that. But DO interact with them. Anyone can ask what the time is or where the bathroom is. That’s step one that you have to work from. There is no excuse for not trying to speak from day 1, even if you indeed can’t “converse from day 1″.

    • Amelia

      I hope it works, actually I did a similar thing with Science at school (during the first few months of high school it was necessary to get used to more intensive pace of studying and it was sometimes painful, but after 2 – 3 months it was over).
      I don’t really have a possibility to interact with foreigners right now (and honestly I don’t feel like it) but I do try to use the words I learnt and built new sentences, e. g. describing the weather a few times per day or while preparing food, looking for something etc.
      I speak to my cat in Italian – I know it seems strange but I feel it really helps, as I consider my cat a member of the family and in general an intelligent being. In my opinion it’s a good first step for those who are rather shy or who have only started learning, a simple method to overcome the fear of speaking and prepare yourself before meeting real people. I recommend it to those who have cats or dogs :) and thank you for advice and inspiration (as the most difficult thing is to actually BELIEVE you are able to learn a language by yourself and reach a high level in it).

  • Benny Lewis

    Why only 1.5 hours? Are you writing a novel this summer, or does the commute to work/school take 4 hours per day?

    As I said in the post, 3 hours minimum for someone with a serious “mission”. Anything less is a fun summer project, which isn’t what this post is about ;)

  • Freedom Jackson

    Wow. You know whenever I travel I find it amazing how well you can communicate with people who you cannot understand at all.

  • Jonathan

    @disqus_7ukB4RR1bA:disqus @3bbee4ebcade11a1a26c802295e13e50:disqus Thanks!

  • Randybvain

    Do you think in Spanish when doing daily activities? if not, you may try.

  • Nathaniel B

    Hi Benny and fi3m readers, I’ve been following fi3m for a couple of years now but have never commented before. I have a real penchant for languages and still can’t work out what it is I love about them; being able to converse to a multitude of people, the way it looks, the way it sounds, the way it works. I have growing library of language books in a plethora of languages from many if not all language branches. I love their history, how they link together, where they’re spoken. I thrive on the challenge of going somewhere for a few days and being able to be understood. I recently spent 3 nights in Sweden (where they all speak fantastic English), but spent the previous 3 nights learning as much as I could. I loved it using what I could (and showing off in a way).

    The point of my comment is for some advice, from anyone. My eagerness to acquire lots of languages means that I have only a very small working knowledge of very few. This topic has resonated with me in that I have been doing this for all of my Language Learning Life (since I was 14 – I’m 24 now), learning/improving in many languages all at the same time. I have reasons and accountabilities to learn them all, but would like your opinion in what I should do:

    I want to speak French. It’s important in education (which is what I do – I teach music). Many of the pupils I teach are French speaking.
    I want to have a working knowledge of Latin. For the same reason as above…for education that is, not that any of my pupils speak it :P
    I want to speak Tagalog. My mother is from nothern Philippines and although her mother tongue is Ilocano (which I also want to learn at some point), I feel bad that I can’t speak Tagalog yet. (My father wouldn’t let her or my family speak to me in a foreign language, for fear I would get confused!). I want to feel closer to my family and know I can be if I can at least meet them half-way in this language.
    I want to speak Japanese. I spent time at school learning it, spent time in Japan on tour, and on holiday. I LOVE the language. I have little reason to use the language in everyday life, but I honestly love it.
    I have a strange gravitation to learning Welsh. I go there every year, and am awed by the bilingual patronage there.
    Spanish and Italian I did at school and have more reason to keep learning them (Italian for Music, Spanish I’m sorry to say is for the Cleaning staff at school).

    Languages are all around me and I want to be able to communicate. I want to learn them all, and all at the same time. I know this is probably the wrong way to go about it, but I think I have it in me somewhere to do the same. Without sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, I learned to play violin and viola, piano, flute, bassoon and singing to Grade 8, all at the same time, so I would like to think I can do it with languages too.

    Do you think I could manage a level of proficiency in some, if not all of these over the summer holidays? Proficiency for me would be AS level standard…

    Sorry for the long post, but I think this is 2 years of fi3m reading thrown into my first post :) Thanks for reading, if you have.


  • Katie Jurek

    Spanish, because all that time in high school has solidified and now I want to build on that large foundation with practical usage!

    Also keep up with my Dutch, omdat ik het een hele mooie taal vind. :)

  • promotenav

    The language course looks good, particularly when this guy keeps speaking in different languages.

  • Yuan-Hao Chiang

    Benny, at first I was over-criticizing you in my mind (not verbally on
    your blog or anywhere else), but to tell the truth I did it mostly because I set your bar pretty high. It’s not any lower now, but I do feel that it’s time to point out what you have done right, so congratulations on your hard work. Truly inspirational.

    As a “polyglot” (I don’t like the term, but oh well) I feel like I
    started ahead of many by living on a Chinese + English + Spanish speaking environment in Costa Rica, but haven’t made an effort close to yours (or maybe others) to keep on doing what I love — learning languages.

    I saw you near Dunhua Station (忠孝敦化) in Taiwan some months ago, but couldn’t react on time as to stop you on the street for a small chat, but it would have been nice. If you’re ever back in Taiwan, lemme know :) I also speak Japanese and Italian, a bit of French and Portuguese, and right now I’m learning Korean, which is a new and refreshing challenge itself… So if you’re ever into doing something cool and creative involving languages, let me know!!


    • Benny Lewis

      Sorry we didn’t get to chat! I wish people in Taiwan would have been more forward with me! You are actually the SIXTH person who told me digitally that they saw me in Taiwan but never said hi…

  • Javier M

    Ive been learning Italian and it’s been goin well but I’m kind of not very confident lol. Worries about grammar and all the good stuff that come along with it! Do you have any tips on that? By the way I’m going to Italy in 2 years for a trip.

  • Guest

    Spanish: B1 to C1
    French: A2 to B2
    Mandarin: 0 to B1

    I know this is stupidly ambitious, but I’ve got nothing but time and perseverance.

  • Douglas Lusby

    Last month I started back into German language practice using the one-week challenge to kick things off. I had studied German in university many years ago but was never really very good at using it. I believe I might currently fall under an A2 category—doing my best to grasp the European system of language levels as listed online.

    I set myself a goal of ‘functional conversation’ by Christmas, which I think might be a B1 level? My schedule and free time has been very limiting (working a lot of overtime, my wife even more than me, and taking care of my daughter in the evenings, etc.) so maybe I was influenced by that and shot for what seemed ‘hard yet possible’ at the time.

    Maybe I should be aiming for ‘B2’? The general gist I got from many of the posts here is not reaching 100% success for a goal is OK, but that it’s good to go for something very difficult yet still with the realm of possibility.