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Why Learning a Language is Better Together


Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. ?

When I first started studying languages on my own, I felt a lot of pushback from friends and family. They didn’t get why I was so into this language thing. Why I wanted to spend so much time doing it or why I wanted to learn so many different languages.

I heard things like:

  • No one speaks that language.
  • That’s a waste of time, you’ll never use it.
  • You should just focus on French, it’s the only one you really need.
  • Everyone speaks English.

They had my best interests at heart, but to be honest, it felt like they didn’t understand what I was trying to do. It really affected me. Both my confidence and my commitment floundered.

But when I wasn’t spending time with languages, I wasn’t happy. It felt like something was missing. I made the decision to do it for me.

I figured if those around me couldn’t understand my passion for languages, then I’d find people who did.

A short time later, I found myself immersed in the online language community.

I got my first taste of what it was like to learn a language alongside someone else when Lindsay of Lindsay Does Languages and I decided to study a language together. Having someone who cared about my progress, who I could check in with regularly and who I could compare notes with was inspiring. And most importantly, it meant that I had a reason to do the work.

After we ended the project, I craved more of that collaboration. That energy. That momentum and accountability.

A short time later, I found it.

Where?

The Add1Challenge (now the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge).

What is the Add1Challenge?

The Add1Challenge is a community of language learners that come together to reach the same goal – to have a 15-minute conversation after 90 days of collaborative and intensive study.

In every challenge you get to meet dozens of other language learners through the active challenge, and your smaller, more intimate study and mastermind groups.

With the Add1Challenge, you certainly won’t be studying alone!

The Power of Community in Language Learning

I’ve completed three Add1Challenges, and I’ve found that one of the best ways to succeed is by making the most of the Add1 community.

Within the Add1Challenge, I’ve noticed that there are two kinds of learners: those who keep to themselves and use the community simply for accountability, and those who really get involved in supporting others.

Although both approaches work well, I’m sure you can guess which one has a higher success rate when it comes to completing Add1Challenge.

To put it simply, you get the most from a community when you give to the community.

The Add1 Community is There For You When…

Here are some of the benefits being an active member of the Add1 community. The community is there for you when:

You Feel Stuck

During an intensive, 90 day challenge, you will feel stuck at some point. Probably more than once. You’ll feel like you’re not making any progress. Or you’ll be unsure what your next step is.

When this happens — ask for support. It’s amazing to see how much help and encouragement the Add1 community gives to one another, and it always starts when someone asks for help or shares that they’re stuck. They’re not sure what to do to move forward.

In a recent challenge, one particular challenger felt stuck – they weren’t sure if what they were doing was working or not. Just by posting in the community and expressing what they were feeling, they were able to conclude that what they were doing was, in fact, working. And by sharing that they felt stuck, they also received encouragement from the other challengers.

Your Motivation Disappears

Add1Challengers check in every day with a “yay” or a “nay” to share whether they’ve completed their daily study goal.

If “nays” start to stack up, it can feel discouraging.

When your motivation disappears and you start checking “nay” on your daily checkin, it takes just one “yay” to get back on track.

After all, a couple of “nays” are only a few steps back from all the “yays” you’ll stack up as a part of the challenge.

If you aren’t feeling motivated, the Add1Challenge is built on a system to help you keep moving forward. If you trust in the process, do the work, and participate in the assignments and mini challenges you’ll get there.

And of course, you’re also able to reach out and share what you’re going through with a group of compassionate learners who will cheer you on.

You Need a Few Words of Encouragement

Feel like all the hard work you’ve done is for naught? Get an outside perspective. In the Add1Challenge, you share your update videos with your mastermind and study group. This gives you an objective viewpoint on whether or not you’ve improved.

We tend to be our own worst critics. That means that even if you are making progress, you might feel like it isn’t enough because you’re expecting too much from yourself. Outside opinions let you view your achievements through a more neutral lens.

That fresh perspective can be the little extra push you need to reaffirm that you’re on the right track and confirm that even though you might not see it, you are making progress.

You Want to Celebrate Your Wins

When you have big language wins during the Add1Challenge (and you will have some pretty huge wins) you have a group of friends who are there to celebrate them with you. It feels amazing to tell someone about a language success and know they understand exactly how big of a success it was because they’re down in the trenches with you.

You Have Questions.

Have a question about a particular language learning app, resource, or about language learning in general? Chances are someone in the Add1Challenge community will have an answer for you.

You Need a Friend Who Can Relate

If you’ve had a rough day or are feeling down and out, the other Add1Challengers know what you’re going through. When things are going well and you’re on a roll with your studies, they can also relate to what you’re feeling. Because those in the Add1Challenge are along on this journey with you, they can relate to all of your struggles, triumphs, and day-to-day experiences.

You Need Someone to Hold You Accountable

When you study for yourself, it’s sometimes hard to stick to it. When you are a part of groups that pay attention to what you’re doing and even sometimes count on your participation, you suddenly have more reason to do it.

Accountability is a great way to make yourself more responsible for your own learning. When other people are counting on you and are invested in your success, you’re more likely to do the work that’s needed.

When you know other people are waiting for you to do your weekly check-in, you’re going to show up and do it. When you know your mini challenge points count towards your team’s total, you’re going to do the work.

How to Make the Most of the Community in the Add1Challenge

Ask Questions

Whether you have a question about the Add1Challenge, your specific language or language learning in general, don’t be afraid to ask. There’s a good chance another challenger knows the answer to your question. And if not, at the very least, they can help you find it.

You might ask questions such as:

  • Is xyz a good language course?
  • What can I use to help me learn French?
  • I’m not sure what I should be doing. Does anyone have any suggestions?
  • Can we create a new place in the challenge for those who need a little extra support staying on track?
  • Any suggestions for improving listening skills?
  • Does anyone know of a different Vietnamese podcast I can try out?
  • Does anyone have any tips on how to find language exchange partners?
  • Looking for advice on flashcards. I need to start using them to expand my vocabulary. How do you organize them?

These are all questions that were asked and answered within the Add1Challenge community.

Share Your Struggles

If you’re having a rough day, don’t keep it to yourself. Share with your study group, mastermind, or with the Add1Challenge community as a whole. Whatever you’re comfortable with. You’ll get encouragement and advice from the other challengers, and by making yourself vulnerable you’ll be encouraging others to open up too.

You could share struggles such as:

  • It's hard for me to understand a single word they say sometimes.
  • Anyone ever been in a situation where you've been “pressured” to speak your target language and literally just freeze in that moment? I have a friend who speaks Spanish and [..] while I was there, I started speaking English but was told “Spanish only” by my friend (his way of encouraging me). I was already nervous but my anxiety went through the roof after that statement.
  • I feel kind of discouraged. I'm really not the kind of person who wants to give up and that's really not what I want to do! So I really need your help guys to get up and running again.

Again, all real struggles shared by Add1Challengers, each with several comments filled with encouragement, support and advice.

Cheer On the Other Add1Challengers!

When another challenger shares their struggles or triumphs, be their cheerleader. Let them know how amazing they’re doing!

And as I’m sure you’ll guess, these are all real messages of encouragement from our Add1Challenge community.

You might say:

  • Don't give up! Let's get back on track again. “Everything in future will improve if you are making an effort now.”
  • Give yourself the time to seek what makes you passionate about your target language today, as that might change along the journey. Don't focus on what you didn't do, that's in the past and making yourself feel guilty about those things will make the discouragement grow.
  • Being honest and fitting it in when you can around your life is a great achievement too! It’s easy to get intimidated by everyone else’s check ins but I’m cheering you on.
  • First of all, the fact that you are even doing this challenge means you are very much committed to language learning. Everybody here has had ups and downs in their studies and has “fallen off the wagon” plenty of times. It's all part of language learning. Language learning is very much about highs and lows and everything in between. It's fun and frustrating, terribly difficult and at times amazingly easy. You can absolutely do all of the assignments and mini-challenges. All you have to do…. is start. That's it. Just do a little something. Anything. Forget about being perfect, forget about the amount of work ahead of you, forget about not doing this on time or that. None of that should be in your head right now and all it will do is discourage you and you will lose momentum.
  • Good luck, don't lose courage!
  • Don't let yourself be pulled down by this word: nay. I know, it feels like a fatal word, but it's not. Do not let it have impact in your motivation. I had similar issues and I know that having to say nay when we just learned 10 minutes and not 30 or 45 is frustrating. Know that every sentence you write, every word you learn, every word you review, every word you recognise and every thought about your target language is a huge: YAY! for us.

Meet Up With Your Study Group — Weekly

As part of the Add1Challenge, you’re put into study groups with other learners who are working on the same language as you. This isn’t just so that you can chat and check-in with each other. It’s also so that you can get together once a week or so and practice speaking the language.

What do I mean by getting together?

The study groups and masterminds that have stuck together and have been most successful in the Add1Challenge are those that meetup on Skype or Google Hangouts each week for a face-to-face chat.

These can be quick 5 to 10 minute chats or hour long language practice sessions. It’s up to each group to collectively decide what works best for them. But one thing holds true regardless of what the meetups look like – the groups that study together, win the Add1Challenge together.

Join the Language Specific Groups

In addition to the smaller, more intimate study groups, there are also large language specific groups.

Wait, aren’t these the same thing?

Not quite!

Coordinating big groups of learners to meet each week is tough, so your study group is a small group of about 10-15 learners. For big languages like French, Spanish, or Japanese, there tend to be more than one study group. So that’s where the language specific groups come in.

Everyone who is learning that language is put into that group regardless of which study group they’re in.

That way, in addition to having members you meet with regularly, you have a larger group of learners with whom you can exchange notes. You can also setup additional hangouts and chats with members outside of your core study group to get extra speaking practice.

Watch the Extra Videos Created by Your Fellow Challengers

In the Add1Challenge, we have a place called #speaking-practice. It’s where we encourage participants to share extra videos or audio of their progress beyond the Day 0/30/60/90 videos.

Unsurprisingly, this group is rather active. A lot of Add1Challengers find a ton of value in speaking their languages and sharing videos for feedback more than once a month. Some even post videos every day!

Keeping up with the progress of your fellow challengers is a great way to stay motivated and get ideas for things you can work on. If you’re ever unsure what to do in one of your videos, or of what you should be working on, taking a peek at what everyone else is doing can provide a bit of guidance.

Check-in with Your Mastermind Group Every Week

In addition to your language specific study group, you’re put into a mastermind. This is a group of learners working on different languages to you – that way, you get a fresh perspective and can see how those learning other languages approach their studies.

Each week the mastermind groups are asked to check-in with one another, sharing how everything is going. Doing this gives you the chance to talk out what’s holding you back and celebrate what your wins are.

If you notice that some of your mastermind group members aren’t checking in, send them a message to see how things are going. If the favor needs to be returned, you’ll find that having other learners supporting you and paying attention to what you’re doing is a powerful asset as a learner.

How? Knowing that you have a supportive community that has your back – one that is there for you when your motivation lags – can help you stick with it when you are struggling.

Share Your Wins

Again, just like you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t be afraid to share your wins. Throughout the Add1Challenge, you’ll participate in a variety of activities that offer you the chance to experience success. From completing your 90 Day video to being a part of the group that racks up the most points in the mini challenges, from getting back on track after a series of “nays” to simply adding another “yay” to your check-in sheet, there are many opportunities to spread the cheer. Celebrate the milestones – no matter how small.

Don’t be Afraid to Take Initiative

When groups get quiet, they slowly die away. No one feels that it’s their responsibility to take initiative and get the conversation going again. So no one steps up and gets the ball rolling. During the challenge, I check in with the masterminds and study groups to see how things are going, but it’s ultimately up to the members of the groups to keep in touch. If your group gets quiet, don’t be afraid to take initiative and re-initiate the conversation.

Will You Join Me for This Incredible Experience?

Taking part in an intensive language project like the Add1Challenge is an incredible experience. And learning how to harness the power of the community built into the challenge is the best way to get the most out of that experience.

I’m getting ready to take on my next Add1Challenge, and I will continue to use the systems that have not yet failed to get me to my goal – that 15-minute conversation at the end of 90 days.

What about you?

What are some of the ways you’ve benefited from being a part of the language learning community?

If you’ve taken part in the Add1Challenge, what systems helped you get to that 15-minute conversation?

author headshot

Shannon Kennedy

Language Encourager, Fluent in Months

Shannon is Head Coach for the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge. She is currently based in Southern California where she performs as a professional musician. Her passions are cooking, reading, traveling and sharing her adventures in language learning.

Speaks: English, French, Mandarin, Russian, Croatian, Japanese

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