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New Language in 90 Days: My 7-Step Formula


Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. ?

I want to share what I do to learn a language during the Add1Challenge (now the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge) so I’m ready for that 15-minute conversation in my new language once I hit day 90.

In case you’re unfamiliar, the Add1Challenge is Fluent in 3 Months (Fi3M)’s three-month program to learn a new language, and at the end of the challenge we guarantee that participants will have a 15-minute conversation in their new language.

I’ve now completed three challenges (with Croatian, Japanese, and Korean), so I’ve tried a few different approaches and found what works for me.

The key point is that this is what works for me. There’s no one right way to do the Add1Challenge.

In fact, there are as many ways to succeed over the 90 days of the Add1Challenge as there are challengers who take part!

But what’s great about the Add1Challenge is that you can see how others learn and get inspired.

So here’s how I learn best during Add1. Take what works for you, and happy language learning!

My 7-Step Formula for Success in the Add1Challenge

My seven-step approach is extremely simple, works incredibly well, and is easily adaptable.

Step 1: Find a Tutor or Language Exchange Partner (and Start Speaking Right Away)

When I start out with an Add1Challenge, the first thing I do is find a tutor or language exchange partner on italki.

I try out a few different tutors before I settle on one who really clicks with me. Sometimes this takes several weeks. I’ll start with six to eight that I’ll have one lesson with, then narrow it down to two or three that “get” me. With two to three tutors on rotation, I get to practice the same material more than once, and I also get more diverse speaking practice.

I aim for two to three lessons per week, so one lesson per tutor. On busier weeks I sometimes have just one or two lessons.

Step 2: Prepare for Every Lesson

For each lesson, I prepare a short script on a topic I want to talk about. For my first lesson, this is a self-introduction. In later lessons, I’ll prepare scripts about what I’ve done over the weekend, a TV show I’ve enjoyed, or about something important going on in my life.

During each lesson, I go through the script with my tutor. He or she asks questions about what I’ve shared, and I aim to reply in my target language.

I look out for when I want to say something, but can’t quite say it. I ask myself “What words do I need to know so that I could say this thing?” These are the words I need to learn, so I note them down.

Step 3: Look Out for Useful Sentence Structures

When a particular sentence structure comes up more than once during a lesson, I pause and go over it with my tutor.

For example, if I realize that I am trying to say, “When [x], then [y]” I hit pause. Whenever I come across a useful structure like this, I drill it with my tutor to get comfortable with it before moving on.

As I drill with my tutor, I might try to say things like:

  • When I drive to work, I listen to Japanese podcasts.
  • When I get home, I make dinner.
  • When my son takes his nap, I study Japanese.

As I create these sentences, it’s guaranteed that I’m going to make mistakes. I might not know all the words I need and as I try to formulate more complicated sentences, I tend to get ahead of myself.

This is where the tutor steps in. After I try to construct a sentence, he or she offers me corrections and then types the error-free sentence into the chat. I also ask him or her to add any words that I don’t know into the chat.

Step 4: Put Everything New Onto Flashcards

At the end of each week, I open up the chat from my previous lessons and copy every single new word and phrase into virtual flashcards.

For long phrases, I’ll pick out keywords, entering them as single entries. And with sentences, I divide them into two or three parts so that I can study smaller chunks before working on more complicated structures.

For example, take the sentence: “When I drive to work, I listen to Japanese podcasts.” In this instance, I might have the following flashcards:

  • podcasts
  • Japanese podcasts
  • I listen
  • I listen to Japanese podcasts
  • work
  • I drive to work
  • When I drive to work
  • When I drive to work, I listen to Japanese podcasts

As I get further along in my studies, I don’t have to divide my sentences up as much as I do at the beginning.

Step 5: Review Flashcards

Between my lessons, I study my flashcards every day. They’re my primary study material.

This way, I learn vocabulary that’s actually come up in conversation and sentence structures that I use regularly.

By the time my next lesson rolls around, I’m pretty comfortable with the previous lesson material. If there’s anything I’ve got questions about from the previous lesson, I’ll bring it up with my tutor at the start of the lesson. Once that’s done, my tutor and I move on to the topic for the lesson (which I’ve prepared in a script — see Step 2).

Step 6: Input! Input! Input!

Around my flashcard study, I work with other material so I’m getting lots of input in my target language.

This material is usually audio, like a podcast or radio show. For Japanese, I sometimes watched a TV show that my tutor knew, which gave us something extra to talk about.

Step 7: Create Extra Videos

In the Add1Challenge, you’re required to make four videos in your target language: on Day 0, Day 30, Day 60 and Day 90.

I’ve found I do even better if I create more videos! The more videos I create, the more comfortable I get speaking my new language.

I’ve found this to be so effective that I even created a new section in the Add1Challenge community to share these videos. Now, other challengers have started creating and sharing extra videos, too.

I find that sharing my videos is a great way to get support and to prepare and practice speaking.

What’s Your Approach to Success in the Add1Challenge?

The Add1Challenge is an intensive 90 days of language study, and if you do the work, you’ll have that 15-minute conversation at the end — guaranteed.

If you’ve already taken part in an Add1Challenge, what did you find worked for you?

Would you like to take part in an Add1Challenge? Follow this link to sign up and find out more.

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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