One of the inspiring things about working at Fluent in 3 Months is all the success stories we see in the Add1Challenge.
You may already know that in the Add1Challenge, language learners aim to have a 15-minute conversation with a native speaker after just 90 days. It sounds like a big goal, but we know it’s realistic (in fact, we guarantee it).
I love seeing the 15-minute conversations on day 90, but what I find really inspiring is all the small wins that happen in the 89 days leading up to that. Challengers begin to strike up random conversations with native speakers. Or, they watch their favorite drama in their new language without subtitles. Or they create a new deck of flashcards and share it with other challengers. It’s great to see, and in the challenge, we celebrate every win.
Rodylyn is someone I found particularly inspiring in a recent Add1Challenge. She signed up to learn Japanese, and she smashed her goals. Her growth was incredible, and she was always cheering on others. She did so well in the Add1Challenge, she was one of the finalists for the grand prize at the end of it.
So, I interviewed Rodylyn about her experience with the challenge. We talked about her struggles, her strengths, and what she learned during Add1:
Here’s what I learned from chatting with Rodylyn:
Rodylyn’s Starting Point with the Add1Challenge
Rodylyn had some experience with Japanese before Add1Challenge. She knew how to greet someone, basic introductions, and vocab. She could also read kana (the Japanese alphabet).
Rodylyn could do this because had taken a few Japanese classes. However, she found didn’t like the set structure of classes, which dictated what to learn and how to learn it.
So, going into the challenge she couldn’t understand much or say more than a sentence or two. She had trouble stringing sentences together without long pauses and wanted to learn Japanese words relevant to her life.
This is actually pretty typical. Most Add1Challengers have some experience of learning their target language, even if all they can do is say “hello” and count to ten.
Key takeaway: You can take on an intensive language learning challenge whatever your current level in the language you want to learn.
Here’s Why Rodylyn Wanted to Learn Japanese
Rodylyn wanted to learn to speak Japanese after visiting Japan. She loved the culture and wanted to understand it on a deeper level. Plus, she wanted to watch her favorite anime and dramas, such as Sailor Moon, in the original language. So, she decided to work towards those goals and be able to have a 15-minute conversation in Japanese. Having specific goals in mind kept her motivated. When your goal always in front of you, it’s easier to stay committed when things get tough.
Key takeaway: Motivation matters. At Fluent in 3 Months we often get asked: “What’s the easiest language to learn?” Our answer is that the easiest language to learn is the one you most want to learn.
How Much Time Did Rodylyn Spend Studying Each Day?
Rodylyn set her study goal for the smallest commitment that’s allowed in the Add1Challenge: 30 minutes, 4 days a week.
Once she jumped into the challenge, she realized she wanted to do more than that. Rodylyn consistently doubled her study time: An hour every day, taking a break for one day every other week or so. She worked hard to fit in study time whenever possible. On her commute, during her lunch break, waiting in line for coffee, and in the evenings.
There was a good reason not to miss her goal. She decided if she missed the minimum for the day, she would double up the next day and not get a favorite food or treat (like pizza!). That kept her reaching for her goal, as well.
Key takeaway: Start small. Easy wins build up momentum and quickly become big wins.
Learning Techniques: Home Immersion and MeetUps
Rodylyn pushed herself out of her comfort zone by immersing herself in her target language. She used the tactics Benny Lewis, founder of Fluent in 3 Months, suggests for home immersion to get the most out of her study time.
Every week, Rodylyn went to local meetups for speaking practice with native speakers. Even though it was intimidating to start speaking, everyone was learning. She was able to make new friends and get feedback from the others in her group. As a result, her language skills grew massively from Day 0 to Day 90.
Key takeaway: Feeling a little awkward is a good sign, it shows that you’re learning and growing.
How the Add1 Community Helped Rodylyn
The Add1 community is great about supporting each other. Lots of people in the group encouraged Rodylyn as they saw the rapid progress she was making. In fact, other language learners asked her several times for her tips for growing in their target language. Even if they weren’t studying Japanese, they still learned from her strategies and mindset.
Rodylyn was always quick to share her tips or answer questions. She participated in the community, her mastermind group, and the study group. She encouraged others who were struggling to keep going and try their best until the end. She learned about new resources or language hacking tricks from others.
Key takeaway: The community helped keep Rodylyn motivated, and the more she put into it, the more she got out of it.
What Rodylyn Struggled With During the Add1Challenge
The Add1Challenge requires each challenger to make five videos, and Rodylyn struggled with these at first. She felt shy talking about herself and being the focus of the videos. That’s understandable! Making videos of yourself can feel scary in any case, let alone when speaking another language.
To address this fear, throughout the challenge, Rodylyn continued to push herself. She even began to make extra videos for speaking practice. She would use the extra videos to practice new grammar or words.
In her Day 30 video, she went exploring in her city to speak Japanese in public. Making the videos, instead of staring at her computer screen or textbook at home, helped her gain the confidence to speak Japanese.
By Day 60, Rodylyn had learned to embrace mistakes. She felt comfortable with basic conversations and talking about her interests. She had settled into her daily language learning routine, and getting faster at creating sentences on the spot. She loved having the accountability and loose schedule to make it work for her. But she also enjoyed having a deadline for assignments and mini-challenges.
When Day 90 came around, Rodylyn already felt confident enough to chat with a native speaker on video without worrying about preparation. She spoke for more than 15 minutes, and ended up doing a second 15-minute video!
Rodylyn says that having the Add1 community to share the videos with helped her overcome her nerves. Because everyone shares little updates between the Day 30, 60, and 90 videos, it made it less intimidating.
Now, Rodylyn can chat in Japanese for as long as an hour or more with her Meetup group and enjoys getting to know others in Japanese.
Key takeaway: Filming videos in a foreign language can be scary at first, but they’re really helpful for tracking your progress and getting feedback. This is actually the “secret sauce” of the Add1Challenge.
Rodylyn’s Tips for Learning Japanese
When I asked Rodylyn what helped her learn so quickly, she shared her top tips for learning Japanese.
The #1 thing she said helped her in her studies was knowing the kana. Romaji (Japanese words written in the English alphabet) can often be inaccurate and cause you to mispronounce sounds. It also limits your resources you can use. Knowing the kana helped Rodylyn find tons of native resources in Japanese. This was important for changing up her routine as she needed to and finding entertaining material.
Need help learning Kana? Check out this article all about Hiragana and Katakana.
Get Full Immersion
Rodylyn started her day in Japanese and ended it in Japanese. She took Benny’s tips for immersion at home and began spending any spare minutes she had learning Japanese. Even if it was only passively listening, she was getting used to the sounds. She tried to think, do, and just be in Japanese all day. The more she pushed herself, the more she learned. And she put extra focus on listening, her weakest area. She listened to many podcasts and the news in Japanese every day. So as she learned more, she was getting used to hearing it spoken and understanding how a native speaker would say it.
Rodylyn’s Progress from Day 0 to Day 90
But don’t just take our word for it. Check out Rodylyn’s progress for yourself!
Rodylyn’s Japanese Day 0 Video
Rodylyn’s Japanese Day 90 Video
(A note about her Day 90 video. Rodylyn completed her 15-minute challenge twice with two different language exchange partners. This video says “second attempt” only because the first video had internet connection issues. So she asked me to use this one.)
Rodylyn loved taking the Add1Challenge, so she returned the following challenge for Add1Advance. She’s increasing her Japanese skill level even more with our intermediate challenge. Add1Advance challenges learners to develop their skills with weekly tasks, videos, and challenges. It's aimed to push them outside their current knowledge with vocabulary, grammar, and listening skills.
See Rapid Results with Add1Challenge
Rodylyn’s progress is super impressive, and she’s only one of hundreds of success stories. The community is full of passionate language learners encouraging each other to reach that 15-minute conversation in 90 days. If anyone is struggling, it’s easy to find someone who can relate and offer advice. And every day, challengers are sharing their victories.
And that could be you, too! What language have you dreamed of speaking? Are you ready to finally have a conversation in your target language like Rodylyn did? Find out more about Add1Challenge here!
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.