Summer Language Challenge #Fi3M

I’ve done a few language challenges aimed at improving my German in the past.  These challenges have gone well for a couple of weeks before I basically give up. This time I’m going to do a more structured approach and see if I can keep the momentum in order to achieve my goal.

Challenge Period: 1st July to 1st October, 2012


  • Go from my current mid-A2 level to a B2 level.
  • Be able to understand almost all of what is said to me and be able to respond  accordingly.
  • To be able to hold a conversation with one or more people for more than 30 minutes.
  • To be able to read Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen with limited use of the dictionary.

Plan of Action


  • Speak to at least one person per day for at least 30 seconds.
  • Attend the Language Cafe meet-ups and speak in German only.
  • Recruit my German speaking friends to converse with me only in German in exchange for coffee, beer, a meal etc.


  • Read 5 pages of my graded German children’s books at least 5 days a week (currently on Klasse 2)
  • Read 2 news articles in German per day at least 5 days a week



  • Write in German every single day – this could be something short like a tweet or Facebook status or something longer like a blog post.


  • Learn five new German words a day using flashcards


  • Do 20 minutes of Duolingo 5 days a week

Challenge inspired by the amazing Benny Lewis whose blog posts always remind me that I’m not doing nearly enough to achieve my language goals & it is high time to get my ass into gear and stop slacking off.

If anyone wants to join me on my Language Summer Challenge, please do.  You can create your own aims and plans of actions, you don’t have to follow my whacky ones, but I would love to fellow challengers to share the high points and low points with and talk about the things that are working and those that are not.  Who’s up for it??



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16 thoughts on “Summer Language Challenge #Fi3M

  1. So… I know it is not nearly the same thing, but I bought all 5 levels of Rosetta stone about 6 months ago as a way to soften my learning curve of the German language.

    I started the lessons, and did them every evening…. for about 2 weeks lol. Since then I just haven’t been able to find the time. I know.. I need to make time if I am serious about learning.

    So… while I don’t nearly have the resources at my disposal that you do (being that I’m in middle USA), I’ll do this… I commit to restarting the lessons, and following them through to completion.

    How’s that? hehe.

    • Best of luck working through Rosetta Stone! I would also recommend supplementing that with other resources. Most of the resources I’m using are online and available no matter where you are in the world. In fact, the only part that is site specific is the speak section, but you can find German speakers no matter where you are using resources like Couchsurfing and Meet-Up. Don’t let where you are living hold you back from achieving your language goal.

  2. Oh I know, I am sure there are German learning groups here… it is just not as simple as having German speakers all around me, that’s all I meant. When I get to a point where I feel like I wouldn’t be completely lost, I will definitely seek some out.

    Rosetta stone is only meant for an entry into the language, and that’s all I am counting on it for. Once I complete those lessons, I’m not sure how I will follow them up.. haven’t gotten that far yet.

    My wife and I are planning a trip for Munich around this time next year, and while I know it is probably not totally necessary, I’d like to at least be able to converse some and hold small conversations by the time I am there.

  3. Hey Riayn great post.

    You’re right. It doesn’t matter what country you’re in, you can learn a language anywhere. I’m currently in Guatemala, trying to learn Spanish and have the same difficulties as you. It’s tough trying to stay out of that English language bubble. Especially when we work with English speakers.

    Like you, I’ve had to do a lot of restructuring of my daily routine and follow an action plan. I’ve also started taking weekly cooking classes in Spanish.

    Its tough in the beginning. Everyone knows you don’t speak enough to understand what’s going on, so they speak English in pity of your situation. To counter this, I’ve learned to tell people, “First German/Spanish, then English.”

    “Poco poco”
    – Michael

  4. Thank you SO much for this post, and the great links. I’ve signed up for Duolingo, and am really liking it so far. Your plan is excellent – how about progress updates?

    • I’m so glad that you have signed up to Duolingo. I’m finding it rather addictive.

      Yes, I will do progress updates, don’t worry. :)

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  6. Hi Riayn,

    great article…. it is soooo true that it does not make that much of a difference where you are. You can always learn with books and multi media courses (payed or free). I am in Berlin and I have met so many people who have been living here for years and they just never got around to learn it as they get distracted too much and they get by fine. So as with so many things… wait too long and you’ll get used to them and accommodate yourself and thus won’t change anything anymore … ask my gf when I will get a “Duschvorhang” :)
    As for your plan… that is pretty detailed… just some notes, based on my experiences:
    – DO not ever as in NEVER feel bad if you don’t do your 5 minutes or five words a day… stress will not get you anywhere… If you don’t feel like it, don’t do it, and don’t add it to the next days schedule (it’ll pile up)… language learning needs to be fun for you, not a chore
    – Do not try to read newspapers… it is the most difficult in any language I have seen so far… the articles are short, the language is succinct, you have little to NO context and for the most part the matters discussed will not be of much interest for you. It’ll just make you feel stupid because it takes you and hour to read one paragraph. And especially neer read opinions or ironic things… just too difficult
    – Do start reading Harry Potter now!!!!!! You can do it. The first 10 pages will contain like a bazillion new words, look all of em up, write em all ddown, learn as many as you can without feeling bad to look up the same word over and over. The next 10 pages will contain less new words and so on… it is Harry Potter lingo… once you got the basics it’ll go smoothly especially as you have context and knowledge of what is happening.
    – Do use an old fashioned paper dictionary when reading Harry Potter … with a computer or the web next to you you will be distracted
    – and here the most important thing of all (in my opinion):

    READ OUT LOUD TO YOURSELF… and pay attention to read whats written rather than what you would have said (read all endings properly)… your jar will hurt after 2 pages… that’s fine… you’re using untrained muscles and you need to train them. Reading out loud will train your muscles, concentration and you will subconciously learn certain patterns as to be correct (steht auf dem)… you will say it and hear it and then in conversation, these patterns are likely to slip out automatically… especially when you’re tipsy

    Anyway… whatever you do, Viel Glück und ich bin gespannt, wie du voran kommst

    • Thanks for the encouragement. I’m so glad you mention reading out as that is exactly what I’m doing as I read my graded readers as my pronunciation is so dreadful. Good to know that others see it as a good thing to do.

      As for not reading newspapers, sorry, but I am. Nothing too high brow like the Frankfurter though, Stern is as high brow as I get and then I descend into the depths of Das Bild and the Mo-Po. As I’m a news junkie I pretty much know the context for all the international news stories and I find it good practice for Präterium.

      As for Harry Potter, I might give it a month or so, to get my vocabulary more up to speed so that I don’t get frustrated.

  7. wow. you are my language learning inspiration. I am in. I am fumbling my way through duolingo french and actually looking forward to the language course. :) I might get some Harry Potter in French, i like that idea. Or maybe some magazines, to start with (like écoute). :) Let me know if i speak too much English to you and if i can help in some way. Ich werde Dich anfeuern. (wow, the German word for “to cheer somebody on” sounds very weird..i swear there will be no fire involved). :)

  8. I’m a bit dubious about duolingo. It hasn’t really been demonstrated that it’s any good. I find it too sluggish and I stopped using the French and Spanish ones when I came across errors in the first few lessons.

    You can’t trust anything you learn from duolingo as being right.

    I think there are better ways.

    Generally it’s just a matter of putting in the time.

    • The French Duolingo is in beta so I would expect quite a few errors in that. However, the German is pretty good. There are a couple of errors but nothing glaringly bad. I’m find it a very good way to brush up on parts of grammar I have forgotten or had trouble with.
      I think no matter what system you use, you are always going to find mistakes or things you don’t like about it. That is why I’m not just using one single resource to learn German, I’m combining multiple resources to hopefully give myself the best chance of learning it. However, you are right about needing to put in the time.

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