Can you learn a language in 3 months? Yes, of course you can. Can you become fluent in a language in 3 months starting from scratch? Most likely not. Three months might not get you to fluency, but it can bring a drastic change in your foreign language abilities if you’re committed. Because of this, I’ve decided to push myself to continue to learn a language in 3 months. Basically, I’m planning to do a 3 month language challenge. What’s a language challenge and why am I doing one?
Some background information
In the last few posts on this blog, I’ve discussed goals, why they’re important and why they should be clear. I’ve also talked about why we should use the last few months of the year to recommit to the resolutions we made at the beginning of the year. These weren’t simply random posts. The ideas in them had true meaning to me and in my life. At the start of 2019, I decided that I wanted to be at the C1 level of Arabic. (C1 is a low advanced level on the language proficiency scale). For the longest time, I’ve been stuck at an intermediate plateau. I can learn vocabulary fairly easily, but grammar is another beast. Speaking with the correct sentence structure has also been a big problem for me.
I decided this year would be the one for me to focus and get past the plateau stage. The focus for the earlier part of the year was on input. Reading graded readers (these are books that are simplified for learners) and novels. TV shows translated into Arabic were another constant part of my efforts to escape the plateau zone. This year I was more consistent than I’ve probably ever been before. Now, with the last 3 months of the year quickly approaching, it’s crunch time. It’s time to focus and to be dedicated to the task of acquiring the beautiful language of Arabic. This is where the 3-month language challenge comes in.
The 3-month language challenge explained
Imagine you’re learning Dutch. You take two 1-hour classes twice a week. In between classes, you study three days a week for half an hour at the most. It’s a decent amount of time especially for a working adult or a student. However, it totals 3.5 hours per week at the most. You might experience some development.
Now, imagine that you commit to learning Dutch for 3 months. You say that you’re going to work with the language for at least one hour per day. If you stick to that, your total will be at least seven hours of time spent with the language per week. Already, you’ve at least doubled your hours with Dutch. With the 3-month language challenge you’re not haphazardly dealing with the language that you want to acquire. Purposefully, you’re going toward it, and you have a goal in mind. The goal can be anything that you want. In my case, I want to speak coherently, develop my grammar, and build a stronger lexical (vocabulary) base. Put succinctly, I hope to be at the C1 level of Arabic once the 3-month period is up.
My plan (to continue to) learn a language in 3 months
Everyone has their own ideas when it comes to doing a 3-month language challenge. As they become more advanced in their target language (the language they’re learning), they become more aware of what they’re lacking. Once that’s known, they’ll know how to approach learning the language in 3 months. In my case:
I’ll continue to read novels each day to build my vocabulary. Reading will also allow me to be exposed to a variety of examples of sentence structure. I plan to spend at least an hour per day reading. I know that I have problems with pronunciation of new words. In the majority of books, there are no vowel markings. As a result, I’ll be adding an audio component to the books that I’ll be reading. Thankfully, I came across an app called Kitab Sawti. It’s an audiobook app much like Audible, but for Arabic books. I have the Hunger Games books in Arabic and Kitab Sawti has that available as well, so I’ll be reading while listening.
To help with listening, I’ll be making use of YouTube or any other source to watch TV shows. I’ll be watching a TV show in Arabic daily. On average, it should be about 30 minutes per day, give or take. I prefer to watch cartoons translated from English and especially from the 80’s or 90’s. Since I’ll probably already know the topic, I’ll have an aid in understanding what’s happening. If I have an idea of the story, I’ll more readily catch new words. There are a lot of shows such as Smurfs, X-Men, Recess, and even Courage the Cowardly Dog that are now available in Arabic. Entertaining shows in their own right, a healthy dose of nostalgia, and full of comedy. Enjoying yourself while learning enhances the learning process and, thankfully, shows like these are very enjoyable.
I prefer to watch TV shows over movies because of two main reasons. First, TV shows are more easily digestible. A show’s runtime can range anywhere from 25 minutes to one hour. Compared to a movie that’s two hours or longer, I’ll have less of a chance of suffering from fatigue. The second reason is that TV shows have many episodes. Once you understand the characters, locations, and general plot of the first four or five episodes, it becomes easier to understand the future episodes. Movies are one offs and even with sequels, the topics may be so different that it would leave a language learner lost.
Writing is something that will happen twice a week. Just a short essay of about 3 paragraphs or so. For writing, I’ll be working with a tutor so I can get feedback on what I’ve put together. The main reason I’ll be writing is to work on my sentence structure and to ensure that there’s coherence. I’ve read that writing is a great help when it comes to speaking, so I hope to see the effect of it over time. In English, writing is a piece of cake (I’ve been doing it long enough after all). In Arabic however, it’s a different story. For just 3 paragraphs, I’ll probably need at least 45 minutes. Over time, I’ll hopefully be able to reduce the amount of time it takes for me to compose something.
Speaking will also happen with a tutor. I’ll be working with a tutor once a week for one hour to increase my speaking abilities. Speaking abilities includes fluency, accuracy, and expanded spoken vocabulary. My hope is to make use of the vocabulary and structures that I’ve learned through the other three skills (reading, listening, writing).
If there are grammatical areas where I’m weak and repeatedly making mistakes, I’ll ask my tutor to point these out and I’ll try to work on them. Improvement is the name of the game.
The big picture
I’ll be averaging about 13 hours per week of working with the language. Working a full time job at the same time, it won’t be easy, but I’ll have to continually remind myself that it’s only for 3-months. Also, it’s not a class or a chore, this is a hobby for me, so I should approach it in that way. I’m sure that if I stay committed to this, I’ll be able to successfully exit the plateau that I’m in by the end of the three months.
There are some days that are extremely busy. Some days are bad. Some days are exhausting. I think on days like these, there should be some kind of minimal action. If you’re doing a 3-month language challenge and there’s a day or even a week where you’re just out of it, there should be something that you can do at the very minimum. For me, I’ve decided that watching a program will be that (or listening to an audiobook). These can be done while eating, laying down, etc. So, if I find that I don’t want to do anything after a long day at work, I’ll at least listen for 20 or 30 minutes to something in Arabic and leave it at that.
There you have it, my plan to (continue to) learn a language in 3 months. I’ll be starting on Sunday, September 29th and continuing until the end of December. It’s the perfect way to end 2019 and to begin 2020 on a high note. I’ll be leaving updates on here about my progress and experience with this project of mine. If you’ve read this far, I applaud you.
Are you also interested in doing the 3-month language challenge? If you are, click here to subscribe. You’ll also receive a free language learning log and a 3-month calendar to keep track of your progress. Be sure to share this with your friends and others who might also be interested.
Until next time!