How To Learn A New Language With Smart And Useful Goals

For a long time, I had a difficult relationship with goal-setting. As a fully-fledged questioner, I find it hard to take anything at face value, let alone the idea that I must have a goal to achieve anything.

When I was learning languages in full-time education environments like school and university, the goals weren't on my mind. My school sorted that out for me: turn up to classes, write essays, take exams. But since I've started working with independent language learners (and since I became one), goals have taken an entirely different role.

As an independent language learner, you need to know what to do. It's easy to think that you're already doing the work by stating what you want to achieve. But let me have an honest moment with you here:

Those goals don't help you do things.

smart useful goals

In this article, you'll learn about the two types of goals you need for language learning.

Goal Type 1: Vision Goals

Let's have a look at those language learning goals I see online again and again.

  • "I want to become fluent in Spanish"
  • "I want to have a 15-minute conversation in German" Or here is one that I set for myself last year:
  • "I want to speak Welsh at the Eisteddfod festival in August"

I am sure you have often heard about SMART goals. In many areas of life, our goals will only serve us if we make them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

In my mind, these fail the SMART list on a bunch of counts:

None of this is a bad thing in itself. If you are motivated and driven by a vision of your future self speaking a foreign language without hesitating, then that is an amazing image to hold on to. It should be one of the many vague and inspiring concepts you hold dear, and in fact I would even advise you start visualizing your success.

But those visions aren't useful goals, because they just won't help you when it gets down to doing the language learning work. You need that vision.

And for times when you've carved out that half hour to get to business and really learn a language, you need goals.

Goal Type 2: Path Goals

In my Welsh studies, I've been completely independent from the start. I don't have that external structure of tutor, group class, exams, and it took a while before I found a way to use my time for language learning. At first, I tried ideas like "I want fluency" and even "I want to speak Welsh at the Eisteddfod in August". They worked as a motivator, but failed to give me a clear idea of the steps I wanted to take to learn a language.

My current path goals in Welsh

My current path goals in Welsh

I needed something that would help me know what to do when my study time comes. These goals are what I call path goals. They guide you when you're in study mode and mark the milestones on your path.

Here's what you need for making good path goals:

Structure

Structure is the thing that stops you from starting every study session wondering what you'll work on today. It's absolute gold for independent language learners, because you simply don't have the time to faff every single time. Decision fatigue is real, and it's going to paralyze you if you allow it.

  • Schedule the days when you're going to study your language, so you can treat them like any other appointment.

  • Use your path goals as simple "next steps" so you spend zero time deciding what matters.

  • Get some external structure. Follow an established course, work with a tutor, or use a textbook or online course. Even without that, you can be just as successful. Set your goals up to match the four core skills, and this should provide you with the sense of variety and progress you need.

Core Skills

The four core skills are the essential set of everything that makes language learning a success for you. You will want to focus on some more than others, but ultimately you need to put work into all four for becoming that inspiring future self.

The four core skills are listening, speaking, reading and writing. Structure your goals around improving in each one, and you're guaranteed to succeed.

Do you want to find your core skills profile and get specific tips for improving each skill? Then I recommend you check out my book Fluency Made Achievable, the official guide to core language skills.

-> Click here to learn more about Fluency Made Achievable

There might be other areas you want to focus on too, such as improving your pronunciation and vocabulary. But if you've got the four core skills covered in your goals, I would advise you not to worry too much about any others. They will come naturally as you improve and respond to your needs in every situation.

Variety

Variety is a key component of the path goals you set for yourself. It's realistic to acknowledge that moods, motivation and focus can vary from day to day. So on one day you might be excited to crack open the textbook and work your phrases, but on another day all you want is speaking practice with a tutor.

Having varied goals (I recommend at least 4 to cover each core skill) allows you to pick from a short, focused list of tasks and make progress in every single study session.

Recap: The 2 Goal Types You Need for Learning a Language

So there you have it. Goal setting isn't the holy grail of productivity. But when you do it right and know your goal types, each step can give you the right support you need to progress today.

1. Set Vision Goals

You can call this an intention, a vision, a goal. This is the imagined, vivid image of your future self that will keep you going. Go deep with this, make moodboards (maybe on Pinterest?), be inspired. Blow that SMART stuff out of the water.

2. Set Path Goals

Path goals are not big visions, they are the structured next steps that will help you when it's time to work on studying. Your path goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. They should be anchored in what you can do now, and what you want to do next.

How do you work with goals in your study routine?

Do you set yourself goals? Do you review them with a tutor?

Leave a comment here or share in our Facebook group full of fellow language lovers!

My Challenge Results & 17 Tips For Language Learning on Social Media

social media tips

This is 2017: Social media is more powerful than ever. The next US president is tweeting at all hours. The Facebook algorithm has contributed to shaping public opinion. And over 80% of the population (in the USA) are on some kind of social network.

You'd think we're all a bunch of timewasters, scrolling our life away. But in this world of chaos, a small idea came and brought new motivation: "Use social media for good", it stated. Let's all stop wasting time and turn that naughty Facebook habit around.

Today, I'm here to tell you how that idea works out in practice. I've just completed a 28 Day Social Media Challenge, supported by the course Social Media Success. This course by Lindsay Williams is made for language learners and builds up your new study habit over 4 weeks.

Download the Guide

If you want to get more "behind the scenes" insight and find out which social networks are my top recommendations for language learners, be sure to download the new Guide to Social Networks from my Fluent Cool Kids Club by signing up here for free..

My Challenge Results

In my main language, Welsh, I spoke more sentences, discovered more native speakers, and added new vocabulary. In other words: HECK YES. This habit does not replace bigger study sessions, but it didn't take away the time for them either. Instead, I spent an effortless extra 3 hours on language learning.

I also found more time for my secondary languages. Currently these are Malaysian and French, and in the challenge I did things for both of them. Just a little bit, but it was there and lets me build onto them. I'm already working on a schedule.

17 Quick Tips for Language Learning on Social Media

Over the course of the 28 days, I collected short and simple tips that can help anyone get started with language learning on social media. Feel free to try a few of these, or even just to pick one.

Learn when you are busy

We already spend so much time on social media that this isn't a new time demand for most people. In fact, when was the last time you checked Facebook or Twitter? 20 minutes ago? Good! If you can do that, then you will find the language activities very easy. I was able to stick with the plan even on days where I travelled for over 12 hours, or met my whole extended family.

Here are my top tips:

  • Mix language tools (flashcards) and social media together

For example, you can add new words you learn on Snapchat to a list on Memrise, or document your Duolingo tree in a Facebook group.

  • Edit your newsfeed to stay focused

Are you following someone who tweets more nonsense than helpful things? Edit your newsfeed! You can mute some posts and set up focused lists to help you get there and save time. Twitter is my favourite tool for this.

  • Newsfeed a mess still? Make a new profile

I created a language profile on Instagram so that I could stay focused on languages and have a newsfeed that gives me support and motivation. You can do the same on any social network, and most apps now support quick switching.

It pays off in 4 ways

Lanugage learning on social media is not just a way of taking your language skills to the next level. It also keeps you accountable, meaning you will stay motivated and keep going for longer. You will create documentation of how you're doing in languages, allowing you to see and feel progress. And finally, the community of language learners will start connecting to you meaning you make new language loving friends and find more interesting things about your language.

Here's how to get the most out of this:

  • Follow teachers, bands and businesses

Social Media for Language Learning is about getting your newsfeed right, so make sure you follow as many useful accounts as you can. Find them by searching for your languages or seeing what's related to people you follow.

  • Find existing communities

Every social network has a bunch of great groups that are already talking about your language. Check out Instagram challenges, Twitter chats, subreddits and Facebook groups.

  • Avoid hiding your mistakes

When there is something wrong, people like to comment and correct it. This is how you find the best language community online, so forget about looking flawed and start putting your mistakes out there - they're like community bait!

  • Make and share a goal

If your followers know what you are working on, they will be more invested in your success and you'll get lovely support messages. This also works for your own motivation, as stating the public goal keeps you more accountable.

Not every social network is great for language learning

In my experience of working through the social media jungle, some apps and websites emerged as stars and others felt like a waste of time. You can read more about my experiences in the special guide to social networks I created for the Fluent Cool Kids Club, which is free to join.

  • Organise everyone you follow

On Facebook it's groups, on Pinterest it's boards, on Twitter it's lists. The better your organization, the faster you can find the right people.

  • Organise early, but not too often

Invest half an hour at the start to get your lists or groups set up, and then don't worry about it anymore and enjoy the journey!

  • Be ok with not being everywhere

Over time, you will realize that some apps or networks feel more like an obligation than a pleasure. The best way for you to find out what works for you is to try the challenges in Lindsay's course. After 28 days, look back and ask what worked best for you - then ditch the duds and stick with your daily practice where it matters!

Oh, by the way: This is fun!

Maybe this all sounds like a lot of hard work, but let me tell you: I had lots of fun with my languages. This way of learning is creative and lets you try out anything such as practice with kids, singing new songs, sharing pets or photos of your books.

Some tips to get more out of this:

  • Use apps to go with your apps

The app store is full of great ways to take your photos and words to the next level! You can create images with apps like Wordswag, discover Snapchatters on Ghostcodes, and much more. Simply search your app store for the name of any social network and you'll find new ideas instantly.

  • Explore more social networks

No one said you have to stick to Facebook and Twitter! Try language learning networks or look around on the boards of Fluent in 3 Months or Italki for example, or investigate the extra social networks in my new Cool Kids Club guide.

  • Use algorithms to find more and more

Once you follow a language learner, the social network will learn what kind of people and topics you're interested in. Wait a few minutes, and watch your newsfeed transform into a language class like no other!

At the end of every week, you should spend 30 minutes on a review for new words and lessons. Here's what I did:

  • Review your liked/saved posts

On most social networks, you can access a list of everything you've "Liked" so that you can use this as a bookmark system and work through it once a week as you review the best of the week.

  • Learn social media vocab

The easiest way to find out vocabulary for "post", "comment", "tweet" etc is to switch the user language in your social network.

  • Add your new words to a separate vocab list

Every week, it pays to invest a little bit of time to take all those new posts and words out of the internet and put them into your notebook, flashcards, and, ultimately, brain.

  • Stay organised

Building habits is not the same as doing an intensive challenge, but this investment of your time in "little and often" will pay off. Use a diary, a tracker or follow the Social Media Success schedules so that you don't give up halfway through. The goal here is to start a daily language practice, not to become fluent in a short time!

So here's the conclusion: Social Media for Languages is something you should try - immediately! It won't take a lot of time, and it will pay off for sure.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment here and tell me what worked for you and which social network you use all the time.

And don't forget that my free guide to ALL social networks is waiting for you in the Cool Kids Club!

Social Media for Language Learning: Tips for Twitter, Pinterest and Hashtags

Millions of people use apps to learn languages. Duolingo, Memrise, HelloTalk, Skype...all of these apps are made to help you learn languages. But what about the ones you use with your friends?

Can you use a fun social network like Facebook for language learning?

This is the question at the heart of my quest "28 Days of Social Media for Language Learning". I am using materials from the course Social Media Success from Lindsay Dow - a great strategic course to help you learn languages.

Now I'm in Week 3

More than halfway through now!

Obviously I'm developing favourites but I'm also enjoying the ones I started with and I am valuing the accountability.

One of the best results is that I feel like my progress is more visible. On many days when I can't find the time for a study session, the social media tasks from Lindsay's course are helping me add a little more time.

This week, it's been impossible to find concentrated time to learn my main language. But social media came through again.

Mistake Goals

In Social Media Success, Lindsay talks about the idea of making mistakes. She has cool recommendations for the best social networks and also for the easiest ways of doing this.

Her course talks about making mistakes as a part of documenting progress. In other words, you need to do this - you can't avoid it. Lindsay's mistake goals are a way to celebrate your language learning progress by showing the work you do behind the scenes. I found that the best social network for me to do these was Instagram, not Snapchat, as it was more likely that I would get corrections and encouragement.

Key Lesson: Make mistakes in your learning and share them proudly. It's a great way to get helpful feedback from native speakers.

Pinterest

The cool thing about this week was that the algorithms of Pinterest learn very quickly. I have added no more than 10 new pins about the Welsh language, but the homepage is reacting very quickly and showing me more relevant pins. I haven't been able to find a lot of variety for Welsh, and I think the best languages on Pinterest are "school languages".

It's also great for how-to and for goal setting and motivating systems. I am a bullet journal user, and the visual social networks like I Pinterest and Instagram are great for finding new ideas for organising things.

And finally, if you want to meet other teachers who really care about making cool language lessons, then this is your place to be.

Key Lesson: The best language materials on Pinterest are available in the big school languages: French, German, Spanish, English.

Have you found a board you love? You can share it in the comments or in our Facebook Group.

Twitter

Twitter is one of my favourite social networks. It's full of smart and opinionated people, it moves quickly and it has its own sense of humour. This week I tweeted in Welsh and I made a Twitter list (Lindsay teaches how to do this in her course, too). The list is awesome, very very useful for getting that shot of Welsh when I only have a few minutes.

Twitter has another advantage: This is where native speakers really write how they talk. You can see what slang and natural Welsh looks like, and I liked it lots. For example, this tweet from a singer Osian Roberts shows how "Dw I eisiau" becomes "Dwisio":

Key Lesson of the Week: Twitter is not just for tweeting - you can easily build a natural language resource in bitesize using lists.

Hashtagify

The site hashtagify is like a search engine for Twitter hashtags that are relevant to whatever you are interested in. So for example, you want to type in "learn German" in the search. The site will then show you popular tweets, as well as the other hashtags that people use when they talk about learning German. Very useful!

So here we are at the end of week 3. I am not sure how much new language I got to study using the social networks, but I definitely have been consuming and practicing more because of it!

Join the challenge for the last few days, here's where to go:

1) Visit our Facebook Group to connect with other language learners and download Lindsay's prompts

2) Join the course Social Media Success by Lindsay Does Languages

3) Connect with me on your favourite app!

4) You will also need the 28 Day Planner, which you can download here.

Comment over here to tell me how it's going!

fluent online

Public Language Success: Week 2 of 28 Day of Social Media for Language Learning

It's time for my check-in at the end of the second week using social media for language learning, and it was a good one!

The Challenge: Do something for my languages every day using social media.

More precisely, I'm following my friend Lindsay's(does Languages)  28 Day Planner from the course "Social Media Success". If you want to join in with the challenge, check out the full details here or catch up with week 1 here.  

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Learning a Language When Life is Busy

Looking at a calendar, I always knew that this week was going to be a busy one. It's Christmas at the weekend and there was much to be done, including a full day of train travel from the UK to Germany. When I'm not in my usual environment, it's easy for good habits or routines to fall by the wayside. But this week, I was positively surprised: Lindsay's theories about social media seem to hold up. Facebook, Twitter, all those little apps, really do sneak into my life even when there's a lot going on. So it was possible to keep up with my language tasks in under 10 minutes every day.

Quick recap: I used 5 social networks this week:

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Facebook
  • Periscope

In addition to those up there, I also downloaded the Tumblr app and connected it to my Instagram account, but I didn't find the time to study Tumblr in more detail.

Instagram Language Challenge

The concept of the #iglc (Instagram Language Challenge) continues to be a lot of fun: Every day I've got to take a photo or upload a little image featuring a word or video. It was a lot of fun to make my video of the week this time as I had a guest star, Mr Simon Ager from Omniglot. Maybe you remember him from our podcast episode about the secret languages of Britain?

Simon was in town this weekend and allowed me to practice my Welsh with him. We spoke for 10-15 minutes before I had to concede that my head was buzzing. Great progress - I've not felt like I can have a conversation in Welsh before!

Here's our little Insta video:

On several occasions I may have known the word for the prompt, but in the photo caption I still got to practice something new, like Welsh mutations with the word for dog.

Instagram is a great social media start for language learners because it's so fun to use the caption space and post emoji, thoughts, or just a string of hashtags. I also enjoy the sense of community that comes from sharing hashtags like #iglc, #kerstinsocial, or #languagelover. Several people have commented on my photos with help or replies in Welsh, which is both great practice and great encouragement. What more do we language learners need?

And with the little Instagram Now feature, I was even able to post a few of my errors or attempts at the secondary language in this challenge, which is Malaysian. 

Key Lesson from Instagram this week: Bring in your friends and find that language learning community - both online and offline!

Facebook

I read a statistic this week saying that over 80% of the American population are now on Facebook - that's nuts! We really do love our Facebook, and it's only right that we bring language learning into this.

Using last week's prompts, I remembered to check out a favourite band's Welsh language page, and I hit the "Like" button on a few of their posts. That's now the "Hoffi" button of course, since my Facebook user language is switched to Welsh.

I also posted every day in my group, Fluent Language Learners.  Even when no one replies, the accountability of posting in a group is helpful.

And here is the thing:

Facebook uses this powerful algorithm to decide which posts it wants to show me first, and it picked up on my Welsh activity very quickly. Now I see more posts from language learning groups and automatically get more articles about the language. 

Key Lesson: Tell Facebook you like language learning by liking and clicking on articles from groups & fan pages that you like, and it will respond to you in kind.

Creepy but useful, right? 

By the way: Lindsay talks about accountability in Social Media Success, explaining three big keys to accountability: goals, challenges and going public. I was pleased to find out that this current project hits all three of the goals. The information in this course makes it easy to go from time-wasting to effective action, so I would highly recommend it!

Twitter

Yay for Twitter! This is one of my favourite social networks and once again I had great fun on Twitter. I wrote several tweets in Welsh and almost every one of them got a response - incredible! Great to know that my language skills are picking up speed. Before going public and actually tweeting in Welsh, I didn't even know that my current skills were good enough for an online chat.

I haven't found the courage to post in Malaysian yet - saving that one for Snapchat.

Key Lesson: Go Public!! Even if you're not perfect, people will respond. 

Snapchat

Oof, last social network to report on. Snapchat was a great one this week. The challenge plan slowly ramps up and asked me to document five mistakes in one day this week. Luckily, I didn't have to go too far to find those mistakes to make. I simply took some grammar tests - hah!

On my busiest days, Snapchat was the easiest social network to keep up with. It can be demanding to write a tweet in a foreign language, but to quickly shoot 10 seconds of video with a new vocabulary word seems more manageable.

I also find Snapchat more forgiving because the videos disappear after 24 hours, so that I'm feeling more confident with Malaysian practice (that's the language I don't really know). And it's fun to share what I'm up to as well and to see glimpses of fellow language learners' lives.

Key Lesson: Don't get too serious about Snapchat and use it as your language playground! 

Are you Taking the Challenge?

If you're also following some prompts from my 28 Days of Social Media for Language learning, how's it going? What did you enjoy this week? Leave a comment below!

You can join in on Facebook or by using the #kerstinsocial hashtag on Twitter or Instagram.

And now, I wish you an AWESOME holiday week and hope you get great presents!! 

28 Days of Social Media: The First 6 Social Networks

socialnetworks-language

Hello, hello! It's the first Friday of my "28 Days of Social Media" journey, time to take stock and post a quick update telling you what has worked so far, what I liked and what didn't deliver.

If you want to join in with the challenge, check out the full details here on my blog.

Language Lessons from Social Media

Week 1 was great fun overall. Something I noticed straight away was that I have a head start because I already have all the necessary apps and I know how to use them.

I learnt using:

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Facebook
  • Periscope
  • Pinterest

So that's 6 social networks. Wow!

If you aren't as confident using social media, Lindsay's course Social Media Success is a great little primer, because it contains a great bunch of intro videos for the networks we don't use for languages. For example, Lindsay shows exactly how to work Snapchat in just 5 minutes. She was my Snapchat tutor at the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin this year, and I can certify that she definitely knows a few secrets.

Instagram Love

Every day of this social media challenge asks learners to take part in the #iglc, that's the Instagram Language Challenge. This challenge is run by Lindsay and she posts 28 little prompts every month, so you can reply and post something in your target language and inspired by the prompt every day.

I have enjoyed the creativity in this challenge, especially video day which looked like this:

The #iglc prompts were the most effort out of all the prompts I completed this week - following a prompt takes only 5-10 minutes, but that's more than most things on social media. I think this wasn't so much about the language as it was about wanting my pictures to look really nice and tempting, so that everyone will think I'm cool. A total social media risk!

The key here is to make sure you note down what you're actually adding and learning in one central place. Otherwise all you're making is pretty pictures.

Key Lesson from the IGLC: Go crazy, have fun. But review your words at the end of the week so you can memorize that new vocab.

And I would advise reviewing your words and noting them away from your social media channel, so that you can bring the best knowledge back into your language mode.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a fantastic resource for language learners, and I have been using it to inspire my lessons for years as well. You can find anything on there, from new charts to full videos in other languages. This week, I revived my Welsh learning board.

But because materials for this language are still kinda limited on Pinterest, I also started playing with my long-standing little language on the side: Malaysian! I started a new board and felt like I'm finally finding those few minutes to try out my new language.

Key Lesson: Pinterest is a fantastic playground for getting you started in a new language, but also for organizing when you have lots of things on the go.

Today is another review day in the Social Media plan, and I am so grateful that this prompt will help me really learn, not just add more to my list.

Facebook

There was only one prompt this week, which was to switch my Facebook user language. I did switch it to Welsh and learn a few new words of social media vocab.

The best thing about using Facebook was my group Fluent Language Learners because it's a great community for people who are also taking this challenge. Posting in the group every day is making me feel like I have accountability and I'm not going to stop.

Key Lesson: Find a community and tell them what your goal is, so that you can share the progress you are making.

Overall, you can probably tell that I'm having early successes already. I'm learning new Welsh words and using my Welsh, and I'm FINALLY picking up my new language without feeling a lot of pressure.

Next week, my social media update is due on Christmas eve and it's a busy one with lots of travel. Let's see how well language learning can incorporate into our lives when we do it the social media way. I'm looking forward to it!

Periscope

There had to be one that didn't work for me. This was it...Periscope didn't have content I enjoyed or understood, and I struggled with their interface too. Maybe I should download the app?

Are you Taking the Challenge?

If you're also following some prompts from my 28 Days of Social Media for Language learning, how's it going? What did you enjoy this week? Leave a comment below!

You can join in anytime on Facebook, or by posting anywhere using #kerstinsocial.

28 Days of Social Media for Language Learning

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Quora, Pinterest...are they 100 new ways to waste your time?

My friend Lindsay from Lindsay Does Languages thinks otherwise. She is obsessed with social media, but not in that "candy-crush-comment-spiral" sort of way. Lindsay is a very disciplined language learner, having created her own courses on language learning (check out my review of "Successful Self Study" here)

Last month, Lindsay brought out a new little course called Social Media Success and I thought instead of the usual course review, I actually want to put this to the test.

"Will social media really help me learn a language? Won't I just mess around on the internet?"

I really don't need more wasted internet time in my busy life, but I've decided to try this out myself.

For the next 28 days, I am going to follow Lindsay's recommendations and complete as many tasks as possible in her social media planner. Along the way, I'll post a weekly update on the blog and newsletter and let you know how helpful the Social Media Course will be.

And because this is meant to be social, I would like you to come and try out the challenge together with me.

Join Fluent Language Learners

You are invited to join the Fluent Language Facebook group, where I will post daily updates, prompts and ideas - and where we can discuss how it's going! The group is for connecting with learners of all languages and talking about our favourite study methods.

Join the Facebook group if:

  • You love learning languages

  • You want to share your ideas and learn more about how we learn best

  • You need to work out how to fit language into your busy life

  • You love travel and connecting with people!

And of course there is a #hashtag too: Post using #kerstinsocial every day or search for the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram to see how I'm progressing.

Ready? #awesome!!

Click here to join the Facebook group and get Lindsay's 28 Day Planner

Where To Find & Follow Me on Social Media

Here are the social media accounts that I will be using during the challenge:

You will also need the 28 Day Planner, which you can download here.

The social media planner also talks about Periscope, but I think that one's gone away...I'll be popping up on Facebook Live in the group instead!

Ready to Start?

Comment ont this blog post to tell me your favourite social network, and how you will be using it to learn languages in the next 28 days.

I'll see you online (search #kerstinsocial) or on Friday with my first update on the blog.

Progress Report after 13 Months of "Slow Welsh Language Study"

Waw, mae'r amser yn rhedeg...time flies (or runs, as my dodgy translation implies).

I have been learning this new language for about 13 months now...so let's have a look what the middle ground looks like!

Before you read the post, download your copy of the free "Teach Yourself Toolkit" in the Fluent Cool Kids Club. It's got links to all the resources I use.

I Spoke Lots of Welsh in Wales!

welsh study update

Back in August, I fulfilled one of this year's language goals and spoke Welsh at the Eisteddfod, the National Festival of Wales. The festival was one week long, with a big site located in Abergavenny, South Wales.

I pitched up my tent for 4 days at one of the official campsites. What a total delight! Immediately, I was hearing people of all ages speak Welsh around me and everyone addressed me in Welsh. In fact, I was surprised, because turns out..

Welsh is real, mae'r Gymraeg yn go iawn!

It's not a postcard language, and it's not even a dying language. Not when you hear and see it all around you, witnessing thousands of people as they celebrate their art, music and identity. Even though I had been learning the language for a year, this was my first experience of feeling how truly alive Welsh is in this world.

In terms of culture and enjoyment, the Welsh festival was amazing. Wales is such a small country that you can make friends with everyone in just a week. From meeting the bands I love (Plu, Candelas) to hanging out with the creators and learners of Say Something in Welsh, every conversation evolved naturally. I often found myself invited to film screenings and discussions (lots of gwin am ddim - free wine!), quickly forgetting I was attending the festival on my own.

Language Immersion is Easy

The Eisteddfod visit showed me that it doesn't take much to create an environment where you learn this new language. Simply go where people speak it. Hearing the language spoken around me was a boost even before I opened my mouth. Yet I also worked on creating speaking opportunities from the start by volunteering as a steward so I was forced to get involved and talk to people from the minute I arrived. It was the perfect Welsh immersion environment.

Impressions from Eisteddfod week

I liked having English as a backup. It was very reassuring to know that I can stop or ask for a word when I need to... I would have never remembered the word for "self-employed" (hynan cyflogedig) if it hadn't been for so many reminders from my conversation partners.

The Fight For Welsh Language Rights

One of the groups I want to highlight is Cymdeithas yr Iaith, an advocacy group for Welsh language rights.

Cymdeithas is an activist group founded in 1962, promoting the right of Welsh citizens to live their lives in two languages. Without them, there would be no bilingual road signs. Old Welsh people may not understand official letters sent in English only. And there would be no education in Welsh. In other words, the language would be dying a lot faster.

Find out more about language rights in our podcast episode with Wikitongues.

If you want to join me at the next Eisteddfod, here's a helpful guide for English speakers.

Speaking and Understanding Welsh After 14 Months

The benefits of visiting Wales and speaking and hearing my target language took hold right away. I was myself having a 15 minute Welsh conversation with an old man in a tiny village, just one week after.

Since returning from Wales, it's been tough to maintain this immersion but I continued to practice. Back in October, I booked a tutoring session with Mererid and my range of conversation was HUGELY improved. It's really great to know that you're impressing your tutor!

I continue to work through the Say Something in Welsh lessons and switched from the old to the new course system back in September. Yes, so I started at the beginning again but that doesn't feel like a setback at all. I loved the opportunity to consolidate my language skills so far. In fact, I got through the first 8 lessons at 1.5 speed, and am now halfway through the course. Say Something in Welsh is intense at times, and it's making me feel like a very confident speaker. I'm also reading a lot of Welsh as I subscribed to the learner magazine Lingo Newydd.

Grammar and Vocab in Welsh

My system is to practice WLCR (Write, Look, Cover, Repeat) using my own notebook. I also maintain a personal Memrise course with the 30% of words that are the hardest to remember. So overall, my vocabulary in Welsh has now grown to about 500-700 solid words - maybe 1000? Who's counting! Studying vocabulary is never going to be a walk in the park when you don't have classes or conversations every day.

--> Learn more about WLCR techniques in my Vocab Cookbook

I'm very happy with my grammar progress, finding that I'm able to say and describe more patterns (he says mae o'n dweud...he said naeth o'n dweud...he was saying oedd o'n dweud ...and so on). Everything still seems to have lots of extra rules and dialects, but I've not had to study many tables at all.

Being an experienced language learner is a big advantage for me here. I find myself seeing patterns and recognising the rules a lot more quickly, and I am confident when I make new sentences out of these structures. I always loved how language can be so playful when you get a pattern.

My Welsh Language Level After 13 Months?

I'm not performing to a set standard, however I've recently downloaded the Mynediad (Beginners) exam guidelines. I'm planning to work through these materials with a tutor. I am pretty much there, meaning I've reached the end of level A1 by studying "little and often" for a little bit more than a year.

Is this impressive? No idea. I don't feel that I would be able to share this on YouTube as a major polyglot win, but at the same time this is something I know I've learnt for life.

The thing about studying for 13 months is this: My time is not wasted just because I've not learnt everything yet. It is time well spent, moving forward, step by step to conversation levels. When you think about how quickly you can learn a language, it's easy to consider any slow periods as "wasted time", but I believe that the long-term commitment is what counts when you want to progress and grow your mind.

What's Next?

In terms of listening, I wish that I had more opportunities to hear real people instead of TV or radio characters. I feel ready to graduate from TV subtitles, but the radio and TV are still too fast for me. What to do?

As a podcast junkie, I would love a slow Welsh news podcast like News in Slow French, or perhaps a learner's story show. I have heard that there's some useful stuff on YouTube, but it's not enough. Give me more Welsh!

My biggest goal is to speak and eavesdrop more. I want to be able to witness conversations in Welsh easily, so that means the following practical goals for December:

  1. Book another tutoring session
  2. Speak Welsh at Polyglot Pub on 6 December
  3. Spend an hour every week listening to the language, ideally spoken by real people around me (failing that, BBC Cymru and S4C will do)

I'm also planning a social media project based on my friend Lindsay's new Social Media Course. More about that in the next blog update!

How Are You Getting On In Your Language?

Are you learning lots, or struggling to find time? Let me know in the comments below!

How to Stay Motivated in Language Learning (Even When You're Not Feeling It)

language motivation

In our latest podcast episode, my co-host Lindsay Dow and I found ourselves discussing one of the big topics in language learning: the ultimate struggles, good moments and bad moments.

These are true for every language learner we've ever spoken to, so if you're suffering from one of these issues, you are most definitely not alone. And since I've recently spent a bit of time hitting the books to learn more about the science of language learning in linguistics and psychology, I've added 4 research-backed motivation tips to help you love language learning again.

The Ultimate Good In Language Learning

1) Understanding Something You Didn't Expect to Understand

No matter if it's a few words of an overheard conversation or the name of a shop, there is magic in that moment when you realize you know this language. When you understand something new, you participate in unlocking the world around yourself - truly a moment worth waiting and working for!

And as Lindsay points out, this is one reward that never goes away after you cash in. Language learning is an eternal project, and that good feeling is going to be yours time and time again as you improve your skills.

In scientific research, the good feelings and sense of joy you gain from using your intelligence and learning something new are called intrinsic motivation. This describes actions you undertake out of interest, curiosity or because you find something personally rewarding (and not because you're getting paid or instructed). Those moments of feeling smarter and experiencing your personal growth are the internal payment you give yourself for all the hard work of language study.

Becoming aware of them and making a note when you do feel awesome is a great way to stay motivated later in the game, so try keeping a learning diary or sharing your achievements with others whenever you understand something new. You can even start today by commenting here on the blog!

2) Showing People That You Can Speak Their Language

I had this moment in an airport café once. My waitress was just dropping off the bill and as I that noticed the little Polish flag on her name tag, I said "oh, you speak Polish!" She stopped for a few minutes and we started chatting about Poland, Germany and languages, with me demonstrating the very few Polish words I know. But as soon as I even said czesz (hello), her eyes lit up. She said she was so excited and pleased that someone was learning her native language, and how rare it was for this to happen in London. I was excited too, so happy that I'd managed to make her morning.

Even when you can only say 5 words in someone's language, your interest and respect for their home can really make their day. Have you ever found yourself in that feeling? For me it's one of the most wonderful things that can happen to a language learner, and it always keeps me going and trying.

The reward of connecting with new people is a motivation for many language learners. Social psychologist Robert Gardner called this the integrative motive, recognising how language learning motivation can be affected by how much you want to talk to people, how much you want to connect and how curious you are about your target language's culture.

Does that sound familiar to you? If you're feeling like you need a boost for studying, try connecting with someone new. It could be a native speaker on italki or a friend at an event - what matters is that you remember how great it is to connect with people who speak your target language.

The Ultimate Struggle in Language Learning

We are all such busy people, and it's hard to put a foreign language up there along with other priorities like family care, paid work, or (for me) editing a podcast. Life's crazy, you guys, and that's why I have put time management at the top of all our language learning struggle charts.

Procrastination is a big issue here too. You sit around and find yourself doing the dishes or pairing your socks before you'll even look at that vocab list again.

How can we beat procrastination? My top tip is to ease off the pressure, make your language learning journey more interesting (yes! more videos - sometimes!) and set yourself smaller, more challenging goals. So forget "getting fluent" for now, and ask yourself how you can get a little bit better this week.

The Ultimate Bad in Language Learning

What could be the worst thing about language learning? There are so many great reasons for learning languages, yet something stands in your way. What is it?

For me, one of the biggest boulders in the way of your fluency dreams is feeling like you are not good enough. Research has actually backed this up, showing that low self-efficacy (that's when you think you won't be able to do it) and low self-worth (that's when you think you are too stupid or forgetful or ) really do knock the motivation out of

What solution could there be? Try embracing the Growth Mindset, in other words find the benefits of being lousy right now. It means that you've got infinite scope for improvement, and there is a lot of evidence to show that nothing in language learning is beyond you right now.

It also helps to stop for a minute and look back on what you've already achieved. Learning a foreign language to "fluency" (whatever that means to you) is a long-term game, a journey in which you are always travelling forward. So give yourself some credit. What can you do now that you couldn't do a year ago?

How to Beat Your Language Learning Demons

Fear of forgetting words, fear of speaking, fear of judgement. Is that you? If you connect to those negative feelings, scroll back up to the good parts of language learning. Sometimes it's worth investing a little time in your own mindset before you go back to the books and apps.

Two things that make the negatives worthwhile and reward you so much:

1. That moment where you understand something and you didn't expect it

2. That other moment where someone's face lights up because you're learning their language

Which good moments can you add? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments below. And of course, stay encouraged and keep going. You can totally do this.

For more information about coaching and access to lots of free toolkits and worksheets, hop onto the Fluent Language Newsletter today - can't wait to say hello to you on there!