Lessons From My Language (Half) Marathon

I’ve just finished the second month of my Lingoda Language Half Marathon which means I’ve done 30 French lessons in just 2 months. It’s certainly been intense, but I’ve learnt so much and so far have enjoyed every lesson. Some weeks it feels as though it has taken over my life and I’ve impressed myself with my level of commitment and dedication. It’s taught me a few things about life as well as about learning a language. Here are just some of the many things I’ve learnt so far

JUST DO IT!

If you want to do something, just do it, or if you’re learning a language, just speak it! My first lesson was absolutely exhausting. The teachers at Lingoda speak completely in French during lessons and only switch to English if absolutely necessary. My first lesson was absolutely exhausting. Each lesson lasts an hour and about 45 minutes in I was ready for it to end. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, It was a great lesson, but because I had been speaking French for 45 minutes and was completely out of my comfort zone. However, just three lessons in and I was already feeling much more comfortable and confident when speaking French. Recently I was in Decathlon and asked a shop assistant a question in French. They replied in English (I live in a very touristy area of France) and previously this would have been the excuse I needed to immediately revert back to English. However, I persevered and the whole conversation took place in French. Little moments like this really help to develop your confidence and the phrase “parlez vous français” is no longer my go to phrase when speaking to a French person!

MAKE A START

Starting is the best way to being any new habit. At the start of the marathon I wasn’t sure if I would be able to manage to find time to study for roughly an hour every other day. However, I’ve found that I’ve been studying much more than that. I somehow find time to revise my lessons, google translate any new words I come across during the day (I do this all the time!), listen to French podcasts, watch videos on YouTube, use Duolingo and speak to my husband in French some evenings. Basically, I’ve become a little obsessed with learning French. Signing up for the Half Marathon and telling everyone I know that I want to improve my French has been so motivaiting. Finding time to do something that you really want to do is easier than you think, procrastination or overthinking is definitely the enemy of progress. If you want to start something, don’t think about it, just do it and see where it takes you.

MAKE MISTAKES

Making mistakes is essential to learning. Some of the lessons have been really challenging, but these are the lessons that I remember and have learnt the most from. I recently completed a class where the teacher asked me if I could transform a phrase so that it contained both direct and indirect pronouns. After thinking about it for sometime, my answer was, “no, I can’t” or “non, je ne peux pas”. It was a really challenging class for me, but I spent time revising the subject that evening and then came back to it the following day. If you were to ask me about direct and indirect pronouns now, my answer would be completely different. In another class, I made many mistakes and was probably the weakest student in the class (I have also been the strongest student in some classes). During the class the teacher corrected me many times. Afterwards, I was wondering why my knowledge of reflexive verbs was so much weaker than other students at the same level as me. Then I realised that it doesn’t really matter and if my knowledge of that topic was already strong, then I wouldn’t have taken the class. During the class I wrote down every single correction that the teacher made and afterwards went through each mistake so that I know where I went wrong. I probably learnt a lot more from that class than the classes where I’ve been the strongest student. Mistakes really are the only way to learn.

BE CONSISTENT

Consistency is the key to improving. I have been learning French sporadically since I started work in France four years ago. Some times I would go for days and other time months without doing any studying at all. I’ve actually learnt more and made more improvements in the last two months than I did in the last four years. Learn, revise, practice and repeat. It’s the only way to learn a language. Grammar that I have previously struggled to get my head around, such as the passe compose or the imparfait, is now completely ingrained in my memory after using it and testing myself regularly. Unfortunately, there are no quick and easy fixes, no cheats and despite what some may say, you definitely can’t learn French while listening to a You Tube video as you sleep (I seriously thought about trying this once!). Consistently working hard is the only thing that has helped me to improve and I’m sure that this applies to anything in life, not just learning a language.


I have a month of the Language Marathon left, which means I still have another 15 lessons to go. It’s become like second nature to me now and I’ll probably feel like something is missing once the lessons end, so I’m hoping to carry on studying with Lingoda once I’ve finished the Marathon. Having said that, some students in the private Lingoda Facebook group are saying that they are feeling mentally fatigued at this point. I’m doing ok and still feeling very motivated, but I’ll let you know how I get on during my last month.


A bientot,


Catherine xx

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