Saturday, June 30, 2012

The 30-day Language Challenge

As an American, I’m embarrassed by our serious inability to speak languages. It’s not our fault that the North American continent is a predominantly English language continent and Europe is a predominantly multi-lingual continent. But I’m embarrassed nonetheless whenever I hear people from a different country forgiving Americans for not understanding their language or stumbling through their customs like a rhino on a rampage. It’s sad that even with a bachelor’s degree in any language, we can hardly make claims to “know” a language other than English. That’s why, based on the teachings and concepts of Barry Farber and A.G. Hawke, I came up with this 30-day language challenge. I don’t think it’s impossible or improbably to assume that given the right motivation and right materials, one could, within 30 days, learn a new language. Obviously, no one can become a “Native” speaker of any language they aren’t a native speaker of, but I believe that within 30 days, any person with a sound mind and clear focus, could learn enough of any language to be beyond the help of any “100-level” or “First Year” college language course. I’m inspired by the amount of language advertisements I’ve seen on the internet these days to take on this challenge myself to prove it.

About Me 

I already speak Japanese and Korean fairly well. My Korean has been slipping lately, but I still feel pretty confident in my abilities. I’m 27 years old, a current student of Portland State University, a member of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, an LDS Return Missionary from Sapporo Japan (Chosen Frozen), and former scholar of the Teach and Learn in Korea program started in 2008. I studied Japanese for 6 years before going there and discovered that 4 years in High School and 2 years in college did not prepare me for actually being able to function in Japan.

So the program that I compiled works like this: Follow the rules, study often, overwhelm your brain, and become a speaker in 30 days. It requires a series of materials and a serious effort –no slackers accepted. Here’s what I (you) need for the program to work:
• Notebook
• Coursebook in the target language (“Teach yourself Chinese,” etc.)
• Grammar book for the target language
• Dictionary for the target language
 • Phrase book for the target language (Both Farber and Hawke recommend Berlitz)
• Blank 3x5 cards
• Language CD/MP3’s
• A Quick Reference sheet
• Newspaper or Magazine
• Interactive Computer programs to do instead of computer games
• Movies and music in the target language
• Highlighter pens
Rules for learning the language
1. Never take a day off
2. Utilize all hidden moments to review 3x5 cards
3. Set aside at least 30 clear minutes a day to update your 3x5 cards on the language or to read more lesson from your book
4. Study a few vocabulary words from the previous day each morning when you wake
5. Study a few vocabulary words from the day before going to sleep each night
6. Use Harry Lorayne's magic memory aid - Tell a story to remember the words your studying a. Ex. In Indonesia, my family all lives in one roomah. (Rumma=Family)
7. Study words together with opposites, it's easy to remember (hot/cold, etc.)
8. Pick conversations with other speakers of the language like drunks pick fights (with gusto) 
9. Use Word-Denial games (Don't let yourself have dessert until you can remember a word, etc.)
10. Don't study profanity, but do study idiomatic phrases
11. Keep it simple at first, don't try to outpace yourself by knowing words like "megalomaniac."
12. Try to find a community within your town that speaks the target language natively (or close) and find reasons to hang out with them (go to their restaurant, etc.)
13. Choose to listen to the target language music instead of your own when listening to music. Better yet, choose to listen and interact with the language audio instead of music
14. Remember to interact with language audio, none of them work without interaction
15. Watch Target Language movies instead of American films when watching movies
16. For the first 30 days, live, breath, and eat your target language

So, for the next 30 days, I’m going to blog a day at a time, just to show the progress someone who doesn’t know a language would go through. Check back daily to see the progress.


  1. Is it ok if i feature you on ny instagram?

    1. Sorry, I just now got this. I was away from blogspot for a long time, but yes, I would be fine with that if you were still wanting to do it.