Language Challenge 180: Week 2

by Corey · 8 comments

This page is for Language Challenge 180 participants only. Sign up now to join this event!

If you missed the three activities last week, go to the Weekly Activity Page and click on the first three activity links. If you want to get a solid foundation for these 180 days, then do those activities first! After that, make sure to Check-In and enter our first Language Challenge 180 giveaway!

For those of you who have been on board since the beginning, hold on tight because the journey really gets going this week. It is time to get our language learning into full swing!

Using the Tools

The past week and a half has been about putting together our plan and organizing our resources. You wouldn’t go on a 180 day excursion without planning things out ahead a time, would you? Treat your/your children’s language learning with this same attention to detail and you will definitely make it to the end of the trail with energy to spare!

Remember that while you are putting your plan together, it is only that: a plan. Plans are allowed to change over time. What is key is that you start with a plan in place and then, if things aren’t going as you had hoped, you put together an alternate plan to replace the first. You don’t want to find yourself treading water with no sense of direction.

The Most Important

Here are four essentials for your Language Challenge 180 journey:

  1. Focus on the language at least 15 minutes every day. This is the absolute, bare minimum. Aim for at least 30 or, even better, 60 minutes every day. Time spent on your language can come in different chunks throughout the day (which is actually the best way to do it!). For example, you can review some vocabulary words for 20 minutes while on the bus on your way to work, then read a chapter in a book for 15 minutes during part of your lunch break. At home you can listen to audio for 20 minutes while washing the dishes, read your child a good-night story for 20 minutes and then work in your grammar book for 20 minutes. Right there you will have spent 95 minutes on your language in a variety of inputs! That doesn’t even count the movie you watch on Friday night in your target language and the conversation you have with your native-speaking neighbor on Sunday morning while sitting on your porch with a cup of coffee!
  2. Focus on language in context: This means, use the words you are learning in sentences as often as possible (not just flash cards). I think flash cards are fantastic. But I also think they are overused. Our brains need to be exposed to words in context. Our brains are created to learn words when they are connected with other words in sentences that have meaning. Plus, the more sentences we hear, we will start automatically memorizing the pieces that are used most often. In fact, when you make your flash cards, try making a many as possible with full sentences.
  3. Produce sentences (and/or encourage production in your children): This can be through talking or writing. Engage in conversations, write letters and emails, talk out loud to yourself, and write little notes to your children and spouse. Our brains are extremely efficient when trying to figure something out, so just because we can understand what is being said in a conversation doesn’t mean that we can put together sentences to engage in the same conversations ourselves. It is common that language learners can understand more than they can produce. The key is to make sure that you are producing sentences in the language as much as possible, even if only talking to yourself. Read out loud as often as possible as well! It isn’t the same as coming up with our own sentences but it does a lot for our language learning as well.
  4. Make mistakes! You/your children absolutely have to learn to enjoy making mistakes in the language! Enjoy making mistakes? Yes! Language mistakes should be sources of humor and fun in your family (not just something you tolerate). If you are used to always being in control and never making mistakes, well, here is your chance to get off that high horse to become more human. Learning a language is humbling and being humbled through language learning is what makes us able to connect more honestly both with the language itself and others around us. Remember: If you aren’t making mistakes, then you probably aren’t moving forward in your language learning. Challenge yourself, make mistakes and laugh along the way!

The key for Language Challenge 180 is that you increase both your input and output of the language for yourself and/or your children as much as possible and in as many ways as possible. Immerse your household into the language(s) fully and completely.

This Week’s Activites

Look through the different activities below. You are not expected to do all of them! They are a list of tips for how to bring more language-learning into your home! If you can incorporate all of them into your/your children’s day/week, then fantastic! If not, then pick out the ones that you will enjoy the most and go for it!

Activity #1: Sentences

  • Write out 10-20 sentences (in your native language) that you use on a daily basis. These can be things like: “Time for breakfast,” “Are you ready to go?” “Please set the table for dinner,” “Time to brush your teeth.” And then do one of the following:
  • If you are learning a new language (with or without your children): Spend the week finding out how these sentences are translated into your new language and then start using these sentences in the new language whenever you can. Teach them to your family and also teach your family what the appropriate response would be (even if the answer is just “yes,” “no,” or “ok.”
  • If you are passing on your native language to your children: Make sure that your children know what each of the sentences mean. Make sure you use them with your children as often as possible. Teach your children the appropriate responses (above and beyond “yes,” “no,” and “ok.”). If your children already know the basic sentences that you use, then write out 10-20 more complex sentences and use those for this activity! The key is to expose your children to more vocabulary and sentences in their daily routine.

Activity #2: Write a Letter

  • For those learning a new language: Every day this week, set aside 15 minutes to write a letter/email to someone. It can be to your spouse, your children, even yourself. You don’t have to send it to anyone if you don’t want to. The point is to use your language in context. If you are learning a language with your children, then write the letters/emails together! If your language skills are very basic, then your letters/emails will be basic – that is ok! “Hi Mary, I like you. You are my friend. I like coffee,” is just fine!
  • For those of you raising your children in your language: Write a letter/email each day together with your child. You can write to your spouse, family or a friend. Your children can even write to their friends even if they don’t understand the language (translation afterward is encouraged). An alternative is to write a letter each evening to each of your children when they are in bed. Put the letter(s) under their pillows in the night and when they wake up they can read the letters or you can read them out loud to them. This can do wonders for their language!

Activity #3: Reading

  • Adults and children: Pick out 7 things to read yourself and/or to your children this week. This may be 7 different books that you will read to your children at bedtime. It may be 7 chapters in a book that you are reading for yourself. Whatever it is, make sure that you have something to reach each and every day this week. If you end up reading an extra book to your children at bedtime, make sure you find another book to add to the pile. You don’t want to miss out on reading for yourself or your children because you didn’t plan ahead. If you tend to forget what you planned, then write down what the 7 things/books are and put it somewhere easy to find!

Activity #4: YouTube Videos

  • For adults: Pick out something that you can watch in your target language this week. It can be one or more full-length movie(s) or a few shorter shows/YouTube clips. Write down what you plan to watch this week and then spread it out over the week. You will have more success if you watch a 15 minute YouTube clip each day than if you watch all of them in one sitting. So, plan ahead and know what you’ll be watching for the week.
  • For children: If you are ok with your children having screen time, pick out a few YouTube clips or short videos for your children to watch. Important: Watch these with your children and talk about them afterward. An excellent way to get your child talking is to discuss things with open-ended questions. For example, “Why do you think that chicken was being so silly?” Or “Which part of that adventure did you think was most exciting?” Make sure to write down the links ahead of time of the videos that you would like your child to watch this week (so that you won’t have to go searching while your child is waiting) and spread them out over the week.

Activity #5: Songs

  • For those who are teaching their children a new language or passing on their home language: Find a song in the target language that includes music and movement and teach it to your children. For example, the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” is a good example of a song that combines body movements with vocabulary. Find one of these songs and do it every day with your child at least once. Most children will look forward to doing the same song over and over again, all week long (even if you are sick of it by Wednesday!).
  • For adults: See if you can find a song in your target language that you enjoy and try learning the lyrics this week. You don’t have to memorize the lyrics but at least be able to pronounce them and to be able to sing along. Have fun with this! Don’t worry if your spouse walks in on you singing along to the song. Remember, language learning is about making a fool of ourselves. The sooner we can realize this and embrace it, the sooner our language learning will be able to skyrocket! I’m serious about this!

That is our list of activities for this week. We hope that you will at least do a few of these activities every day. Most importantly, write down your plan for the week as soon as possible and try to stick with it all week. Don’t leave language learning up to chance! Consistency is key!


Remember that you can start a discussion the Multilingual Living Forum specifically for Language Challenge 180 about anything that is on your mind! You do NOT have to log in to post there! It’s been pretty quiet there so I assume everyone is so focused on language learning that they haven’t found the time (or need) to chat. And the Language Resource Pages are still being updated regularly, so check in and see what is going on at your target language!

Stay tuned for the Friday check-in question and new giveaway!

1 Amanda Kendle March 12, 2012 at 5:50 am

Wow, this is a fantastic list of activities! Reading and singing are definitely a part of our daily routine anyway but I since I’m trying to work on my German as well as my son’s (I’m the non-native speaker) I am definitely going to do the sentences and letter-writing – and finally make time to watch some German YouTube links I have. Thanks for the push!!!

2 Anna Puryear March 12, 2012 at 7:03 am

Thank you for this list of activities. I was just making my list of phrases when I saw that was #1. I’m having them checked now by my fluent Spanish friends. Having two daughters already in the process of learning Spanish is helpful. We already have some books and kids music that we listen too daily. My oldest, who is not able to participate in our dual language program in the school, is starting to sing along to the songs now. I wish all my parents involved in our dual language program was taking this challenge!

3 Mikayla March 12, 2012 at 8:11 am

These are all great activities. I think that I’ll reverse the order of the 5 activities because when we learn languages we need to hear the language many times before we can reproduce it orally and in writing.

4 Amy Van Vranken March 12, 2012 at 10:37 am

Any thoughts on how to find good YouTube videos or TV shows without spending hours sifting through junk? I’d love to hear from someone with more experience finding what they’re looking for. (I’m studying French.)

5 Linda M March 12, 2012 at 10:47 am

Great activities! Soem of them are already tested but have fallen by the wayside in our busy everyday life. I did discover though, that the most commonly used phrases and sentences in our house seem to be in the form of orders from me to the kids… “Get up! Get dressed! Finish your breakfast! Do your homework!”. Oooops 😛

6 Amy Van Vranken March 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Linda, it’s great that you’re seeing those patterns! I had a friend from Germany once who spoke to her kids in English…unless she was scolding them. Then she switched to German. Maybe she thought she was “protecting” them from embarrassment because no-one else around could understand the scolding, but I don’t think she realized the negative association she was creating!

7 Paola March 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Thank you for the suggestions!very nice activities! I’ve just done my plan in order to make them both for my target language (english) (any suggestion for interesting and funny videos to look for in youtube?) and with my son in Italian.

8 JenneferJ March 13, 2012 at 10:38 am

I am working on this.

I found a Japanese study buddy that I can write email to and she will look at it for me. It is amazing how these people come into your life at just the right time. I am working on getting some Japanese cartoons to watch. I don’t know how much I will understand but it will be a start. I have some Japanese easy reader books to read. I think I will read the same one for a while. I want to understand it before I move on and I only have 5 of the books for now. And I have the words for “If you are happy and you know it,” in Japanese . It isn’t perfect but it is fun.

Now I just need to figure out my ten sentences to try in Japanese and get them translated. Hmmm.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: