How much can you learn about a language in 7 days?

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7 Day Spanish Challenge — I learned Spanish in 7 Days

 

Unfortunately, my first attempt at a 7-day kickstart didn’t go as planned…

For those of you who don’t know, a language kickstart is kind of like a language sprint. The biggest difference being that it occurs at the beginning of the language learning process instead of somewhere in the middle. I have seen many polyglots do language sprints when they are feeling like they have plateaued, like they are behind where they want to be in the language, or just to refresh their memory if it has been awhile since they studied it.

My reasoning for attempting to kickstart my language learning process in Spanish was due to the fact that I was fed up with myself putting it off and making it less of a priority than I kept telling myself that it was for me.

That being said, somewhere within days 4 and 5 I had a major breakdown.

As much as I wish it wasn’t, anxiety is something that I struggle with, and it tends to flare up for me when I am neglecting myself in some way. In this case, I had been neglecting time-off. In fact, “time-off” wasn’t really even in my vocabulary let alone my lifestyle. Even though one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with and decided to pursue entrepreneurship was to make my own schedule, I actually ended up working more. A lot more. While this is not a narrative that is unheard-of, I just happened to reach my tipping point in the middle of my 7-day language challenge. (Which is about the time that I got on social media and told everyone how I learned more about myself than I did about Spanish that week.) Which, coincidentally, is what I tell clients that happens during language learning all the time.

I just apparently did not see it coming for myself.

*** Fast Forward 3 weeks & here I am today about to try this challenge again. ***

For those of you who haven’t seen it, there is a YouTuber and Polyglot named Nathaniel Drew, and a year ago he made a video called “I learned Italian in 7 Days”. Fast forward to this year, coincidentally the same day I started my 7-day Spanish challenge, and he posted a new video called “I learned Portuguese in 7 Days”. Well, as someone who is obviously passionate about languages, communication and human connection, I found these videos to be equally fascinating and inspiring. Which is precisely why I decided to follow his exact steps/method to learn Spanish in 7 days, review what worked for me, what didn’t, what I’d suggest to others who also want to kickstart their language learning journey, and more.

However, even though my first attempt didn’t go as planned, I wouldn’t count it as a failure, because I learned a lot about my own language learning process, and my personal learning process. Everyone learns at different speeds and in different ways. For example, Spanish is my third foreign language and even though I’ve been studying languages for a while now, I’m not nearly as experienced as Nathaniel. He (and I got this from his videos) knew English, Spanish and French before learning Italian, and then he spent a year working on his Italian before learning Portuguese.

What does that tell me?

All of these languages, with the exception of English, are romance languages, (and even with English there is overlap). Which means even though all of these languages are different, they have a lot of similarities too. Having those 3-4 languages under his belt is a huge advantage, because he understands how they work and can therefore more likely better understand the next one he is learning. Plus, he has spent a significant amount of time learning about himself, what works for him and his language learning style, what words and phrases he uses the most when he is getting started in a new language, and so on. Therefore, when it comes to learning another one in a week… it’s more probable. Does that mean that he’d have the language mastered in a week? Absolutely not. But it does set him up for success to gather a lot more information than others might be able to in such a short amount of time.

SIDE NOTE: “Learning” a language is subjective. What learning a language looks like to Nathaniel is different from what it looks like to me, you, your brother, your cousin, your friend Joe, and everyone else. So, to say you “learned” a language in a week… well, maybe ask yourself what “learning” a language means to you, first.

*** What does “learning” a language mean to me? ***

To me, learning a language does not mean mastery, complete fluency, or being able to speak and understand it as well as I speak/understand my first language. It means being able to hold a conversation on a variety of topics with a native speaker, which includes both speaking and listening where I can learn from my mistakes, course correct, and keep improving. In order to achieve that, I need to know at least the basic vocabulary that I use on a daily basis, a solid understanding of how the tenses in the language work and how sentences and questions are structured, and I need to listen and practice frequently for confidence and comfort.

Any given language has its own rules that can be hard to wrap our heads around. Especially if it’s something that doesn’t exist in our first language. However, the more we understand our first language and how it works, the easier it is to understand our second one. If you are just getting started learning a second language, and you come across a concept that you don’t understand no matter how many times you try to read through its definition, try googling the same concept in your own language, first. This won’t always work, but it’s a good place to start. Read several articles about the concept. Everywhere on the internet people like to post free information. If you are worried about getting quality information, read a few different responses and see what’s the same and what isn’t and try to sort it out that way. You will get a better understanding once you start having conversations with native speakers.

I digress. Let’s return to my own journey learning Spanish.

I want to try a kickstarting my Spanish journey with this 7-day challenge again. Obviously, even though I haven’t retained much … I’m not at the very beginning anymore. However, I think it’s safe to say that any and all progress I make in this week is achievable in your week as well.

That being said, it takes a lot longer than 7 days to learn a language, and if there is anything, I’ve learned from the first time around, it’s that this is just a kickstart, not an attempt to be perfectly conversational or even moderately conversational in 1 week. (A belief that I could do that lead me to really beat myself up and was not productive at all.

Sorry not sorry.

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