19 October 2012

Five days to fluency-a great success!

Five days in Prague, really four. Yet I greatly improved both in my ability to comprehend Czech and my ability to speak Czech. This was not just because of these few days in Prague. It was the result of one year of work. For at least the first 8 months I only listened and read. Then I started speaking with our online tutors at LingQ, a few times a week. With a couple of months to go I stepped this up to five hours a week of on on one discussions. In Prague I was surrounded by the language, and managed to engage in Czech discussions 6-7 hours a day for four straight days. The final evening I had dinner with a Czech couple in their home. We had a pleasant discussion on topics rainging from travel, to politics, to ecology and more. It was painless and seamless. Victory.

I will adopt the same technique for my next language Korean, and then more beyond that.


  1. Posted October 19, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Very cool to hear it was a success.Just curious, in the year leading up to your time in Prague were you still averaging about 45 minutes to one hour (of overall time spent on the language) each day? Thanks!

  2. Posted October 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    I’ve really enjoying following your progress with your Czech challenge. You continue to provide inspiration for us aspiring linguists. Thanks!

  3. Steve Kaufmann
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Jeff, I started doing more and more. Knowing that I need to be prepared for the five days in Prague really got me doing more. I think I was up to three hours a day for the last few months. Having this clear goal helped me in many ways.

  4. Sam
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Deluded old man.Awful Czech.

  5. Posted October 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    You know, until you posted that audio of you talking with your language exchange partner a few weeks back I was under the impression that the first time you’d ever actually spoken Czech would be when you went to Prague–that explains a lot, as that just seemed like it couldn’t work to me. I’m a huge advocate of language exchanges so I’m glad to see you are, too, apparently. I do tend to advocate using them as soon as possible, so we’re in disagreement there, but I wanted to ask you: do you think that speaking much sooner would actually <i>hurt</i> you (the learner)? I understand there’s some disagreement on when it’s best, when it will help the most, but do you think that doing it too soon can actually harm your progress by causing you to learn bad habits or something like that?Thanks for sharing all that you have, congratulations on your progress, it’s a shame you couldn’t stay more than a few days in Prague (that’s one place I VERY much look forward to visiting and hope I’ll get to stay there for at least a few months), and I really look forward to hearing about your new adventure in Korean.Cheers,Andrew

  6. Katie
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    I’m impressed and inspired.For what it’s worth, I spent x number of months (I can’t remember now but it was several) learning French, listening and reading only, before four whole days in France. I was far from fluent, but I can’t say it was a waste of time either. Certainly, it was far better than had I done nothing at all.I think for any language learner, it’s important to realize a step forward is a step forward. Certainly, fitting in a language exchange can only help; but if for whatever reasons you stick with reading and listening only, you’re still well ahead of the game.I spent about ten months in Prague almost twenty years ago (Czech is my first second language! :) ). I knew nothing when I arrived, and thought I’d learn through immersion, but that wasn’t the case at all. It took so much effort on my part. I didn’t have access to the Internet tools we have availabe now, but if I could do it all over again, I’d make the effort to listen and read at home, as a bare minimum! I think reading and listening are discounted far too quickly, because of course it doesn’t make you fluent, but what a head start you get. When you do start speaking, you have so many more words available to you. You understand so much more.

  7. Posted October 28, 2012 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    Hello, loved this story! Fascinating, and so inspiring! I posted a link towards this page in my French Learning Blog, ouicestca.com. You can view it here: http://ouicestca.com/2012/10/27/around-the-web-in-french-learning/

  8. Steve Kaufmann
    Posted October 28, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Marie, thanks for the mention. I encourage others to also use this approach.

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