Gearing up for the June italki Challenge

So who’s doing the June italki Challenge? I’ve been meaning to do one of their challenges for almost a year, but they always happened when I knew I wouldn’t have the energy. I figured sooner or later one would happen at a better time for me (… I hope I didn’t just jinx myself by saying that). And as I’m prone to intermediate slump, I hope that a month of focused lessons will help push me past that.

I do like the idea of language-learning challenges — and there are so many to choose from! — but I also just don’t want to sign up for things and flake on them (like the music challenge. I love music. I generally go to at least two shows a month. I already use music for language-learning. And yet I crapped out on that almost immediately…).

I’m hoping this will be different: maybe because there’s some of my money on the line! And familiarity may help, as I’ve done numerous italki lessons before. Sometimes they’re really helpful, sometimes not, but that’s true with anything: conventional classes, conversation exchange, self-study sessions.

I find it both useful and unnerving to have the undivided attention of a teacher during these sessions. Ideally, it puts you, the learner, more in the driver’s seat. Often teachers are happy to suggest topics and come up with their own lesson plans, but sometimes not. For me, whether I have something specific to suggest can vary. I find it can be just good to put aside time for a tutoring session and trust that, no matter what the topic or lesson plan is, the teacher and I can find a way to make it useful for me. Especially with German last year, when I was at a much lower level, I figured that whatever suggestions teachers made would be things I needed to learn eventually anyway, so why not go with the flow?

This time around, as I book my sessions, I’m trying to suggest things in advance. It feels good to request specific tricky things for me to focus on, instead of just having them in the back of my head as things I should go review, but that somehow I never end up reviewing.

Still, I’m pretty worried that I will crap out during the challenge, or that I’ll burn myself out so that, while I might technically complete it, I’ll be unable to make good use of the sessions. Not only is that a waste of time and money, I also feel embarrassed if I don’t think I’m doing very well in a lesson. When it’s just you and the tutor, you can’t hide!

But we’ll see. Alongside my worry, I’m actually feeling mildly positive. And it helps that I’m starting off with a tutor with whom I’ve already done a whole set of lessons. (And, well, I managed to do two packages of italki lessons, in French and German, when I was so actively suicidal that I was ending each lesson wondering if I’d be around for the next one. So — and I’m not tempting fate here! — assuming things don’t get that bad or worse, I’m probably all right…)

Who else is doing the challenge? Have you done any of them before? What tactics are you using in order to fit in your hours? Do you suggest topics to your teachers? What are you anticipating will be the toughest thing for you?

Good luck to all the other participants!

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