30 Days of Progress – Turn the Corner on Your Language Learning

How much progress can you make in 30 days?

Probably more than you think.

Cafe Paris in Reykjavik, Iceland By Christian Bickel fingalo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Cafe Paris in Reykjavik, Iceland
By Christian Bickel fingalo [CC BY-SA 2.0 de], Image Source

Back when I was a translator, everyone I worked with had to pass annual proficiency exams.

The reality of any language-related job is that you’re not always pushing yourself day in, day out. A large portion of your time may be related to administrative, non-language-related tasks. Or maybe your work deals excessively with technical or legal jargon, with very little exposure to language variety. Or maybe you’re slacking off and doing the bare minimum.

Where I worked, many people’s language skills would atrophy throughout the year. So before our tests, we would often get a month of refresher training.

The refresher class usually lasted a month. It was at an intermediate or advanced level, and it consisted of seven hours a day of language classes, followed by occasional homework.

Honestly, not every refresher class produced great results. But for the majority of people I worked with, the classes were enough to maintain their proficiency scores, and sometimes even improve them.

After one such class, for example, I actually went up two proficiency levels in Arabic listening, from a level 2 to a 3 (bypassing 2+).

30 Days is a Lot of Progress

My point is simply this: You can make a lot of progress in 30 days.

Will you go from beginner to advanced? Probably not.

Will you go up an entire proficiency level? It’s possible, but definitely not guaranteed.

Will you go from having no knowledge of the language to fluent? Absolutely not.


If you buckle down for the next month, you can make noticeable, tangible improvement in your language abilities.

My December 30-Day Push

For the next 30 days, from December 1 to December 30, I’m going to buckle down and really try to bring my Tagalog up.

My ultimate goal is “improvement”–admittedly, not a very S.M.A.R.T. goal. But instead of focusing on the destination, I want to zero in on my day-to-day behaviors. The improvement will come as a consequence of the work.

Every day I’m going to do the following:

  • Learn 15 new vocab words/phrases
  • Get in one hour of free listening
  • Get in 15-30 minutes of talking to myself

If you’ve read my book Language Master Key, you’ll see this is pretty similar to the basic template. There’s a studying activity, a free listening activity, and a speaking activity.

I’m anticipating that the free listening will help me turn the corner and really help Tagalog take root in my brain.

Come Join Along

Why December? Why not wait until January 1 like everyone else?

First, if you wait a month, you’re robbing yourself of 30 days of progress you could be making right now.

Second, you’re going to get caught up in the excitement of new year’s resolutions, so you’ll get a burst of motivation after you’ve already made good progress. Do this right, and you could easily segue into two or three months of improvement.

Third, I’ve come to realize this site is tailored for serious language learners–simply, that this site is for people who take their language learning goals seriously and are willing to put in the work. Starting now is a good way to get your mindset right and show yourself that you’re different from the January 1st crowd, who traditionally make goals and don’t stick with them.

So I want you to get in on this with me. Basically:

  • Commit to 30 days of increased effort.
  • Come up with a goal, even if it’s simply “improvement.”
  • Come up with a specific studying plan that intensifies your studying aggressively, but realistically.
  • Focus on your day-to-day behaviors.

Important: One thing I’d caution against is focusing too much on textbooks or courses. Try to keep things as fun as possible. For every hour of effort, I’d recommend at least a half hour of that be fun stuff, like watching TV or reading comic books.

Wrapping Up

If you choose to play at home, let me know! I want to hear about your progress and experiences.

And as always, don’t hesitate to hit me up if you have any questions or need help.

  • http://www.eurolinguiste.com/ Shannon Kennedy

    I’ll play along! But I’m probably going to start a few days late. Good luck this next month!

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Awesome! Can’t wait to follow along.

  • http://lahijadelsol.com/ Cat Ramos キャット ラモス

    Awesome idea, Ron! I am joining too. I really need to push with my Hungarian — I put it off while studying for my Japanese exam.

    What will you use for Tagalog free listening? I hope you can watch some Eugene Domingo films (like “Kimmy Dora” and “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank). She’s really funny. Good luck to you!

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi Cat! You know, lately I’ve been leaning on vlogs a lot. But I’ll check out those films you recommended, for sure. Anything just to get that exposure.

      Best of luck with Hungarian! Keep me posted!! 30 days of focus, we can do this. :)

      • http://lahijadelsol.com/ Cat Ramos キャット ラモス

        Hi Ron!

        I am happy to report that I am making good progress on this December challenge. Sure, there are hiccups — it is December, after all. Year-end things to do and all that. But I am moving forward quite fast and I am happy for that. I hope you are also doing good with your Tagalog. Not sure if you’ve seen this before but maybe you’d want to check it out: http://easy-languages.org/blog/category/easy-filipino/

  • Erinn95

    I’ll join! I need some extra motivation. I’m working on Russian right now.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Sweet! Awesome to hear. What kind of routine/game plan do you anticipate using?

      • Erinn95

        My plan is to do 30 min of Pimsleur or RussianPod101 in the car in the morning, an hour of free listening while at work with Tunein and I will write down/learn up to 10 new vocab words per day. The hard part will be keeping this up on the weekends…but there are only four this month 😉

        • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

          Awesome! lol, yep, only four.

          You know, that’s a good idea. I’m pretty much finished with Pimsleur Tagalog. Maybe I should bite the bullet and subscribe to FilipinoPod 101. Filipino podcasts are hard to find…*scratching chin*

  • linds113

    Absolutely love this! I won’t actually start Dec 1 because I have all kinds of final exams, but my school lets out mid-December and we get a month off for winter vacation. I definitely know what to do in that month! I plan on spending most of my time learning and exposing myself to more Russian, and I’m also working with some tutors on iTalki. I’m very excited to get started!

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Sounds great! Best of luck on your finals. I definitely want to hear about how your one-month push goes with Russian. Working with iTalki tutors again is definitely a goal of mine, because I did that with Spanish and it made a *huge* difference.

      • linds113

        Thanks, Ron! I’m also excited to see how we’ll all do with this. See you on the other side!

      • linds113

        I also want to add that I agree, iTalki is awesome. I’ve only started doing it last month but I’ve made a ridiculous amount of progress already. Excited to see what kind of progress I can make when I dedicate to it full-time. Good luck!

  • Michelle

    I’m in too! I’ve definitely been slacking with my German. My plan is to listen to German radio on the bus to work, read one DW Top Thema article every day and have at least one Skype conversation a week. I’m also half Filipino so I’m looking forward to your Tagalog updates!

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Sweet! Those DW Top Thema articles are great. They list those as B1, and I understand why since they use plain sentence constructions. But since the articles are based on real news, the vocab will often go beyond B1 level. It’s like a B1+. haha

      Half Filipino, holla. I’ve been more focused lately with Tagalog, and with the new push, I’m really feeling like I’m going in the right direction.

  • MichelleV

    I actually started this on my own before I found this blog. I’m learning Korean, and want to get where I can at least introduce myself and read Hangul aloud at a moderate pace.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi Michelle! Fantastic. Those are great, realistic goals. Learning enough Hangul to be semi-comfortable with it by the end of the month should really help you take your Korean to the next level starting January 1st and beyond.

  • Nina

    I am joining it right now. I just had my first “real” conversation in French, and I plan to start doing it regularly. I have also decided that I will really have the best plan as I can, and most importantly – to start learning regularly and consistently.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi Nina! Awesome! So glad for you. I know how hard you’ve been working. :)

    • Diamond Geeman

      Nina how is that going…I also want to start taking some online French classes and get fluent at it. How has it been for ya? Bonjour mon amie!

  • http://allthetongues.hol.es/ Roman Shinkarenko

    The way you put it, I’m not your target audience. I’m not even Aaron’s Everyday Language Learner. I’m just a Garfieldesque lazyman.
    To everyone else: isn’t the word December derived from the word “decision”?

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Man, you’re harsh on yourself today, Roman! You’re one of the most passionate language learners I know. I need to find a different word from “serious,” though. I really want to accentuate that part of my site as I continue blogging and attract like-minded individuals.